December 30th, 2009
11:43 AM ET

Inside a journey from Kabul to Kandahar

A CNN cameraman details some of his experiences since arriving in Afghanistan in December. Read Part 1 on arriving in Kabul, Part 2 on decorating a Christmas tree in Afghanistan and Part 3 for a behind-the-scenes look at a presidential press conference.

An early wake-up call. At 5am it is still dark outside. First priority: a morning coffee. I boil a whole kettle of water, enough to fill my thermos.

Today, we are traveling to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. (See more photos of Kandahar) Before departure I check e-mail, my Facebook page and watch the news. No breakfast. I'm still stuffed from yesterday's Christmas dinner. We had turkey, baked potatoes, various veggies. All topped with gravy. Mashed potatoes were on the menu, but at the last minute they ended up on the kitchen floor. An accidental drop while taking a hot plate out of the oven. A bit of a disappointment but the rest is more than enough to feed us and a few guests.

We depart early. At this time of the day the traffic is light. The air is crisp. A smog hangs over the streets. Before the sun comes out, it's cold. We arrive at the airport and load our bags onto a trolley manned by a grubby-looking porter. Our driver negotiates the fee. FULL POST

December 29th, 2009
12:50 PM ET

Behind the scenes at a Kabul news conference

A CNN cameraman details some of his experiences since arriving in Afghanistan in December. Read Part 1 on arriving in Kabul and Part 2 about decorating a Christmas tree in Afghanistan. 

Kabul, Afghanistan - Since my arrival, it has been quiet. Not that there is nothing to do. I had organized the bureau's equipment, fixed new bracket for a back light at our live shot "studio" and attended two press conferences at the presidential palace.

Although the actual press conferences usually last only thirty minutes, it takes more then four hours to attend one. First, there is the short drive. We have to leave early as traffic in Kabul is horrendous. Late arrivals are not accepted. It seems to me that part of the problem with Kabul's traffic stems from road closures. Many streets of Kabul are closed off for traffic. The closures are due to safety precautions of various embassies, NGO's and government buildings. The whole city especially the center looks like it's under permanent internal siege. All significant buildings and many residential houses from outside resemble mini-fortresses. From inside they rather feel like mini prisons. Concrete barriers, guard houses, high walls topped up with barbed wire are just the few visible safety measures. Soldiers, police and private security guards are everywhere ... In the chaotic traffic we slowly inch towards the palace grounds. FULL POST

December 24th, 2009
12:39 PM ET

Decorating a Christmas tree in Kabul

Just a few days left till Christmas. Thanks to the efforts of CNN's Fred Pleitgen, Tim Schwarz and Claudia Otto, we have a Christmas tree in our bureau.

Now it's our turn to bring some joy of the season to the bureau's gloomy sitting room. Surprisingly we find Christmas decorations in a local store. The choice is not huge. For a moment we debate over a Santa paper cutout or the big banner announcing the season to be jolly, but at the end we decide on a lower-key affair. We leave the store with sets of baubles, a few trinkets and two sets of lights.

Back at the bureau, the tree Fred sawed down was propped against a wall. Next to it was a red plastic bucket filled with water. Why the tree was not in the bucket? Have you ever tried to balance a Christmas tree in a bucket of water without the aid of a tree stand? As it turned out it was a bit of a challenge.

Watch as bureau staffers find and decorate the tree

FULL POST

December 23rd, 2009
02:03 PM ET

Cameraman's arrival in Kabul

I reached Kabul. The flight was nothing remarkable. From London to Dubai, then onto Kabul on Safi Airways. Never heard of Safi Airways? It's an Afghan-operated company based in Kabul. According to their corporate profile, "Safi Airways' vision is to make Afghanistan more reachable from all parts of the world." And it seems they manage that by flying a rather well-used Boeing fleet of aircraft, but at least the crew is pleasant and helpful.

As I got off the plane and onto a bus, a fresh, crisp and rather chilly air filled my lungs. It was cold, but not as cold as I thought it would be at this time of the year. After we reached the baggage hall there was a bit of a wait. A bit more of waiting and eventually our baggage rolled by on the conveyor belt. It's a time when every frequent traveler holds his breath. The only thing on my mind was: Did all of my baggage make it all the way from London?

One, two, three ... well done Safi, it's all here, but no trolleys in sight. I waited till all of my stuff was piled up next to the conveyor belt. Miraculously a couple of porters emerged with two trolleys. A bit of haggling to agree on the "tip" for the service and we moved on to customs.

FULL POST