Search, search, search, search, search search....
As we drove through the city I silently said goodbye to this bustling, crowded city. We got stuck in traffic so my cousin recommended the “back way,” which consisted of a dirt alley at the foot of the mountain. I finally got to see a closer view of the houses that climb up the steep hills here. There is no road that goes up the hill and these houses are without electricity, so residents have to lug water and other supplies up the hill by foot.
When we got to the airport we had to get out of the car for talashi (to be searched). They had a separate room for women. I confidently walked up to the room thinking, "No problem. I got this. Done this done that." Inside there were two small stern looking women. Unfortunately, Wazhma got the mean one with the tightly fitted uniform and tucked in shirt. Loosening her pony tail wouldn't have killed her either. I got a pat down, but the uptight woman made wazhma pull her pants down :(. Poor thing was so embarrassed.
When we got out my cousin’s husband said, "Look they’re even searching that woman’s dog,” motioning to another car. I guess not too long ago 25 foreigners were caught smuggling heroin, so now they are really strict about searching foreigners, whereas before they only searched Afghans.
When we got to the entrance of the airport they brought a dog out to sniff our bags, while we got searched again. We went into the booth and I said hello and how are you with a big smile, figuring it couldn't hurt. Unlike the first set of women these ladies were friendly and loving, asking us how we were, how our stay was, etc. I showed them my money belt rather than having them discover it on their own. “Oh, sweetie, what are you doing with that?” I said, “I keep my money here so I don’t lose it.” They laughed commenting on how cute we were--one woman even pinched my cheeks.
Wazh asked if she could take their picture and they happily said, “Of course!” The woman that pinched my cheeks insisted that I be in the picture and put her arm around me. Wazh showed them the picture and the cheek pincher said, “Oh wow, this really came out well” liking the way she looked. The other woman asked if we could take her to Ameica with us, half joking, half serious, “Can’t you put me in your suitcase?”
They told us we’d have to print the pictures and give them to them when we return to Afghanistan. They wished us safe and happy travels. As we were taking the picture another woman walked in puzzled to see our little “tea party.” “Is this the search booth?” she asked, quizzically.
The two women made our day and I will always remember them.
After we checked in we had to go through immigration. The man looked so sternly at me it took everything in me not to start laughing. After staring at me for 3 minutes and scanning my passport they let me through. Before I could rejoice I was directed to another search room. God. This woman was unusually tall—almost 6 feet tall with thick wiry chin-length hair and black eyeliner crumbled onto her lower lids. She stared at me intimidatingly while she asked how much money I was carrying, and Wazhma got depantsed again. I didn’t get depantsed but my pat down was pretty fierce, feeling like I had just left the doctor’s office. Wazhma still thought the 6-foot tall woman wasn't as bad as the first search woman who seemed to get some sort of sick pleasure out of torturing her.
After that we were finally allowed into the waiting area. We took our seats and my eyes focused on the TV which was playing Afghan Star—the Afghan version of American Idol. It wasn’t as humiliating as American Idol but the singing was just as bad. Where do they find these people? The three of us cringed as we were forced to listen to countless covers of Ahmed Zahir’s songs. (Ahmed Zahir is Afghanistan's Elivs Presley). Bored with the show, I examined the windows of the snack stand, plastered with a picture of President Karzai surrounded by sexy pics of a blond girl.
They announced our flight number and as I stood in line, all I could think was, if one more person touches me….! We walked up the stairs to the plane (there is no gate here, you just walk onto the landing strip) and I was disappointed to be pulled aside YET AGAIN for another search before boarding the plane. This woman wasn’t too invasive, but I was bitter to see the pretty blond girl enter the plane without any pat-downs.
Our plane ride was smooth. It was hard to imagine we were here only a week. It went by so quickly and so slowly all at once. The taloshi sucked, but on the upside it's a sign of improved security in the country. The definition of taloshi has been rewritten in my head for life. It’s sad that this amount of security is a necessary part of life here, and I thought about how good we have it in the US.