This is Post #45 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.
The complete series can now be read (or reviewed) from the beginning – beginning from Post #1 by clicking on “Going to Afghanistan Series” on the sidebar. It is a “read down” format. The only important point is to remember to select “Previous entries” not “Next entries” when you reach the bottom of a page.
Note: I realize that the number of posts in the Going to Afghanistan Series makes it difficult to access photographic updates – like the new photographs at “21 years” and “Information on rope tows”. The solution is an index that links Post Names to Posts, alas WordPress for not auto-generating one. Alas, another project. I should start with Posts with pictures – aha!, I can make a new catagory – “Afghanistan in Pictures”.
Mrs. Fred W. Clayton
405 N. Roop St.
Senders name and address:
F. W. Clayton
USOM / A
16 Nov. ’58
Today I wrote a note at the airport and asked a friend to mail it in New York.
As Tues. 11 Nov. was a holiday they sent the pouch on Monday and I missed getting a note to you Monday. As I was here Saturday I missed the pouch again so now I’m in a “crash program” to get a letter to you.
Jack Bennett and Ray Burrus are carrying this to New York where they will mail it next Friday. You should receive it by Monday, a week and a day from now.
Ray and Jack are also bringing your Christmas presents, Lloydine. I bought them only after I knew they would reach you in time. There are three stones – perhaps for a ring and ear rings or anything else you want. I hope the other items will be enjoyable this winter. Things for the boys are not as easily shipped so you’ll have to take care of their Christmas as well as for the rest of the family as originally agreed.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday were spent in meetings on the airport problem. Wednesday and Thursday we met with M. K. (Morrison Knudsen) in Kabul – Mr. Greenleaf, Vice-President came out from San Francisco. Friday morning we transferred the meetings here to Kandahar – the construction site. The details of this problem could fill a book which I don’t have time to write now.
Friday afternoon I went from Kandahar to Spin Baldak and return in order to look at the road. It was an interesting trip and coming home after dark we saw several foxes with beautiful tails!
Saturday afternoon I took a drive and went to Lashkar Gah and stayed overnight. While there I looked at the Helmand River Bridge problem.
Another problem here is the Kandahar electric supply and distribution. Again I’m in the middle of this. Progress is being made however.
As stated before I think your Christmas plans are excellent and hope you could include New Years on Market Street.
I thoroughly enjoyed your three letters covering your Nevada Day activities. I lived every minute of it as I read it. Wish I could have seen it and been there.
I have been invited to the Shooks for Thanksgiving. Mr. Shook went to school and worked for Jim Jennison! Jim’s wife is Mrs. Shook’s best girl friend! This is my latest “Small World Story”.
For Christmas I’ve been invited to the house of Mr. Rafique (sp?), a member of the R.G.A. Foreign Office. I consider this a great compliment.
Boys, congratulations on your excellent report cards. Keep up the good work.
I’ll try to answer a few of your questions.
The pictures of the Taxi Stand and the Tonga Stand were taken at the railway station at Amritsar, India.
The Hong Kong suit is beautifully done. The tailor was Chinese trained in San Francisco about 1911 and has his certificate on the wall. He took complete measurements and never wrote anything down while doing it. He memorized everything as he went along. Later I asked about ordering clothes by mail and was told that I could as they had all my measurements recorded.
I’ll try to review the Amritsar incident in toto later as it is very detailed. We finally flew into Kabul from Amritsar arriving about 3:30 P.M. Kabul time.
The enclosures are for your records to aid in filing the income tax.
I must close now and get to bed. Tomorrow morning at 7:00 A.M. I’ll go back to Kabul.
All my love
Notes: Fred has been a month and a half in Afghanistan and he is still writing about Hong Kong and Amritsar. Time seems not to be moving, the consciousness is now thinly stretched across half the world; but wait, Bennett and Burris are on their way (the other way round) to New York, with Christmas presents – so the consciousness is clearly stretched all around the world. It’s Christmas in May, Afghanistan in April; do you really know where your parents are?
