This morning, Michael Glowacki – director of The League of Afghanistan – arrived in Herat to begin filming. He was a couple days later than expected after some visa-processing delays kept him trapped in Dubai for four days but, after a crazy flight schedule that had him sprinting from his commercial plane from Dubai to catch a United Nations flight to Herat at the Kabul Airport this morning, he managed to make it after missing just one Herat practice. As I’ve mentioned before, the first practice of each week is always the slowest (too much of me talking and demonstrating, not enough Afghans flying around like crazy in their wheelchairs), so the best action from the Herat team is all yet to come.

Herat is a beautiful city with tree-lined streets (fir trees – the first I’ve seen anywhere in Afghanistan – just like home!) and a very peaceful vibe. Ok, peaceful for Afghanistan… but still. Michael, myself and a French ICRC employee visiting from another province took a two-hour walk around the secure parts of the city with one of the Afghan ICRC security guards this afternoon, including a tour of the huge blue mosque at the center of the city. The inner courtyard of the mosque (pictured below) is an amazing sight. Even more amazing is picturing the entire expanse filled with people kneeling side-by-side, foreheads on the ground, during Friday prayer service. Unfortunately non-Muslims aren’t permitted inside during prayer.

As we walked through the garden outside the mosque, a young Afghan guy came up to me and started asking questions in English (Where are you from? How do you like Herat? What happened to your legs? Are you married? Do you have sons?). He was a university student studying English and was excited to have a chance to practice with a native English speaker, so I had a brief chat with him. When I shook his hand to leave, I turned around and saw that a crowd of about 10 little kids had gathered to watch our conversation, open-mouthed. When my companions and I started walking back toward the mosque, all the kids followed. As my security guard/tour guide, Nasim, explained, I’m the first westerner in a wheelchair they’ve ever seen (and the first he could remember ever being in Herat), so this was a sight worth paying attention to. At one point I had Nasim ask the kids if they had any questions for me. This prompted half of them to run away and the other half to continue silently staring. Hey, I tried.

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The inner courtyard of the blue mosque in Herat.

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Olympic Stadium in Kabul, where I met with the Paralympic Committee President. It’s a gorgeous stadium with a beautiful view of snow-capped mountains in the background. Hard to believe looking at it now, but during the Taliban regime just over a decade ago, the stadium was used not for sports, but for public executions (anyone who’s read The Kite Runner may remember a key scene that took place here).