Friday, October 7: Evening
L’Atmosphere is something of a scene, a large restaurant with a bar and many tables set in a huge garden with a swimming pool. Sean is in the middle of a group of expats -- no Afghans go to places like L’Atmosphere, with the exception of young overseas Afghans -- and it seems we’re all waiting for our ride to the party. Everyone is some sort of journalist. I’m surprised that the sex ratio seems even, but I guess the mercenaries and security types are a cadre unto themselves. You can usually spot them right off -- bigger, burlier, and walking with a lumbering gait never seen in the journalistic world.
It occurs to me as I observe the body language of the group drinking in the garden that expat society in Kabul is split in two classwise: the press corps and NGO administrators who are middle to upper class, and the security people who are from the same strata as the armed forces most of them were trained in. My impression is that the Americans and Brits here are skewed to the upper class: two of the Americans I know here graduated from Harvard, and Sean went to Eton. Like their kindred spirits from England who went out to India and the farflung bastions of empire a hundred years ago, these young Ivy graduates have gone to work in a country where they can have more responsibility- and power- than as investment banking grunts back home.
The party is a big one -- maybe 100 people. Sean and his friends drift off into more or less urgent flirtations, and I don‚t want to get in their way. It‚s so crowded that it‚s easy to meet people anyway. I talk with a Spanish NGO worker, an Australian who seems to have been drifting around the country for nearly a year without any particular mission, and then, just as I‚m casting about to see where the handsome men are, someone calls my name. Sven is towering over me. I met him and his brother Eliot and his sister in my friend John’s Bowery loft eight months ago, when Eliot was between jobs in Afghanistan. They’re a strapping, attractive, quintessentially American upper class set of siblings. Sven and I quickly make plans to play golf tomorrow, his last full day in Afghanistan.
I went to the bathroom and took a walk around the party. Any handsome men? There were a few, but they had that odd hostility that I’d noticed on other trips here, a defensiveness that wasn’t going to help them move the gender ratio in their favor, or they were wimpy Euros…