The News, Unpackaged

"News" is packaged for the audience that receives it. Lightstalkers, a bulletin board for "unconventional travelers," meaning photographers, journalists, aid workers and security professionals among others, offers a fascinating way around the packaging (read their "manifesto").

Want to know what's really happening in the war in Afghanistan? Read Advice for first-time embeds to Afghanistan, which suggests that

"Basically the situation is that the Americans and NATO have reached a military stalemate. NATO are so thinly spread they can only hold the ares they have now and are not push into any of the Taliban safe havens."

And:

"Kandahar is much worse then in 2007. There are no foreigners outside of the military bases and you ARE a target. I did spend a day out of the KAF, it was fun, but I looked a lot like a Pashtu. If you are a women, not using a burka on the streets should call a lot of attentions there, but saying that I know women who did it last year."

(Typos are on the bulletin board. Hey, they're writing from the field.)

Some advice for visitors to Afghanistan, among many, many other things,

"Don’t wear anything synthetic, as in a blast it will melt into skin and make burns much worse."

And:

"Have insurance that covers medical evacuation from afghanistan. The military will stabilize you if you are wounded, (but) after that you are on your own."

Elsewhere on Lightstalkers you'll find suggestions for travel gear, including the Black Animus Waterproof Backpack, Petzl Headlamp with Red Filter and, for uploading those war photos by satellite, the Hughes 9201 Bgan Satellite Modem for around $2500.

Check it out. It's fascinating. The news, unpackaged.

Can I Use Mastercard to Lahore?

You never know, but Sarwar Sukhera sounds honest in this review of flying the friendly skies of PIA Pakistan International Airways:

"Overhead compartments are jammed with carry-on baggage that make one wonder why the designers never thought of building the main cargo area overhead instead of down there in the belly of the plane."

Oh, and it just didn't get any better. Imagine. Read the whole thing.

 

Tourism in War Torn Lands

Silkroadhotel You see a story like this periodically, a variation on "tourism returns to war torn land." We had a story here on CS&W about a year ago about the return of tourists to Kurdish Iraq, and another here about how various airlines are returning to Iraq. For example, Austrian Airlines flies to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, but remember, those three young people hiking Iraqi Kurdistan by the Iranian border are still being held by Iran.

This is a photo of the Hotel Silk Road in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. In an article called Afghans Prepare For Tourism Development, at RFERL, Hiromi Yasui, the owner, notes that "Bamiyan itself is peaceful; but, you know, there's no direct flights
from foreign countries, so everybody must [come through] Kabul by road. It's very bumpy [and it takes] around eight-nine hours."

Rooms start at $100 a night. The hotel is now in its second year of business.

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Summer Reading: New Fiction from South Asia

Mangoes Mohammed Hanif writes in English. He graduated from Pakistan Air Force Academy and grew up to be a correspondent for the BBC in Karachi. He calls A Case of Exploding Mangoes an "alleged novel" about a whole range of events leading ultimately to the death of Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, his top generals and the U.S. Ambassador in a plane crash in August, 1988.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a biting, funny, often absurd, quick and witty read – despite its topic, almost a romp, even. You could take it to the beach.

Rooms Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Stories is altogether darker. It's a series of short stories loosely related through their connection to a wealthy Pakistani landowner named K. K. Harouni. Story after story present a modern Pakistan in which a tangibly decaying feudal order of landed gentry is overlaid by cell-phones, drug use and uncertainty. Richly, handsomely described.

Next on the list, The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam, the story of "an English doctor whose progressive, outspoken Afghani wife was murdered by the Taliban…" and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, in which "a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger." We'll let you know.

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