Monday, 30 September 2013

A Breeze

That awkward moment when...


That awkward moment when... The taxi driver decides to attempt going OVER a huge earthen barricade in the middle of the road. *slaps head* Just outside the ancient city of Balkh.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Last, but...

This is long overdue... an enormous thank you to Antoinette de Jong! Antoinette made this project, full stop. Literally. We met her at the Unseen Photo Festival in Amsterdam a year ago where she mentioned the idea of taking the Truth Booth to Afghanistan completely out of the blue. Of course we said yes, but it took countless hours, days, and months of preparing and organizing and behind the scenes work to actualize it. All of this was done by Antoinette. Her unreal patience in all of our dealings, her understanding and appreciation of the In Search of the Truth project, years of experience in Afghanistan, and her extraordinarily generous approach to everyone will not be forgotten. Antoinette got us off the ground and guaranteed the success of our journey. Our appreciation and gratitude is immense. Thank you. And you should check out her and her partner's amazing book in the meantime: Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Tip Top

Yet another huge thank you. This time to Ian MacWilliam. Ian is the regional (Afghanistan/Pakistan) director for Free Press Unlimited, the good people from the Netherlands that made In Search of the Truth: Afghanistan possible. Ian's vast knowledge of the region and its history was an invaluable resource. His patience and professionalism in our everyday dealings and the constant logistical challenges were not only admirable, but essential to the project. He also knows all the best Sheesha spots throughout Afghanistan. Here he is on top of the 'City of Screams' along the ancient Silk Road in Bamyan. Photo: Antoinette DeJong.

Friday, 6 September 2013

A 1TV Presenter speaks the #truth in Kabul today

Today was our final day putting up the booth in Afghanistan – we're leaving tomorrow. The day was billed as "media day" and most of the time was spent by 1TV filming promos in and outside the booth. The promos are for a Truthbooth show they will be producing once we get the footage translated and sent over. They have been great partners, giving us a permanent floor manager who toured with us, helping with security and logistics, and translations (among a host of things). We absolutely couldn't have pulled this off without their collaboration and support. Many, many thanks!  

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Over 600 Truth Booth portraits and counting!


The  tour of Afghanistan is close to wrapping up with only one more stop in Kabul now, so we should get over 700. Not all are usable, but it's still far more than we expected to get and some are just stunning. Now the challenge is getting them all translated and subtitled, which is a task far greater (and expensive!) than we had planned. We have only a few completed so far... and it has taken all our extra time. If anyone knows how to help (fluency in Dari and Pashto (and English) essential), please contact!

It's a Good School, Don't Waste Your Time


The Truth is I have been working in the school for twelve years from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.

Please Let Your Daughters Go to School


The Truth is school is a place to gain knowledge from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.

We are Farmers

The Truth is we are farmers from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.

Absolute Truth



We were able to get permission to set up the Truth Booth right at the base of the Buddha which was dynamited by the Taliban in 2001. It was the largest Buddha sculpture in the world at 175 ft and took 100 years to build between the 4th and 5th centuries. Bamyan, which lay on the ancient silk road, was at the time the epicenter of Buddhism and housed over 4,000 pilgrims in the tunnels and caves around the sculpture. Buddhism first spread west to here, then east to China.

The Afghan Autumn Collection


We had to bump up our style (and disguises) in Afghanistan so we got fitted with some Afghan casual wear (the ubiquitous Shalwar Kameez) in Mazar-i-Sharif. This was our tailor who hooked us up!

A Hasty Retreat

An abandoned decades–old Soviet tank in a field of sunflowers, Bamyan, Afghanistan.

Stopping Traffic

Young Bamyanis







Giggles from Bamyan

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Potato Fields of Bamyan

Bamyan is famous for its potatoes. Small fields growing spuds and the farm workers harvesting them are ubiquitous throughout the town.  Afghans really do make a big deal about these spuds... and with good reason, they're delicious!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Above the Afghan Mountains

View of the mountainous Afghan landscape from the window of our aging Russian prop plane.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Our police escort. On an ancient city wall.

