G-string Journey

One Wild Journey, One Crazy Couple, One Life to Live

Warnings from The Washington Post and New York Times

Coincidentally, two articles, To cut Afghan red tape, bribing is the norm – The Washington Post and  Kabul’s ‘Car Guantánamo,’ Where Vehicles Rot and Trust Goes to Die – NYTimes.com, were published this week.

It seems even the journalists in Afghanistan are trying to warn us about the perils that may lie ahead in our newsflashattempts to drive our Bug out of here. According to the Washington Post story, it is essential to pay bribes to the traffic department, which is quoted as possibly “the most bloated of the country’s nascent bureaucracies”.  The author states that if you want a vehicle registration, you’ll need 27 separate signatures. What happened to the new streamlined process of 5 signatures that I just blogged about?! Apparently the traffic department did not get the memo. This is not surprising, given that a coordinated attack involving at least three suicide bombers and a powerful car bomb took aim at the headquarters of the Kabul traffic department in late January. I would imagine the department was a bit chaotic after that.

At the time of the attack I thought the reason the traffic department was hit was because it is located close to an American training center or another valuable target and that they were not the actual target themselves. I mean, really, who would want to harm traffic police!?

Kabul’s Guantánamo. Image: Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Upon reflection (after reading the Times and Post articles), it is quite possible that traffic cops have had their fair share of run ins with the Taliban or other armed opposition groups. By the sounds of it, the probability that a few insurgents have lost their potentially lethal vehicles due to an expired license or registration is quite high. As the majority of regular Afghan citizens are feeling malevolent toward the government because they need to wait weeks or months and pay several bribes along the way to get their car registered, there is no doubt that someone leaning toward anti-government activity could be tipped over when their car ends up in Kabul’s Guantánamo.

According to the Times article, Kabul’s Guantánamo is where cars go to die (or I assume be shipped off to family and friends of government officials for a small price or future favour) when registrations and licensing are not in order. This is not a fate I want for the Bug – not only because I love the Bug and would hate to see it stripped of its parts and left to rot (no one in their right mind would want the Bug – even as a gift), but also because that would be a quick end to our planned trip from Kabul to Cork. I can’t see myself waiting, in sub-zero weather, outside the ringed razor-wired fence of Kabul’s Guantánamo in order to watch the guards sip tea and laugh at me and while I long for the Bug and refuse to pay $1,600 in bribes, as was asked of one man featured in the article who still does not have his car back.

Given the seemingly inevitable fate of the Bug if we do not get the papers in order, we have asked our own “Munir” to help us with the registration process. He has informed us that our registration should be in order by March 10. That is less than three weeks – we may still have enough time to apply for our Carnet de Passage! As exciting as that may be, it saddens me to think we may very well be contributing to the corruption that eats away at the government systems in Afghansitan. I wonder if that contribution will override any of the good we have done here in the last five years. I hope not.

9 comments on “Warnings from The Washington Post and New York Times

  1. Brent
    February 21, 2013

    Henry, That sounds really surprising to me. Last I heard, the Afghan traffic department was running as smooth as PEI’s. I’m sure all the corruption is behind that idyllic land and brighter days are ahead. Thinking of you guys!!!

    • gstringjourney
      February 21, 2013

      I bet you’re right! I would rather believe you than the Post and Times any day!

      • Brent
        February 21, 2013

        Of course you would……..is that a snicker I hear????

  2. Roger Perdomo
    February 21, 2013

    I bet your work has changed the mind and attitude of many Afghans. Hope this effect multiplies, so many more people change. Also hope you can get the registration and carnet to travel across Europe.

  3. Mary
    February 22, 2013

    You are ever the optimist. There are so many strands to unravel in this sweater. I hope what you hope for is true.

    • gstringjourney
      February 22, 2013

      Thanks Mary. I also hope the sweater doesn’t unravel completely… we may need it!

  4. sue young
    February 22, 2013

    I have had several V.W. Bugs in my past and would hate to see anything happen to you and Seamus and to the Bug!

    Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2013 10:50:58 +0000 To: sueyoung43@hotmail.com

    • gstringjourney
      February 22, 2013

      Well come on and get out here Sue! We need someone who knows a thing or two about Bugs!

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2013 by in Kabul to Cork and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

Sites of Interest

Countdown Kabul to Cork

Driving a '68 Bug from Afghanistan to Ireland!July 1st, 2013
Follow the campaign, planning, restoration and frustration!

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