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A German at Radio Afghanistan

By Bernd Ludwig

Translated by Richard E. Wood


The following item is taken from page 44 of the September 1973 edition of SPEEDX. It is placed here with permission of SPEEDX.

Christmas was coming. I was on my way to India, but the Indo-Pakistnn war had disrupted communications. So all I could do was to button up my Afghan furcoat and think of the palm-fringed beaches of Goa (India), where I had planned to spend the festive season. The wind, howling down from the mountains to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, bit through me; in my hard bargaining over the price of my new Afghan coat, I had forgotten another important detail: the size. It turned out to be far too large for me. There in Kabul, it was just as cold as back home in Germany! Yet Kabul lies on the same latitude as Morocco, the difference, of course, being the Afghani capital's 6000-foot altitude.

As I walked through the wind-blown streets, cursing the weather, I noticed that I had reached the big new office building which housed the studios of Radio Afghanistan. Only three weeks earlier I had been quite unaware that Radio Afghanistan broadcast in German. But very soon I found myself sitting there every morning, answering questions from shortwave fans in Europe. Some days I read the news and commentary, helped out in the editorial office, or did outside reports such as one from the Kabul Museum.

I must admit that there was no money in it. Afghanistan is a poor country and its radio station, built with German development aid, is no exception. In any case, everyone there expects all Europeans to come loaded with their own money. The foreign service of Radio Afghanistan broadcasts in German, Russian, English and Urdu (spoken in Pakistan). An engineer, a student of German, a Professor of Economics and a merchant work in the German service. They are permanently employed and come to the studios for two bours daily, five days a week. And they get a real salary, 1200 Afghanis a month. That works out at only $15.00, but that's a good deal by Afghan standards; for instance, you can buy an excellent dinner for only 35 cents.

Dr. Asimip the Head of the German Section thrust the latest newscast right into my hand as soon as I went in. I was supposed to correct the translation. "Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was brought down to earth yesterday morning at London's Heathrow Airport..." Well that didn't sound quite right for the grand dame of Indian politics. She had landed there. -But I was told not correct every mistake. "We don't want to start sounding like the Deutsche Welle," Dr. Asizi explained to me, "We want to keep the local color." I was only to correct real howlers. This kept me fully occupied right up to recording time at 6:30 pm.

In the studio, first, the engineer read the news. It was a good thing that we were not live on the air. The programme is only broadcast at 10 pm, local time. But our listeners in Central Europe do hear the broadcast at 6.30 pm, their time, three and one-half hours earlier.

Then a German tune was played between the news and the second programme item; this is done daily. Then on Mondays it was time for mailbag. I took the script from my pocket amd began "Hello and good evening shortwave fans in Germany!" ... Everyone who received a QSL card had to be mentioned by name, and everyone who had sent a correct reception report, giving programme content, frequencys, time, and reception quality received such a card. This is standard international practice; many listeners wrote telling us to hurry up and send the card, since they needed it for a contest. I worked for a total of two months in the German Service of Radio Afghanistan. As a going-away present I received a beautiful alabaster ashtray with carefully-made inlays, one of the many handcrafted products for which Afghanistan is famous. It had been fun working there, but the air and sea connections to India were open again, and Kabul was getting colder and colder....


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