Cookie Tong

It's Honey Box


Oh Television Mountain, Whose Towers flash with light, wrap your beautiful steel arms around me, you my broadcasting lover.

Today is my birthday!


This morning in honor the day I burst forth from¡¡the womb, from dark unto light, we had some special bibimbap (amazing Korean rice stuff) and some Korean birthday soup! Nice work on the food traditions Korea, nice work.

And my team surprised me. They said that it was the Korean custom to invite others out to dinner and then pay for the whole meal yourself on your birthday. Then they said we were going to this fancy restaurant that was ten bucks a person. (I only make 30 bucks a month so I was going to have to spend more than a month's pocket money on dinner) But first they said we were going to a meeting with some NGOs. So I was still glad that I was born but just barely.

But instead guess where we went? That's right! To the top of Television Mountain! Upon reaching its blessed zenith, we had a look around and I took about 100 pictures (of which all are completely terrible as the setting on the camera where set for low light and I didn't change it back so they are more washed out than something that is really washed out)

(Sitting next to me right now is this man with the most beautiful voice speaking very slowly and gently in broken english with a slightly canadian/german/afghan accent about his friend who "says the funniest things." His voice is SOOOOO GENTLE! You should hear how he says "My house!" You should hear how he says EVERYTHING!!!! I LOVE THIS MAN WITH ALL OF MY BEING!!!!!! I WISH I COULD STAND UP AND YELL ON THIS TABLE! I WANT TO TAKE HIS BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL VOICE AND PUT IT IN A SMALL, SHINY, JEWEL ENCRUSTED BOX AND THEN PUT THAT BOX IN A SMALL BASKET AND THEN MARRY THAT BASKET!)

You could see all of Kabul from the top of television mountain (and almost none of it from the top of my pictures moutain) Then they had bought an afghan almond cake and some donut things for me which we ate. Earlier they also had said that couldn't find time to get me any presents but then that was a lie too as they totally did get me presents like jerh mensants. I got a jar of nutella and some Chinese tea chocolate and because they think its so funny that I actually like to drink water, a whole case of water. So we had a little party at the top of television mountain. And as we ate the earth was very nicely formed around our brains and as we walked our arms swung slowly by our sides.

Then they said they were just kidding about the paying for a fancy restaurant custom thing and we went to a kebab place for some cheap delicious kebabs. We ate some chicken kebab which were just okay, but it was good to get another kebab under my belt. Tika, shami, and chicken are the most popular so that's what most places serve and its difficult to find the other kinds. But I will not give up the fight.

We still haven't formally started language learning (Dari, roll the "r" when you say it), We are still looking for a teacher. We went to this popular school run by the NGO, IAM (international assistance mission) but it was too expensive for classes and didn't fit with our schedule and all the popular kids made fun of my lunchbox. Hopefully we will find a teacher in the next couple of days

My friend Joony, really likes the song "the lonely shepherd" (that pan flute song made popular by ol' Quentin Tarantino, you know, "do do, do do..." like that). This is lucky for both of us because I happen to love Georghe Zamfir (the romanian pan flute master from whom the song was born) and brought a bunch of jams with me. So I introduced him to Zamfir and also to some Ennio Moriconne.


Whoah, now I feel better.

Okay so there was little lonely breakdown there yesterday but now I feel better, actually what i wrote in my journal was much longer than what i posted but it was little overboard and pathetic and poorly written, so I gave you the cliff notes, plus my time here in the internet cafe is almost up. I will get more pictures up soon but it takes forever and I never have enough time. aaaaagggghghg!

The food here continues to be good. I have now tried 4 of the rumored ten kinds of kebab. One is a little gross I think it is liver or something. So far Tika Kebab is the best with Shami Kebab coming in a close second. At home we have been eating a nice korean-afghan mix of food. Rice, soup, potatoes. I have been drinking a lot of fanta and tea. mmm.

A really good thing about being here with a korean group is that the "essential treats" we brought from home are ramen and kim (this delicious seaweed). So the other night we had a nice ramen dinner with korean rice. We always eat rice whether korean or afghan. Mmm rice.


I want to swim in Joe's grandma's pool

There it is. This has never happened before. I miss america. Actually I just miss my friends in America. Although today I kind of missed everything. My house, being a kid, summer, grass, pick-up trucks, high school, wal-mart (maybe not), but mainly my friends. But I will feel better soon.


Lover u Ever

That title was in the "automatic fill in" provided by the ol web browser.

Well, Well, another day another Eastbay. Went out to eat and had some more delicious kebabs. Our friend Hadi said that there are ten kinds! So far I have just had one. Cant wait for all of them. Thats mostly what we eat here. Kebabs, Nan (bread), and Palaw, delicious afghan fried rice stuff. And then we also eat some potatoes.

So anyway, It appears that I will be in Kabul till the end of April and then me and Joony (Joonhyuk, my teaching partner) will be going to our village, Geranshakh at the end of April and then be starting teaching May 1st. So I am excited about that as right now it seems like things wont really get started till we go there. Things will be much different and rougher there, from what I hear so I am excited for now, later I will probably regret saying that.

Good news! I am told there are turkeys Granshakh! Yes! Maybe that one turkey from amazing sports bloopers 2 will be there. Maybe Jay Johnstone will be there!

More importantly I did you know that there is a mountain here called Television Mountain!? Yes there is and you can see it from all over town and look up and say, "There's television mountain." and then someone else can agree with you about your statement. HAHA television mountain. Further good news is that my teacher partner and soon to be bunk mate, Joony thinks a lot of the things I think are funny (ie. Chicken Street, Television Mountain, this town called Charikar) are funny also. I don't even have to explain. Ah television mountain, making the world of laughter a little smaller.

