A WALK DOWN CHICKEN STREET
by Chris Verrill
American Reporter Correspondent
December 19, 2004
PACIFICA, Calif. -- "Kabul suicide attack: 7 injured," reads the headline today. The news story says, "A suicide grenade attack in the center of the Afghan capital of Kabul Saturday injured seven people, including three international peacekeepers. Three blasts shook a shopping area in downtown Kabul."
Sitting here in my normal, quiet, safe two-bedroom apartment in suburban California, with the World Series on the television, what seems like a lifetime away from Afghanistan, the world comes back and reminds me of my new reality. My new appreciation for the world around me deepens.
You see, I was in Kabul, Afghanistan this time last year.
"The attacker exploded hand grenades strapped to his waist, in Chicken Street in Afghanistan's capital," the article informed us. "The explosions came outside a carpet shop in a shopping area popular with international shoppers."
Including this international shopper. Me. This international shopper cum aspiring amateur peacekeeper.
You see, not only was I in Afghanistan, I was shopping on Chicken Street in downtown Kabul. The non-profit foundation guest house I stayed at was at the corner of Chicken and Flower Streets.
My fears and concerns and prayers for the people who live in Afghanistan have wiggled their way back into my peaceful suburban ocean-breeze filled consciousness. My fears and concerns and prayers for average Americans work their way back into the forefront of my thinking. My fears that, in this angry and passionate American election, that some of our elected leaders don't thoroughly understand that those two fears are intertwined. That our two futures are forever interdependent.
I spent a week in Afghanistan and six weeks in Pakistan volunteering on behalf of the Rotary Club of Pacifica to build a vocational educational program for Afghan refugee women. Most of my time was spent meeting with teachers and school administrators and annoying bureaucrats.
While on Chicken Street in Kabul, I bought two carpets. When in Rome, right? I'll be darned if I was going to get all the way to Afghanistan and not buy a carpet. I bought two. One of them I kept. The other I donated to the Rotary Club of Pacifica which then auctioned it off at our annual Spaghetti Feed fundraiser. My Chicken Street shopping expedition raised a little bit of money for the good causes Rotary supports.
During my travels over the last 18 months, I have been to many places. Places some would consider dangerous: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Kuwait and more. But this event on Chicken Street is different. In the sea of bad news in the world, perhaps not different for you. But for me, this event is very different.
"I can't tell from the photo because there were a lot of carpet stores on this street," I wrote to Steve, a fellow Pacifica Rotarian who helped immensely in our club's attempted project, referring to the accompanying news photo.
"If I didn't buy it from this store, odds are I went in this one to compare prices. Of all the horrible things that have gone on in the world in the last few years, of all the places I've been in the last couple years, this one hits closer to home than any of them. Even a guy like me who, if something good can come of it, doesn't mind traveling to unusual places, this gives me pause for thought."
Even here in calm peaceful suburban California, this bomb on Chicken Street in Kabul hit a little close to home. A little closer to home than I expected.
"I don't even know what to say, except damn," Steve wrote back. "Sure glad you weren't there when it happened." Me, too. Except seven people weren't so lucky. By the grace of God, one of them could have been me. Or you. In spirit of humanity, it certainly was "us."
"The Taliban takes responsibility for the suicide attack in Kabul," a Taliban spokesman told a news agency by satellite telephone. "We plan more attacks."
String them up by their beards. On this score America has done well. But we need to understand what motivates millions of others who support them. Understand how our futures—our destinies—are forever linked. On this account, we and the world have much to learn.
Maybe I'll shop at Wal-Mart from now on.
Nah. I still like Chicken Street.
Chris Verrill is the author of the forthcoming political travel book, "Is For Good Men To Do Nothing." He resides in Pacifica, Calif., is an active Rotary Club volunteer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.