Physical Features of Afganistan

During his times in Afghanistan, Mark Ritchie came to love the physical features of Afganistan in this fascinating, volatile nation so different from his own. His experiences both as a child and an adult give a glimpse into this mysterious and often misunderstood land. Below are just several of his reminiscences in God in the Pits: the Enron-Jihad Edition

Missionaries in Afganistan

The smells: The sights and sounds of Afghanistan brought such strong memories. But even more powerful were the smells. Sights and sounds of the region have been captured on film and enjoyed over the years, but the special odor of this country is duplicated nowhere else in the world. The horse-drawn carriage, or gawdi, so common around the city, mixed the smell of fresh manure with so many other odors; the bazaar, animals, people and their clothing, fresh hand-woven carpets. It wasn't a graceful fragrance, but it was a powerful message-one breath of air and I was again in my childhood.

The wind: The following day, our last in Herat, was an indescribable day. The kind of weather one would not know how to create. The Herat winds were coming at us from our left. The Herat wind is actually a very light breeze, moving at a constant two miles per hour. It blows six months out of the year during which time it never stops; blowing so slowly and steadily that one actually has to stand very still just to feel it. To call it a wind is misleading because it is really a very slow, constantly moving air mass.

The temperature was precisely that of one's skin surface, producing a warmth that seemed to invade the body and tranquilize the soul. When walking at about two miles per hour with a two mph breeze at our backs, as we were at this moment, it seemed as if the air were absolutely, impeccably still and the warm, soft sunlight embraced me; it was a quiet, peaceful, serene moment.

The contentment in the atmosphere drew me into its magnetic field; the cleanest of air, the most placid of sounds, and I was overcome with the feeling that I could stay right here and live happily ever after, forever free of the stress of the West. I had stepped out of the twentieth century into a scene from Hilton's Lost Horizon, set in the Himalayas not far from here.

Excerpt from God in the Pits, The Enron-Jihad Edition, by Mark Andrew Ritchie
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