Friday, January 29th, 2010

According to the U.S. State Department, Afghanistan has an estimated 5 to 7 million land-mines scattered around the countryside. Food shortages are prevalent; infrastructure is basically nonexistent; and bombings in Kabul, especially around the U.S. Embassy, are commonplace. The U.S. State Department, has blacklisted Kabul as a tourist destination - if you go, you’re on your own.

Bullets have been whizzing back and forth between Taliban and security forces, outside a U.N. building just yesterday and amidst a destination blacklist, fear of kidnapping and Taliban strongholds, a band of volunteers with skateboards in hand and education at their core - stand defiant.

Skateistan, Kabul’s first skateboarding school, determined to offer kids with bleak futures, an alternative activity that breaks existing taboos. Instructors have their motorcycles piled high with skateboards, helmets and knee pads and young kids gather around waiting for a go in the newly built halfpipe. It’s an initiative of a bunch of multinational skateboarders, they wanted to change things, give back and do it with some trucks and a maple wood deck.

Sophie Friedel did a bit of work experience here at Finisterre and then she decided once she finished, that she was going to push her love for skate and work with children. She volunteered, jumped on a plane and she’s now in Kabul, working with little Afghan children, bringing them education and teaching them some skills on a skateboard.

She’s been wearing some kit for a while and we’ll be sending her some super fine merino vests for the kids, in support of all the work they’re doing out there.

She managed to get behind a computer and fill us in on some of her recent happenings:

The Skatepark is going great, we finally managed to get control of the flow of students and the regular class set ups. Sometimes lots of kids turn up and things are pretty crowded and other days, like after a terrible day we had last week on monday, people were scared and stayed at home. But life goes on and things are quickly returning back to normal. Class is always well attended and we sadly have a waiting list of 200 kids. Hope to have the capacity for them in a few month.

Loving Kabul, it’s a fucked up world but met amazing people. Here is a link to the skatergils website, if you interested in any recent interview. I am not frequently updating my blog but if your interested in some pictures of Kabul have a look at:

Went snowboarding at the Salang pass a few weeks ago. Been incredible! So stunningly beautiful! The mountains are just so big and clean and wide. Seen a bit to many bullet shots in the rocks though and got slightly scared. Great snow and despite the fact we had to walk up for hours in over 3000meter (my lungs had trouble) we got a few great runs in.

Me during my first class of teaching back than when i arrived.

Another Skateistan instructor, firing out some basics and flying the flag of team work.

This was taken during the summer - a big swimming pool on top of a hill. (not sure if you read the kite runner but he always met with his friend on this hill).

One of the street girls. I think she is beautiful. She sadly still wears the same shoes, even tough it gets so cold now (Don’t worry S-train, we’ve got a little plan on the kicks front).

Sophie, your emails fired us up, everyone in this tin shed have been talking about you. So stoked, sending you loads of love and look forward to hearing more positive stories - Loads of love xx