Manual Riding with Ghosts

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A third of this group calls Canada home, but others are from Britain, New Zealand, Texas, New York; some are development specialists, others ex-soldiers.

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All wear beards of varying lengths; most speak at least some Pashto; the fairer ones have dyed their hair dark to better blend in. William, a New Zealander who oversees team security, leads me on a tour of the two-storey complex to identify the triage bay, the armoury and the muster area should we come under sudden attack. Along the way we see a well-equipped weight room and a few home comforts: wireless Internet hub, flat-screen TV, a Wii console.

If the call comes to run for the hills, be ready. Twenty or so vehicles are in the compound. One of the keys to Team Canada's impressive freedom of movement is never taking the same car or the same road in any discernable pattern. Almost all are older Corollas and dust-encrusted Land Cruisers, indistinguishable from the Toyotas Afghans drive.

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There is also a small fleet of Chinese motorbikes. It's gallows humour, but longer-serving members of this team vividly remember the night they actually saw the zombie hordes: June 13, , when Taliban fighters blasted through the walls of Sarposa Prison on the city's western edge, releasing all 1, inmates in the single largest jailbreak in modern history.

And then a wave of escapees came running down the street toward us. The compound was armed and ready. As the night unfolded, the escapees vanished. No contact. In April, a massive truck-borne suicide bomb managed to penetrate the gates of another foreign compound elsewhere in the city. That blast cleared Kandahar of almost all its Westerners and left Team Canada with an agonizing decision: to stay or go. After painstaking consideration, they stayed. At first, their stand was tentative, with an around-the-clock watch.

Within days of the blast, Team Canada received a huge vote of confidence. A tribal elder with whom they had worked closely arrived unbidden with his own armed security team, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the expats for a full week. We can't let down our guard. But the way we roll, it is not just about being under the radar.

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A big part of it is building trust with Afghans. We're not out there waving guns around.

We're out there putting people to work. There are tribal leaders who respect us for that and so we're not alone, really. We have a network willing to stand up and help us help them.

ISBN 13: 9781903070000

No contracts. You make a deal, you honour it — period. That's exactly how Afghans are. If you live up to the bargain you will make incredibly loyal friends.

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That's not a minor thing. It wouldn't go over very well in my town either. The other key part of the approach is the ghostlike, under-armed way Team Canada fits into Afghan society. We weren't fooling anybody. There was no ability to develop relationships with local people. The only moves you could do were with military escort. And the locals often couldn't come to the base because of security concerns. There's nowhere near the same bureaucracy. When we want to go out and see people, we go. Granted we are very cautious. We move in soft-skinned vehicles, dressed as Afghans.

But this way we have a mobility that others don't because they're required by their legal departments to go around in these bubbles. We aren't. To even a casual observer, they appear to be approaches NATO and other agencies would do well to emulate. So they're stuck there. Yet a few minutes later we are motoring down empty streets, ghosts once more. There appear to be more armed checkpoints than normal and Panjwaii Tim takes extra care, choosing a route to avoid the guns.

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We approach another set of anonymous compound doors. An Afghan guard nods clearance. Seconds later, a burly Westerner bids us welcome, a hearty hug for Panjwaii Tim, a viselike yet cautious handshake for the reporter. Here's where the telling gets especially frustrating because though this turns out to be far and away the most interesting of the nearly evenings I've spent in Kandahar since , most of it must stay in the notebook until after this conflict is over.

Our host is a private security contractor whose work is too sensitive to risk exposure while he is in the field. But his regard for Panjwaii Tim is such that he has gathered all the precious treats in the house and assembled an astonishing rooftop party for three, replete with a case of homemade beer, Cuban cigars and, on the coal-fired grill, a mound of Alaskan king crab legs — likely the only crustaceans for a thousand kilometres in any direction. Who is this guy? We will call him John. Ex-special forces from a country we cannot name. Spent time in Iraq.

And here now in Kandahar, like Panjwaii Tim, a veteran of this incredibly rarefied work that involves venturing way past the lines NATO considers certain death.

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Items related to Riding with Ghosts. Riding with Ghosts. Gwen Maka. Publisher: Eye Books , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title This is the frank, often outrageous, account of a forty-something Englishwoman's epic 4, mile cycle ride from Seattle to Mexico, via the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. About the Author : Gwen Maka is a travel expert, and an author. Review : "A fantastic read.

Riding with Ghosts

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Search for all books with this author and title. Much of the memoir is in letter form, and sometimes the letters are redundant: they literally restate the same words verbatim from letter to letter. And often they reference people or places, or even phrases, that are known only to the letter's recipient, and alienate the reader.