Uzbekistan: A funeral after Friday prayers, Norbutabiy Mosque, Kokand 2019

Kokand 2019

Kyrgyzstan: Issyk Kul Lake

Issyk-Kul 2010

Kandahar 2005

Afghanistan: Lashkar Gah 2004

Lashkar Gah 2004

Poppy fields line the Helmand River beneath the Qala-e Bost. When I visited in 2004, the medieval fortress was home to a band of armed men and boys. Probably to impress, their bejeweled leader led me scrambling up to his machine gun mounted on the decaying battlements. He casually fired a long burst of rounds at the horizon. I peered down to see an encampment of Kochi nomads watering their camels.

As we made our way back to the car, several of the militia circled. One of them closed the gate. I heard a metallic click, like the sound of the safety being released on a Kalashnikov. Ajmal, my driver, gave me a nervous "I told you so" look.

One of the boys produced a chipped clay figurine the size of my thumb. “Old, old,” he told me in Persian. “200 afghani,” said another. I began haggling. I had thought they wanted to kidnap me; instead we were arguing over what was, to me, loose change. For three dollars and a half bottle of Tylenol, a boy reopened the gate. Smiles and handshakes.

Afghanistan: Disarmament event, Kabul 2004

Kabul 2004

Georgia 1999

Georgia 1999

Afghanistan: Chinese sex shop, Kabul

Kabul 2005

Ukraine: Odessa 2014

Odessa 2014

Turkey: Tarlabaşı, Istanbul 2011

Istanbul 2011

A woman sitting in the unlit street behind Bishkek’s circus is yelling at two policemen standing above her. She’s been hit by a car, she says, and they should leave her alone.

An ambulance arrives. The driver, cigarette dangling from thin lips, hops out to yell at her, angry that she had misstated her location: “This is not Frunze Street.”

He and his colleague carry the woman into the back of the ambulance, but a few minutes later push her out. They were looking for money.

"What about the oath of Hippocrates?"

“Of hippopotamus,” spits the driver.

The cops return and take an interest in me.

"American," one says. It's not clear if that's a question or a statement. To my surprise, he smiles and gives a thumbs up at the results of the recent American election: “Barack Obama, yeah?”

-January 2009

Turkey: Balat, Istanbul 2012

Istanbul 2012

Turkey: Roman city walls, Diyarbakir

Diyarbakir 2011

Russia: Solovetsky Monastery, White Sea. 2014

Solovetsky Monastery 2014

Kyrgyzstan: 2010 revolution

Bishkek 2010

Afghanistan: Disarmament event, Kabul 2004

Issyk-Kul 2010

Crimea: Tourists view the casing of an atomic bomb during a visit to the Soviet submarine base in Balaklava, shortly before Russia annexed the region. 2013

Crimea 2013

Bishkek 2013

Outside our apartment on Moscow's 10-lane Garden Ring, between the iPhone repairman and the discount sushi place, a woman with no arms sits on a folding stool. She is there many days, even when it's 25 below, her sleeves neatly tied up in knots. Whenever she smokes, which is often, there’s a young man there to tip her cigarette. In winter, he holds a plastic cup of tea, offering sips. (What the relationship was I chose not to ponder.) Her bucket does well and sometimes I toss in some rubles. Perhaps because she’s the only person with a smile on my walk to the metro.

Moscow 2013

Ashgabat 2010

Kokand 2019

The train to Kyzylorda left at 3 a.m. The four-hour ride would be my only chance to rest, so I popped an Ambien while waiting on the deserted platform. That would help me get to sleep as soon as I found my compartment.

What I hadn't anticipated was the three burly oil men heading home from the Caspian, well into their nth bottle of vodka.

After the second round, everything kicked in at once. The last thing I remember is them lifting me into my bunk. Four hours later, the provodnitsa woke me as we approached Kyzylorda. The men were snoring. The cabin air was moist with smoked fish and salami.

Kabul 2003

Northern Afghanistan, 2004

Northern Afghanistan 2004

Azerbaijan 2003

Istanbul 2011

Crimea 2013

Moscow 2013

Badakhshan 2007

Baku 2002

White Sea 2014

Baku 2003

Kabul 2004

Each room in my house is heated with a diesel-burning tin stove. The chimney pipes, black at the joints, twist toward a hole in the window. Lighting the bukhari takes more patience than skill: A crude spigot controls the flow of diesel from a rectangular tank; too much douses the match; too little and the fire dies while a puddle fills the bottom.

In my second winter here, I went through four fire extinguishers and a pair of curtains.

There is one blessing of winter mornings in Kabul, however, even when the diesel has run out and I can see my breath from bed: The sun doesn't rise over the mountains until almost 7, keeping the roosters cooped and the singing mullahs in bed a little longer. In summer, the hubbub starts around 4.

-2005

Shomali Plain 2004

St Petersburg 2013

Istanbul 2011

Bishkek 2010

Kyrgyzstan 2010

Istanbul 2012