13 February 2007

Baavar nakardani-st!

It's about 11pm on Tuesday, and yes, I'm in the office. In between slogging through a report about the disappointingly un-corrupt copper industry, I edited an awesome paper that Lorenzo wrote. It was a study of corruption in relief efforts in the Maslakh camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Herat. The findings were both fascinating and shocking. The camp (which at its height had 180k people, was quickly taken over by it's own mafia, mafia in the form of local NGOs, and the traditional mafia of Herat. Donors engaged in things the like providing educational services because they look good but were at cross purposes with the nature of the camp, which is to get people resettled eventually. People would go back to their own villages and have no access to education, school materials were usually diverted for profit, and educated refugees were deterred from teaching so that the Herati network would rent out the positions to its own people. "Block leaders" in the camp would keep certain children malnurished so that they could rent them out to families so that they could get more rations. The purpose behind them getting more rations of course was that the block leader would retake yet more supplies so that he could redistribute them for profit and patronage. In an especially ironic result of illiteracy mixed with profiteering, people decided to scam the vaccination programme just like they had the food. The outcome was that NGOs actually had to run anti-vaccination campaign because people were getting sick as a result of over vaccinating themselves.

Next amusing story. Yesterday I get an email from Tilly (Nathan's boss at Counterpart) asking me to translate a letter one of their servants had received. The letter is from the German government printed on official stationary (yes, they have one format that they use for everything) in annoying unbelievable pretentious formal German (again, the norm). The letter is clearing addressed to this person (yes, they got an exact address in Kabul). It is a letter informing her that she has received a temporary German driver's licence enclosed and that she should proceed to the German consulate in a week with a passport photo and pick up her official copy. Now this person has never been to German, speaks no German, and moreover does not know how to drive. It couldn't be a scam--who would make money if she goes to the consulate? Also a German driver's licence costs thousands of dollars and entails many hours of training and a four hour driving test. It is the only country in Europe where I cannot drive with my American licence. Hilarious on so many levels.

The other good news is that we have acquired a new cook for the evenings. None other than the amazing Matin who until just this week cooked for Ali Azimi (Waise's father, who is leaving Afghanistan). We're splitting him between me, Lorenzo, Khwaga (we are all usually in the office here anyway) and Jerome. This guy is a true artiste, and makes the best Afghan and Iranian food I've ever tasted.