To Kabul or not to Kabul? That was the question I was agonizing over for the past two weeks. I had alluded to it in a previous post but didn’t want to spill the details until I knew what was happening for sure. I finally got an answer today.
You might want to sit down for this. I applied for a four-month contract with the UN in Kabul, Afghanistan, leading up to the country’s parliamentary elections in September. The UN was looking to hire a media officer as part of a massive and complex operation to set up the elections.
The job itself is very similar to what I do for a living, which is write press releases, organize press conferences, provide communications advice, etc. Except I’d be doing all of that in a war zone under extremely restrictive security conditions. I would live and work in the UN compound and be unable to go anywhere without an armed guard by my side.
It seemed terrifying and slightly crazy. It also seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I sent in my resume after my boss agreed to give me a four-month leave of absence from my current job.
Anyway, I found out today that I didn’t get the job. I was disappointed (and more than a little relieved). It turns out they’re not going to create the job at all, partly because the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating and getting worse.
I was also told that I needed more international election experience. Apparently, sleeping in a sea container in Bosnia, drinking shots of vodka in Russia, lying on the beach in Jamaica and hiking through Alaska isn’t exactly the kind of international experience they’re looking for.
It took me a while to work up the courage to tell my parents I had applied for the job. My mom said she’d go in a second. Of course, that advice comes from a woman who is used to wearing a bulletproof vest on the job. My dad, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic. "Let me make a phone call," was all he said at first.
Whenever my dad says "Let me make a phone call," it’s not a good sign. I have no idea who he calls on these occasions but he becomes an expert after a few minutes on the phone with his mysterious deep throat. Within 10 minutes, I had two urgent messages from my dad telling me to call him back on his cell phone "IMMEDIATELY."
He then proceeded to give me a lecture on the current situation in Afghanistan and told me it was a suicide mission. I could be bombed, raped, maimed, kidnapped, tortured or murdered. And then he would phone me before work every morning to read me the latest story in the newspaper. "Just calling to let you know I’m reading a story on page A7 of today’s Toronto Star that says a UN worker was killed when a suicide bomber blew up an internet café in Kabul. Have a good day."
Anyway, it’s all behind me now. Dad, you can stop sending me your daily Afghanistan briefings. Everyone else, you can relax too. I’m not going to Kabul. And that’s just fine with me.