We visited the ruins of the 5,000 year old city of Balkh today (with the help of our most trusted police dude) which at one time was the epicenter of Zoroastianism, a Hellenistic empire (Greek Bactria), Buddhism, and later Islam. The oldest mosque in Afghanistan is close to these fortress walls the guard is standing on.

Graffiti

School boys

Critical times


The Truth is we are in an important situation from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.

Portraits of young workers in the park







From the top: 'Samosa' seller, Shoe shine boy, and two boys work a phone battery charge center/juice stand. All in the park of the Blue Shrine.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Front Entrance of the Shrine of Ali

Making ovens for naan


They cook the naan on the interior sides of these monstrous ovens.

The Blue Mosque

The blue mosque is the holiest shrine in Afghanistan and the reputed burial site of Muhammad's son-in-law and cousin, making it the third holiest site behind Mecca and medina for Shias (this is disputed!). We had to go to a million ministries, the governors office and the chief of police to get the booth there!

Mazar-i-Sharif


Cleaning the Truth Booth at the Shrine of Ali, Mazar-i-sharif

Afghanistan is dusty, very dusty.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Stadium Park, Herat


The great Amir Shah


The most indispensable member of the Truth Booth team, Amir Shah has smooth-talked every governor, big-man, and official, seemingly in all Afghanistan, to get us where we are today (and hope to go soon, god-willing).

At the Mehri Herawi girls school in Herat

Recently built by the Italians, it was a special privilege and honor to set up the booth at the school. The girls ranged from about primary to high school and seemed quite open and willing to tell their Truths. Hopefully we provided a platform for their voices to be heard which have been historically neglected. There was a teacher or two who came out in tears after telling their stories. We'll translate and post as soon as we can.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Check

After 6 security checkpoints and a dog sniffer we made it through unmolested to Kabul airport thanks to our disguises. On our way to Herat (after 2 more security checks!)

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Swan Boats of Qargha Lake


Photo: Antoinette deJong

LACMA on Fire (FAKE! Part 1)

Jim Ricks takes a trip to the local "pinting" shop in Kabul to commission a reproduction of Ed Ruscha's "LACMA on fire." Stay tuned folks . . . results in 10 days.

Kabul City Center

Portraiture & Skateistan

Ahmad Khān Abdālī (Pashto/Persian: احمد خان ابدالي), was the founder of the Durrani Empire and is regarded to be the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan. His portrait is seen throughout the capital.

This particular portrait was done by one of the kids over at Skateistan, an ambitious and interesting NGO that promotes education and activities for boys and girls, the disabled, in Afghanistan and Cambodia. Check them out, they're doing good things.

Highs & lows

Extreme stunt photographer Jim Ricks captures The Truth Booth high above beautiful Lake Qargha.

Sunset over Afghanistan. August 2013.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Leg work


We rented a Swan paddle boat at Lake Qargha to get photos and just to go for a spin.  Beautiful. *squeak* *squeak* *squeak*

Interlopers during a test recording...

A respected teacher came today to tell the Truth


Can't wait to translate what he said inside the booth.

Lake Qargha


This is our last destination in Kabul before we hit the road. Actually roads are too dangerous so we'll have to fly. Lake Qargha is very beautiful and secure now but was the scene of a bloody Taliban attack last year. 

Qargha clean

A few stills from the Truth Booth


We have over 150 portraits and counting. There is an amazing diversity of styles and looks in Afghanistan; a real crossroads of civilization and peoples. We only have a rough idea what they are saying yet, still in the process of getting the videos translated which isn't so easy due to multiple languages being spoken (and how insanely fast they talk). We'll post as soon as we get them.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Packing up after a long dusty and windy afternoon

Olympic Stadium

Today:
15 years ago:

Taliban death stadium reborn as Afghan sporting hope

KABUL | Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:30am EST

(Reuters) - Its pitch, they said, was so bloodsoaked that grass would not grow. For years, the only spectacles on offer at the Ghazi Stadium in the Afghan capital were executions, stonings and mutilations by the Taliban, rulers of the country from 1996 to 2001.

