Wais … loveable rogue of Kabul – RIP

Wais KabulCollected off the floor of a shower, bleeding from the head, trousers round my ankles… my first real introduction to Wais…

Like so many Wais “found room” at the Mustafa as I arrived in Kabul. Initially I had a luxury room with terrifying read velvet drapes, huge ornate wooden chairs and cushions to match, soon after moved to the standard glass walled (& whitewashed) cubicle. Dehydrated I had collapsed, and left a blood trail from the bathroom to my room as Wais manhandled me over the twenty feet!

The ultimate loveable rogue, Wais helped people through their first nights in Kabul, provided a macabre jigsaw of human flotsam then ensured that BBQ’s, bar sessions and assorted shared experiences wove them together… His genuine concern and care for people seemed a juxtaposition to the guns, uncomfortable rooms and temporary stays, but you had to be there, it made sense.

It is a shock to think of Kabul without Wais and it is difficult to believe he died in his sleep on night of 26th December after knocking his head badly in a shower?, he would love the suspicion that lingers. We all have a mix of printable and censored stories to relay, no doubt many are posted at Kabul Guide. His partial/ occasional paralysis purportedly from a poisoning attempt brought us close together, though he never imported a Concept II or took up the excercise routine we discussed.

The phrase “larger than life” fits him to a tee, always engaging at a personal level as he balanced pressures of Afghan family fealty with his own abundance of ideas and thirst for life, Kabul has lost another re-founding son.

We should take away a determination to live to the full, push to the limit, care for each other and above all despite the frustrations and hell it puts one through, continue to nuture forward Afghanistan despite itself.

I miss you Wais!


Gabrielle is freed!

Gabrielle an Italian held kidnapped for the last few weeks is FREE see his response to freedom at Peace Reporter. Gabrielle a convert to Islam is an extremely friendly, sincere and very sensitive person, who really poured his heart and sole into his photo journalism in Afganistan, striving to make a difference.

A new passport… a new life?

Erasing ones slate is something that many find cleansing. Discarding ones past is for me a traumatic event, I live life with memories good and bad in clear technicolour.

Receiving a new passport yesterday was an emotional shock to the system…
…all those travel stamps from bizarre and wondrous cultures – GONE,
…visas from all manner of regimes and non-governments – GONE.

It is as though one is forceably archiving a lifetime of experience, emotions and friendships. In my case this is my third passport (not counting UN LPs) that I have had to relinquish.

My favourite visa has to be a Taliban Visa issued in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1995. A piece of white card stapled in by me (after two attempts the issuing official asked me to help), printed with sightly off-set flowery green text in Pushto on a local hand press. The rubber stamp of Kandahar’s governor with an elaborate signature and the number of valid days handwritten in English. This visa sat next to one from Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghansitan, made with a large rubber stamp and filled in by hand in both Dari and English.

Travel documents are so closely associated with events, tea spent with the soldiers during an attempted “non-coup” as they surrounded their friends holed up in the Grand Hotel, central Manila (not a shot was fired). A forced stop-over that turned into a raucous night around Addis Ababa followed by a sobering tour of the city. When anyone with suspected Eritrean parenthood was camped out in the rain before being forceably shipped off in lorries to Asmara. Sneaking out on election day in Kabul for the first democratic Parliamentary and Presidential elections.

A new passport a new challenge. Not so much how to fill up the pages, but what thrilling, shocking, depressing and optimistic images will it reflect in a few years time?

Net Neutrality … storm in a teacup… or fight for global liberty

Is paranioa over “big Communications” or telco’s controlling the internet overdone?

Current consumers, both business and users pay for connectivity and services. Online service providers from Google to Rocketboom all pay their way. As for payment for premium service, such as faster delivery, well this has been the case for a long time with businesses being prepared to pay a premium for security and speed, whether through VPN’s or paying specialist online service providers.

Of course a two tier (or more) internet in the mass market where those who can pay get privileged treatment is fundamentally flawed. The arguments are well presented on Save the Internet. However this US and western centric view misses the global impact.

A far bigger issue is what impact will this have on less developed countries. Internet Cafes have sprung up all over Kabul in Afghanistan over the last 3 years what impact will a two, three or even four tier system have on Afghans access to the world outside? The World Bank estimates that around 10% of people in developing countries have access to the internet, one would suspect a large percentage of these to be on dial-up. In Kabul we had a expensive Wimax connection to our home, I hate to think how slow or unreliable the service would have been if other tiers of service had priority. Surely we would not want to condemn developing countries bottom rung in yet another tiered system of access to world markets?

One has to remember that AT&T, Verizon, Comcast to name just a few Telco’s in the US, like telco’s globally are struggling to find a replacement for loss of highly lucrative paying voice traffic to consumer friendly VOIP providers like Skype. In the US all telco’s are planning massive investments in convergent networks over which they can offer telephony, mobile, broadband and TV to the home. Interestingly in the UK which has a non-cable culture BT has taken a cheaper route. To replace the ‘lost’ telephony revenues, and cover the costs of the convergent networks, telco’s are scrabbling to increase revenues from broadband connectivity or internet services…

– – – but wait a minute! – – –

Haven’t they got it the wrong way around? Cable companies pay the content providers … so doesn’t it logically flow that all those innovative online providers should be paid by telco’s for providing the value-added products that drive demand for broadband that home owners do, after all, have to pay for?

Not only should the principal of net neutrality be upheld, US government and others should conciously not intervene with laws. The internet is genuinely changing the world with the access it provides to information, ideas and through sparking creativity, no ethnic group has an edge in “geekiness” lets keep it that way… maintain the net as a global platform for innovation!