Today there is opening of a photo exhibition in the newly renovated Kabul Museum, just across the Darulaman Palace. The exhibition shows some old photos of Afghanistan, taken in the 1970s, about the glorious era of the covered bazaar of Tashkurgan. The covered bazaar now is gone. And European historical site preservation mission is trying hard to return the legendary bazaar back to its golden time.
As photographers we were invited to attend the opening ceremony. There were long, long speeches from authorities and historians about the importance of preserving historical sites, the mission of photo exhibition, and about the destroyed bazaar of Tashkurgan. Many of the invited guests are foreigners. I feel a strange feeling surrounded by high class Afghan expats accompanied by their super muscular bodyguards. I am just a little photographer assigned by a local office here.
During the speech I noticed a man standing next to me. He also looked at me. I was not sure whether he was Indonesian or not, but he seems so. As many Indonesians, I also have a strange hobby of guessing about other people’s identity. Hmm…, this man looks like Indonesian. But I have never met him. Maybe he works in NGO. But his outfit looks like diplomat. I know all diplomats in the Indonesian embassy but the new ambassador. Maybe he is the ambassador. But how can he be the ambassador? He doesn’t have any bodyguards with him, while other NGO people bring Arnold-Scwazhnegger-kind of bodyguards. Maybe he is a new staff. Yes, that’s possible. Ambassador doesn’t need to come to a photo exhibition like this by himself. He just can assign his staff to come instead. Anyway, now he doesn’t look like so much Indonesian. Maybe he is a Filipino boss? Or a Nepali success businessman? I play too much with my imagination as I can not understand at all what the long speeches talk about.
At last after surviving standing for more than half an hour listening to long speeches with unintelligible English translation, the guests are allowed to see the exhibition. It is exciting and it reminds me to the 1970’s Nancy Dupree’s An Historical Guide on Afghanistan, which was a good guidebook to travel in Afghanistan during the hippie era. The bazaar of Tashkurgan was maybe among the last gems of Central Asia.
After visiting the rooms where the old photos are exhibited, guests are invited to have some cold drinks in the other room. I sit down on a bench while my photographer colleague is busy of interviewing the photographer. Suddenly I hear the man I was noticing greets me. “How are you? Where are you from?” he said in English.
“Indonesia,” I said.
“I am also from Indonesia. I have thought you were Indonesian as well,” he said. Now he speaks in Indonesian language. It was not only me who noticed him; I think he had also noticed me when we listened to the speeches.
“O yes. Are you working here, bro?” I asked him.
“Oh I am working in the Indonesian embassy.”
“Aha,” I replied, “I know everybody working there. But I haven’t seen you before.”
“Oh yes,” the man said, “I am a new employee there.”
Then I mentioned several names of my friends, staff and diplomats, working in the embassy. The man said he knew all of them.
“So in which department are you working now, bro?” I asked him again.
“I am the AMBASSADOR,” he replied in very polite voice.
So polite that I almost faint. I am so embarrassed not to recognize my own ambassador and just talk to him as an old friend. In Indonesian we call this as SKSD (Sok Kenal Sok Dekat). But the man is so much low profiled, that I didn’t feel awkward to chat with him. He invites me to come to the embassy on weekends, when other Indonesians also come to have tennis match. I apologize him not to make any earlier visit to embassy due to my business. He even gives me his visiting card and mobile phone number.
This new ambassador man, in my first sight, is very down-to-earth and friendly, even to an ordinary citizen like me. When I told this incident to my friends who work in Indonesian embassy in Tashkent, they were all amused and told me, “Now on you can call him ‘Mas Dubes’ (Brother Ambassador).”