Hmm what else? Oh yeah maybe you didn't realize it but most Korean's don't drink very much liquid (and sometimes almost none!). and if you know me you know I am a thirsty young man. But after much complaining we have started buying some cheap bottled water occasionally. We have to do that because you can't drink the water without boiling it, and in the office we are in we don't have any way to boil lots of water and even so it would be hot, not delicious and cool or at least pleasant and luke warm. I think they could easily get buy on one or 2 glasses of tea a day. But not me, oh no, no no no no no no no no no no.

I found this Abba Dvd in the office here. I realized I like more Abba than I thought. Ecspcially the song, "take a chance on me" mmm good. Also Most of the Koreans i have met, my team here included, even when they like other styles of music they can all gather round for some delicious korean ccm or adult contemporary. so most of the time this is awesome dream of so much korean adult contemporary, but sometimes i want to listen to something else. and so I do. I have been listening to a lot of erlend oye and damien jurado and stars of the lid. as well as some beautiful afghan music. when you walk around town it is always blaring all over the place.


I guess even radical Buddhist monks need their VCD’s of bootleg copies of 8 legged freaks.

Today we got our car back. Some Korean missionaries had been keeping it for us. Its a junky Toyota jeep thing from the 80s. Its totally the worst, and the roads in Afghanistan are insanely bad so driving is an awesome disaster from disaster station 8. But anyway it needed some heavy repairs so we spent most of the day doing that. They served us tea at the auto mechanic! It was great, tea is everywhere. I probably drink about 12 glasses a day.

Kabul is set up really interestingly. They have specific streets here. So to go the car mechanic we simply went to the car street (not the actual name), and the whole street is just mechanics. The same goes for fruit, and tires, and batteries and clothes. Its pretty cool although I dont know how you decide who to go to once you get here.

More importantly! There is a street here called Chicken Street. That's not a translation, its Chicken Street in english. So all the time i get to hear people including the afghans saying "Chicken Street."

Tonight we watched some VCDs (we watched mean creek, not too bad, predictable in but in only in the straw dogs sense, not as good as straw dogs, just reminded me of it). Koreans sure like illegal downloads and its the best. We also found another stash of movies from the net, here in the JTS office. I guess even radical Buddhist monks need their VCDs of bootleg copies of 8 legged freaks. So in our free time, when we have electricity, we often watch movies at night.

In general have electricity at some point during the day. If we have it in the morning then we usually dont have it in the evening. And vice versa. Sometimes we get it all day. Those days are special days of joy. Sometimes the same goes for water. Although we do have a well outside in case we need it.


Let's smile together, I smiles all the time

So today was our first full day in Kabul. We sold our old office last year, so we have to find a new one and are currently staying in the office of another Korean group (JTS Join Together Society or Jung To Society, actually a radical Buddhist organization). They dont have a project here anymore so there is no one here but us and their stuff. There office is actually a little too nice for us, (when we have running water, it is actually hot! And they actually have a sit down toilet!) but it is cool to stay here while we get going. Plus its big. And its furnished all afghan style which means tons of sweet floor cushions.

Anyway today we bough some nice traditional afghan clothes to put on our bodies. For me a black and white checkered scarf, and then two sets of shirts and pants, green and beiges for me. They are intensely comfortable, its like wearing some sweet PJs all around town. We also met with a bunch of Korean NGOs today. They were nice although we talked mostly in Korean which meant no understanding for me, but its cool I am used to it and kind of like it. Sometimes never ever talking in proper English or English at all is obnoxious but most of the time it is fun. I have this really stupid sounding voice now though as I talk with a slightly broken accent because thats all I hear.

In China, I bought this pencil holder that has this bear named sweety bear and on it reads, "I want to be your friend. Let's Smile together, I smiles all the time."


When I was 7 or 10 or something my parents threw me a space themed birthday party

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We arrived in Kabul Around 11 am. The night before we were in Urumuqi, China. Urumuqi had some the best food I have ever eaten. Maybe best food in the whole world! Almost on par with Kosovo. Delcious Bread and Meat! It actually reminded me of Kosova a bit as it was kind of run down. It was a bit sad though as it also had that whole atmosphere of race-invasion-occupation tensions between the Han Chinese (what you think of when you think of Chinese people) and the Uhyger Chinese (the central asian natives of the area, who the Chinese conquered way back when). The Uhgyer people live in the poorer sections of town, and tend to have the worse jobs, although the whole place wasnt doing so hot. One interesting twist however is that a lot of the Uhyger people looked kind of white so it was different to see them being the persecuted minority for a change.

Before that Beijingwas also pretty interesting. They have the most ugly, beautiful dogs in the whole world. I spent most of my several days there laughing in different dogs ugle faces! We stayed in a hostel which was pretty okay although it was my first contact with so many english speaking foreigners in a while. The whole place seemed to be filled with matt rickes if you know who that is. That's not a bad thing, just a statement. We also popped over to Tiananmen square and looked around. Also went to this palace called the summer palace. It wasnt too bad, although it was a little ugly in winter. Guess thats why its called the summer palace. Tianamen square was huge and impressive and daunting, however. We couldnt go in the forbidden city though because it was closed for repairs. Guess thats why its forbidden (oh oh!!!)

As for the much advertised and bragged about 2 day train ride from Beijing to urumuqi, it didnt happen. The train was already full so we couldnt get a ticket. So we had to fly. This was okay though because then we got to stay in Beijing for an extra two days and see more stuff, plus there was this Malaysian girl in our hostel room who had just come from Moscow on the trans-siberian express (7 days non stop!) and she said that after the first day its gets pretty boring. So in your face.