Fred was always buying stones. It started in Burma; exotic lands, exotic rocks. He bought rubies and sapphires, perhaps a bloodstone or two. They sold them on the “black market”, he did not believe in such things, but he did believe in geology which he knew a thing or two about. Hemme (Lloydine’s mother) was a gemologist, a Rock Hound, a maker of jewelry of sorts. We’re not talking diamonds here; we’re also not talking glass. Hemme’s forte was semi-precious stones, big samples of Chalcedony, sulphur, sometimes silver – the kind of rocks that rock rockhounds – trips to the desert, that sort of thing.
Hemme discovered a whole petrified forest once, on her own, never noticed before; or at least there was no record. So Fred had a hard act to follow, he had to find rocks and stones that Hemme had never found, halite after “whatever” crystals, arguments with the experts at the Smithsonian and Stanford, synthetic diamonds when they were new, that was the life of Hemme – like Fred said, he was sending a few rocks.
The rocks (the stones) from Afghanistan were lapis lazuli, blue birthstones of the gods. The blue is as blue as blue can get without being the cobalt blue of Nevada skies (and Nevada cobalt rocks). The blue stones are flecked with gold, gold embedded in the blue rocks midst. The rocks are as old as the mists of time, mined (then) in the small mines of Afghanistan, legendary stones carrying legends of all time. The legends are all caught up in the origins of all things, the birth of worlds, the beauty and purity of God. Lapis lazuli as a stone is not just a rock – it’s history; it too carries with it a part of the history of Afghanistan. Rings, pendants, earrings – you decide what to do with these stones now – just as Lloydine had to once. Dig them out, cut them, carve them, polish them, wear them – or just leave the rocks and stones alone. Mining in Afghanistan? Mining for what?
This post might have been called “The Foxes of Afghanistan” (allusion to women maybe, with beautiful tails) the sex factor, the smut factor, the sexualization of all things American. But Fred was not interested in foxes, he was noticing the real animal life; foxes, hyenas, bald eagles, snow leopards – where are they all now. Aren’t you glad that Fred could see them (in Afghanistan in the wild, not just a zoo). Don’t you wish you could “go there” too?
This post might have been entitled “The problems of Afghanistan” (illusions of winning over the Afghan people, giving them everything they need, getting out someday in better shape than when one went in). It’s not going to happen. It didn’t happen 50 years ago and it isn’t going to happen now. America can spend 500 years in Afghanistan, it will never make a difference. Afghanistan is older, wiser, more knowledgeable and educated about what it is in life that really matters. The Afghans may not get everything right, but there is so much that they don’t always get wrong – like America does with its intervention; America has never gotten it right even once.
The point is made by the fact that you didn’t know what the R.G.A. was. It was the Royal Government of Afghanistan; the kings men, if not too, the kings horses. When did you last have a Muslim man over to your house for a Muslim holiday (assuming you are Christian)? That is the point here. It is why Afghanistan is strong and America is weak. America (as a country) lacks the courage to embrace things that are foreign, to honor foreign perspectives and customs in the sanctity of ones own home – “my house is your house”, but in Afghanistan it means to tolerate all your guests prejudices and predilections to the point where the “my” is no longer part of the equation. Then (and only then) the whole thing snaps shut.
It is like the seat at the Christian table, the guest that forgets they are a guest is lost. The parable too has been lost on most all “Christians”, so why post about it on another day?
Finally, Fred reminds us that America is NOT the nation of all aspirations and all dreams. It is the parable of the tailor from Hong Kong, came to America, learned something, then went back. He lived happily ever after in Hong Kong, not in America – in China, not in the U.S.A. The “stop the emigrants” campaign is a sign of our hubris, our self love for the country that “we got”. It does not address the needs of others; it does not address the fact that most of the “others” do not want to live (or stay) in America at all. It is an American dream to build walls to keep people out that don’t even want in.
In the very divisive ’60’s the patriots said, “America, love it or leave it”. Since then many millions (of Americans) have done just that. They’ve left there “precious” country, left all the “freedoms and the rights” , left the long gone wide open spaces, the factory towns, the bullsh** and the grief. There are a million blogs from the ex-pats in every nation; happier now than they ever were then (or before). Americans in Afghanistan; it’s not just the troops, real Americans live there too – but now they think of themselves as more the Afghan. I could have easily been one of them too.
[First posted: 2010.05.04 / A week and a day from now.]