I had lunch with my friend R, the other day. He was just back from 6 weeks in Kabul. He spent almost all of that time in his hotel/office. When he left for a meeting, he went in an armoured vehicle. He was accompanied by another armoured vehicle, in case the first one exploded (though I don’t quite see how this would be useful to him) and a soft shell vehicle (what we would call, a car, I think) with four armed men. He said that he felt he was driving around shouting “target here, target here, kidnap me.” The only time he ever went out without armed support was the one time he was dropped to the wrong building. He rang the bodyguard people and they picked him up and dropped him to another wrong building. Realising that his actual destination was very nearby he decided to walk it. “Was he scared?” “Very scared.”
Not as scared though as the time he was at a meeting in the presidential compound and my friend’s bodyguard said, “We have to go now, there’s a suicide bomber outside.” He was the only non-Afghan in the building as it happened. I was a bit unclear about why the Afghans weren’t evacuated also, as was he, but he was not in a position to argue. When they got to the gate, the bodyguard told him to wait and went to get the armoured car. My friend did think, “Hey, a minute ago I was in a protected armoured building, now I’m standing at the gate, how is this better?” But all was well.
His most notable day was one when there were bombs in the morning, rats in his office in the afternoon and an earthquake in the middle of the night. In telling this story, he seemed equally shocked by each element which may, I think, show that he has been in war zones for too long. On his way back, he was stuck in Yerevan for five days [gasp of awe, if you can identify the country of which Yerevan is the capital without recourse to google]. Now, he is off to the Sudan for three months which should make a peaceful change after the rigours of Kabul. Since it’s all about me, me, me, I instantly asked whether we could stay in his house in Cork for Christmas as he will be in the Sudan and we could look after it for him. He very kindly said yes, tactfully not adverting to the fact that the last time we “looked after” his house we broke the washing machine. Good, good, good.