Thank you for your generous support of my project! Thanks to you, I'll be heading back to Afghanistan this summer.
My plan is to go in August. This is a daunting prospect. Not only is it the height of the traditional summer fighting season in Afghanistan, the heat can be heart-stopping. Even in November, the mercury can soar over 100 during the day and plunge to 20 at night, depending on where you are. Particularly in the west, near the Iranian border, I expect to see temps over 110 and even over 120.
Because of my personal and professional schedule, however, this is pretty much the only time of the year I can go before winter comes, and mountain passes get snowed over. June and July is cartoon convention season, and I have a political manifesto coming out this fall that Seven Stories Press will want me to promote. So it will probably be from roughly August 5 to September 15.
I'll likely have one, possibly two cartoonist friends in tow. On past trips I have felt there was safety in numbers. Too many, of course, and you're not nimble. But one or two companions can really help. More on that later as things solidify.
Right now I'm researching flights--I'd like to enter via Tajikistan, but travel to Dushanbe is controlled by the state monopoly Tajik Air, which doesn't offer much service. I may stop in Pakistan first, then fly to Kabul, then drive north to Kunduz.
Another task will be to arrange visas. I will request visas from all neighboring countries: Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Sometimes, when you need to leave a country, the border is closed. So one needs alternative escape routes.
And of course I'll need supplies. My backpack is the grizzled, duct-taped veteran of many amazing trips to Central Asia and is in danger of falling apart. I need to rent a satellite phone, and will probably have to say adios to this MacPro laptop I'm typing on now (2006 edition) because the Afghan dust kills electronic appliances, and a semi-portable power cell, etc.
I'll try to contact my Tajik fixers as well.
And of course I'll need to try to do as many of my editorial cartoons as possible in advance. Internet access from Afghanistan will be limited to the few big cities through which I pass, and will have narrow bandwidth, plus the oh-so-slow-and-oh-so-expensive 2400 bps satellite phone/laptop gerryrigging setup I'll contend with in the outback.
So basically it's about bureaucracy and supplies for the next few months. As Sherwood Anderson said, life, not death, is the great adventure. But before life can begin, one must complete many forms.