We are joking.
Living through one of the coldest winters in 20 years in Afghanistan, one has to. One of the last nights was the coldest in 16 years in Kabul. We take it as an achievement when the night was so warm that we don’t see our breath in the morning, which has happend in the last weeks once.
The beautiful ice flowers, which are growing on our windows, receite poems of the cold that has crept into our rooms. The bathrooms are deserted: since the new building which we moved into, has been empty in the last months, the pipes are frozen and no water is running through the toilets, showers or bathtub. Instead the walls are frozen with cascades of ice that are running from the window sills up to the floor where they form little ice-lakes on which to fall if you make the dangerous journey into the bathroom -Antarctica. Water was brought from other flats which still had the luxury of running water because their pipes were insulated. After carrying up liter per liter of water you definitely know how much you are using per day and what an important part it is in our lives…
To stay warm we first bought so called gas-bukharis, which are mobile gas heaters with a gas bottle in the back. They function as personal heaters as their radius is unidirectional onto one person or area, but it doesn’t heat up the whole room. Warming our clothes in front of the heaters with heaps of steam coming out of the clothes became a normal morning sight. Hurdled together in the smallest rooms of our apartment we tried to keep warm. One day, shivering through the living room, we decided to buy a ‘wooden bukhari’ –the heating device (‘bukhari’) not being wooden but being fed by wood.
One choice was to be made: Afghan or Turkish?
The Afghan bukharis are basically an iron barrel (with an outgoing pipe) into which to stuff wood or sawdust, which aftrer lighting it makes the room warm in the best case. The ‘Turkish bukhari’ is a more sophisticated machine with little doors and openings for shipping air in and fuelling the flames. It is more efficient in heating bigger rooms but also costs quite a lot (150 Dollar) more than the Afghan version. We decided for decadence in warmth and went for the latter. Once haggled down with charm, anger and persuasion (calling onto the old German-Afghan friendship), we brought the bukhari home in a taxi, broke the glass of one of our windows to put the pipe in and heated up the room. We sat back and watched our breath disappear and the warmth enveloping our cold tortured bodies.
But what was that? Wind in our apartment? Hadn’t we put the thick dark curtains in front of all the beautifully big windows to keep it warm?
We discovered that not only international cables leak but also our windows.
A new shopping day was summoned by the flatmate-council and we went out to buy plastic. Lots of plastic. Meter by meter by meter. With this plastic foil we wrapped the windows– balancing on the thin balcony offset in front of our windows, four stories above ground. No easy task for people who are afraid of heights! But a rewarding job considering the warm living room we now chill out and read in with light from a gaslamp while the electricity is gone again and the night temperature drops down to minus 15 to minus 20 degrees.
We are still joking.
We say, once the weather gets better and it hits 0 degrees we will dance outside in T-shirts, because we will feel that it is so warm!