Monthly Archives: April 2013

Streets Finale Show at Sound Central Festival

The finale show in Afghanistan for the Streets of Afghanistan exhibition will kick off tomorrow at the Sound Central Festival. The festival is in its third year, and is the brainchild of Kabul filmmaker/photojournalist/rockstar Travis Beard.  The festival started as the first Central Asia alternative music festival and each year has grown to include street art, film, and break out sessions outside of the main stage.

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                                        SCF Founder, Travis Beard, gets excited about this year’s line up

The festival kicks off with a women’s only day, inviting upwards of 500 schoolgirls and orphans to attend to listen to music, watch a film by Afghan American singer/songwriter/filmmaker, Ariana Delwari, and learn about contemporary art.  In the courtyard girls can learn to skateboard, bike ride, and experience art.  The goal is to engage young Afghan girls that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be exposed to art and contemporary music and sport.

Next up is where they begin to really rock – three days of rock, alternative, punk, rap, and everything in-between as Sound Central rocks Kabul on two stages.  This is not for the expat scene, Sound Central is open to the public and about engaging Afghan youth in contemporary and alternative music, while highlighting the music scene in this region and beyond with bands from Afghanistan and its neighbors like District Unknown, Kabul Dreams, Tears of the Sun and many more.

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Home grown Kabul boys, District Unknown, rock Afghanistan regularly

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The Coach and the Beginning of a Journey on Two Wheels

I first met Coach Sediq last year at a petrol station on the north end of Kabul – I was preparing to go on a road ride with the men’s national cycling team.  I was speaking with team member, Ashraf Ghani, who I had met at a local cafe and invited me to ride.  Coach Sediq pulled up unexpectedly with his assistant, Mariam, en route to Mazar-i-Sharif to visit some women cyclists.  We talked about the mens and women’s national teams, my surprise and excitement about meeting them and my desire to help, and what he saw as the future for the National Cycling teams of Afghanistan.

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Two days ago I flew back to Kabul and headed straight from the airport directly to the offices of the cycling federation with 6 brand new bikes and over 350 pounds of cycling clothing that had been donated by individuals, bike shops, and bike companies.  With me… a photographer, a writer, a film crew, and a overqualified ‘bike mechanic’.

He was all smiles when I stepped off the mini bus and he recognized my face, pleased I had returned to lend support.  After explaining what I hoped Mountain2Mountain could do to help grow and develop the cycling teams, I introduced the film crew, Let Media’s Sarah Menzies and Whitney Clapper Connor – who were with me to create a documentary about the women’s cycling team, Afghan Cycles.   When asked if he would support the project and allow us access to himself and his team, he responded – “Bale, bale bale”.  “Yes, yes yes. I thank you for your interest and support and we will support this project and your efforts 1000%.”

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Meet the Team

After completing the gear delivery, meeting the team, and filming with Afghan Cycles for the past week, my heart is overflowing with the excitement, joy, and pride.  The young women that make up the Afghan National Cycling Team, along with their families and of course, Coach Sediq, have been incredibly gracious in allowing us into their homes, onto their training rides, and into their lives.  It is not without a great deal of trust that they have opened up to us, even dancing to the latest Bollywood songs on a roadtrip for a training ride; headscarves down, hips gyrating to the latest grooves, smiles wide and laughter easy.  It is not something I, nor the entire crew I’m here with, take for granted.

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Women riding bikes is still considered taboo in Afghanistan, most of the women that ride on the team have only been riding bikes for a year or two.   While these women are riding their bikes in public, it is not without risk.  The girls face enormous challenges to ride a bike, illustrated best by the fact that they can’t ride their bikes alone, or with their teammates.  The only way to ride safely is with a male family member or their coach.  Whether they realize it or not, these women are challenging gender barriers very publicly and setting an example to other young women everywhere.

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Gear Delivery Afghan Style

What? You thought bringing 6 bikes and over 350 pounds of cycling gear to Kabul would be difficult?  Nah, we got this.    After bringing over the entire Streets of Afghanistan exhibition last fall, this was a piece of cake.  We didn’t raise enough funds to get all of our donated gear over on this trip, and my landlord has already told me that more has arrived at my doorstep since I left.  Luckily, I’ve found another solution to getting more gear into Afghanistan to support these teams, so the gear drive may ramp up upon our return.  Welcome to episode 2 of Hoarders!AF_Cycles_0413_6329 copy

First step was a 3 truck convoy to Denver International Airport.  Luckily, the woman at the counter check-in remembered me from four months ago.  She just shook her head and said smiling, “again? really?”

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It Takes a Village to Change the World

The past year has seen a marked shift in the energy around the work I do.  A community has started to rally behind my work, and Mountain2Mountain as a whole.  This trip to Afghanistan was another example of the little ways that community rallies and supports and warms my heart – giving me the strength and inspiration to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles that often seem insurmountable.  Its often the little things.  But its the little things that bring a smile to my face, and remind me I’m not alone in this.

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The most obvious show of community rallying came with the gear drive.  Individuals, bike shops, and bike companies stepping up to rally gear and turning my home into an episode of Hoarders.  Boxes arrived at my door step daily until eventually I couldn’t see the floor…and so my giant Bear, my daughter, and I had to adjust to living in amid maze of waist high piles of boxes and clothing, as bikes were propped up against every available wall space.

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Adam and his crew not only opened up their store as a gear drive drop location, they let us invade with a NBC new crew to film, and donated a box of brand new gear from the store for the women’s team.  When I was one bike box short the day before we left for Afghanistan they emptied one out and handed it to me saying “you need it more than we do – be safe.”

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