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Re: Afghanistan

> Do they even have electricity in these tents...or
> caves?

Not really.  There was some very impressive
infrastructure built in the late 1970's by
the Russions, and it was real world-class
stuff (convention center, large swimming
pool, soccer stadium, factories, etc.)  However,
almost all of these structures are destroyed
or severely damaged, and the power plant is
inoperable.  So, electricity exists sparsely
and is most typical with diesel generators.

All of my emails are powered by diesel.  ;-)

<snip, class distinctions, hobbies by different
groups?  Western hobbies tolerated?>

Hmmm.  Big question, but I'll take a little

There wasn't actually a lot of crime in The
Great Depression in the US in the late 1920's 
and early 1930's, because everybody was broke.
You couldn't steal from your neighbor, because
he had nothing either.  Deflation was huge, and
the economy wasn't moving.  

So it is here.  Not lots of capital or
infrastructure, but there are a lot of human
resources (people looking for work).  As the
international community pumps money into the
country (and many countries are here eating 
at the same table daily, literally), construction
and other labor contracts are being awarded to
local individuals and companies.  So yes, there
is a growing economic strata, similar to that
seen in increasingly industrialized societies.
I can't really comment on other stratifications,
like religeous cast systems... it's true that 
Islam is the predominant religion, but Afghanistan
is *very* tribal, there are 32 natively spoken
languages here, 80% of the people live in rural
areas, and there are ethnic Caucasians, Mongoloids,
and Australoids.  It's kind of complicated, because
people seem to focus on tribal interests first,
and Islamic interests second.

Now, post-Taliban, there is increasing influence
by the Western world and the society seems to be
moving in favor of modern conveniences.  I don't
think there is much of a cultural backlash against
most DVDs, so fish tanks should be ok also.  ;-)

At US$800 per capita income, though, high-tech
tanks with CO2 and MH lighting are probably
"right out".  ;-)  That's ok... I'm pretty 
cheap too.

> <snip, diverse social structure, a somewhat
> privaledged working class?>

I really don't think Afghanistan is organized
enough to really have that.  It's too diverse.
Afghanistan is one of the few places left in
the world with a sizable number of nomads
(about 2 million).  70% of the population farms.
There are some wealthier Afghanis that live in
"qalas", or country forts, and have other 
farmers work their lands, though.  And, there
are Afghani surgeons and engineers too, and
they are the ones catching the contracts with
the international money entering the country.

> "I haven't
> seen any house cats, but there are tigers in the
> region"
> In Afghanistan?  The only ones I've ever heard of
> around there are the Caspian subspecies, and they're
> supposed to have gone extinct 30 years ago.  Right?

I am told the Siberian "and other tiger species"
inhabit the banks of the Amu river, and are "highly
endangered" (these were "formerly abundant").
I don't know if this correlates with the fact that
a tiger is heavy enough to set off a land mine.
We also have (but I've not seen) animals that are
still "widespread" including fox, striped hyena, 
jackal, gazelle, snow lopard, several kinds of
wild goats and sheep (ok, I've seen them), and
brown bear.

My recent expedition to a nearby stream that
turned out to be an open sewage flow did not go
very well.  More on that later.  ;-)


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