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Field Notes From
Afghan Odyssey

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On Assignment
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From Author and

Lois Raimondo

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Inna Chepugova


On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Afghan Odyssey

Field Notes From Author and Photographer
Lois Raimondo
Best Worst Quirkiest
My interpreter, Masud, and I came over a mountain ridge to face a vast stream of Northern Alliance soldiers coming across the mountains and sliding down from the hills for miles and miles into the distance. Their armies converged from all directions as we watched. They were coming together to take the regional capital of Taloqan. It was like landing in the middle of an epic film. We marched with the army right into the city. As we entered, old men and little kids and people carrying guns and people carrying sticks surrounded us. Stumbling into the marching army like that was an incredible visual and emotional high.

Leaving Afghanistan and returning home was difficult. I had developed close relationships not only with Masud, my driver Mohamad Ullah, and my second interpreter, Nasir, but also with their families. At the end of the day at Nasir’s house, I joined the women in the inner chamber. They would take my camera bag from my shoulder, have me change, and wash my clothes. Then we’d all sit around and talk. For these women, the stories that I brought back were their window on the world. Sometimes I would take out my digital camera and feed the pictures into the computer so they could look at them on the screen.
Before I left, I went to Nasir’s house to say good-bye. One sister gave me an antique rug as a gift. His other sister made two beautiful dresses for me. And another sister gave me one of her necklaces. Then we had a last meal. As I left they all stood by the door in tears. We were all crying.

Masud was with me for a long time, and we became very close. If he had to leave me, he would hand me off to someone else, saying to them, “You protect her with your life. She’s my sister. When you get to the next town, there will be a meat shop with somebody there named Abdul Zakur. You go in. You speak with him. Tell him he must bring her to his sister’s house and in the sister’s house to find Nasir’s sister.” And so I was handed off from person to person. But everyone who inherited me treated me as though I was the closest family. I was in a comfort zone that continued throughout my entire time there. Even as I moved great distances across the country, I was always with people who made me feel safe.

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