On Thursday, thousands of young Afghan athletes wearing soccer strips, boxing and running warmup gear, and the belted white suits of martial artists, came to the stadium to celebrate its official re-opening. This time, the grass has been ripped up and replaced with bright green artificial turf, part of a U.S.-funded stadium refurbishment.

"Of all the international projects implemented in Afghanistan, this is one of the most popular, it enjoys the support of all Afghans," said Lieutenant General Mohammad Zaher Aghbar, president of Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee, and a goalkeeper with the army's soccer team for five years.

Scrubbing the #truth






The Truth Booth is starting to get dirty out here in Kabul which seems like a giant dustbowl at times..

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Nightly pest patrol


mosquitos from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.

Ryan's late night mosquito hunt.  It's cool, he usually wins and there is only a moderate to low malaria risk here in Kabul.

Sunset @Mikrorayon Park

Guarding the Truth @Mikrorayon Park


The most ironic thing about this shot is that having a dude with a machine gun stand guard makes the booth seem safe and inviting in Afghanistan. Everything is about security here. He was one of five in our security contingent.

Large crowds @Mikrorayon Park

A young vendor in the park

Jaleel explaining the Truth to the people


Jaleel is our Truth Booth floor manager and general overall stud. Here he's telling the onlookers about the booth and signing them up to participate. No way we could pull this off without him and the 1TV crew.

Butcher Street

“There is a road to the top of even the highest mountain”

A Dari Proverb we are finding very fitting (inspirational?) to describe the last few days. Unable to get the proper security permits at our selected locations, we've been grounded for two days now and losing our minds. Our lock, Kabul University, backed out fearing the Truth Booth will incite student riots! 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Ouch!

The Truth is . . . Scorpions! from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.



A lighthearted Truth Booth video in English filmed at Babur Gardens. We're busy translating the others which are mostly in Dari and Pashto.

The Truth Booth team at Qargha lake



From left: Antoinette deJong and Ian MacWilliam (from FreePress Unlimited), Jim Ricks and Ryan Alexiev (from Cause Collective).

Qargha Lake



Qargha lake was the site of a major terrorist attack last year by the Taliban. We're scoping the site right now as a potential Truth Booth location. Very secure now and a favorite place for people from Kabul to picnic and swim.

Qargha Hookahs

Translation: No swimming*



*Not because it's dangerous, just deep. Most Afghans can't swim and there were a lot of drownings. 

Bought us some melon!



Melons are in season out here and a lot of different kinds . . . endless stands, endless melons.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Coming soon... Kabul University



Next site for the Truth Booth. Kabul University is very nice and green, in contrast to a very, very dusty Kabul.

Mosque, Kabul

Friday, 16 August 2013

Bagh-e Babur


This is a still from one of the videos taken inside the Truth Booth at Babur Gardens (Bagh-e Babur). The booth was up for about four hours and we got over 60 Truth vids. Great day!

Games



This game is called Carrom and seems really popular. There were tables all over Babur Gardens. Kind of like some old school air hockey.

The Gardens of Babur: The first spot for the Truth Booth.



Built in 1528 for Babur, the first Mughal emperor, the gardens are the most popular destination for the people of Kabul to picnic and spend the day.* The park was rebuilt to original specifications of Babur during 2002-2004 who wanted to make a "theater of heaven." His marble tomb resides at the top of the terraces too.
*Awesome Afghan snackbars in there too.

All hands...raising the booth at the Gardens of Babur


MVI 9270 from Ryan Alexiev on Vimeo.