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  • “What is it that makes you come alive? You know, what is it that keeps you going, that sustains you?” a Finnish guy whom I will call Gotti, working with the international security forces asked me as we sat on the steps at the Spanish Embassy party. The sounds of salsa music and chitter –chatter filled the whole compound.
    “People,” I said. “I try to fall in love with one at least everyday. What about you?”
    “The sea, water, you know, the ocean, lakes. I feel so alive when I am near them.”

    My boss left for the United States which prompted a quick visit to Lake Qargha, a small man-made lake outside of Kabul where Afghan families go to picnic on weekends. Horseback riding, ferris wheels, kebab, ice cream and soda stands on the shore of the lake combined with the peaceful stillness of the park on a work day made this place idyllic, especially compared to dusty Kabul. Once Gotti returned from his R&R in Finland, I hoped to show him this place. I hoped to prove to him that even here in Afghanistan he could come alive: That there was water here too.

    Two days later, another friend emailed from Mazar-i-Sharif asking if everyone here was okay. She heard about the attacks outside Kabul long before I did. NY Times reported at least 22 dead and many more injured. My colleagues told me the number was at least 40. It was the attack everyone had been anticipating for weeks. You see, statistically every six to eight weeks, insurgents attack Kabul. Not even four days before, when President Karzai and some important delegates visited Parliament, we all expected something to happen. All roads were closed and checkpoints were at every corner. But, Lake Qargha? No one expected this.

    This incident marks the first attack since I arrived and like everyone said it would, it hit way to close to home. The colleague who had taken me to the lake just a few days before grimly explained to me that his family members were at the restaurant that was attacked. His cousin was shot five times. They buried him the next morning, within 24 hours according to Islamic law, facing Mecca.

    Another man, he knew survived all the fighting. Hiding behind a long curtain draped from ceiling to floor, the man watched in horror as the Taliban entered the building wearing burqas with the intent to kill any one in sight, man or women, young or old. My colleague explained, “It doesn’t matter who you are, American or Afghan, they are after all humans.” My stomach wrenched as my colleague recalled the survivor’s account. Implacably, they entered the room hiding their weapons under the very clothes they forced women to wear for years. This very burqa, dusty blue in color, the same color as the mighty mountains surrounding the Lake Qargha, at best, was meant to protect beauty from undeserving eyes, in this case however no beauty was hidden. What a twisted turn of events. For twelve hours, the fighting raged on before the eyes of this man concealed behind the curtains. Even after the ANP arrived, they could not bring him out of hiding safely until the fighting ceased. His whole family died as he hid there motionless, defenseless.

    I want to take Gotti to Lake Qargha still even though his security officer probably won't allow him to go there. I want to see that water give life again.
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