Phil drove me to my house in a leafy, almost Mediterranean neighborhood called Hill. Two guards stood in front of the gate, rifles slung over their shoulders. They pulled the gate open and gave a friendly wave as we drove past. Set back behind a few trees was a two-story white house, with a well- tended flower garden along one side. My car, a blue Dodge Dart, was sitting in the driveway on the other side of the house. Id bought that car because I assumed it would look bad to have a foreign-made car at the CIA. Then the first day Id driven it to Headquarters, I saw that the enormous Agency parking lot was filled with Hondas and Toyotas. My Dart looked more at home here in .
After showing me around the house, Phil took me to the den at the
back of the first floor and talked about security arrangements.
The den was designated as a safe room. He showed me how to trigger
the mechanism that brought a out of the wall, which
swooped in a and locked on the other end.
"Couldnt they still shoot you through that?" I asked.
"The is designed to protect you against kidnapping," he said. "They cant get to you in there. Food, water the . You can go three days in here without a problem."
"But what if they want to shoot you?"
"Well, then, I guess youre gonna get shot."
"Wouldnt it be a better idea, then, if there were some sort of attack, or unrest, to just flee? Get out into the yard, go over the back fence? Just get out?"
"We recommend you use the safe room. This is where well come looking for you."
The next morning, I spent a few hours unpacking, then I did a trial
drive to the embassy to make sure I knew how to get there and
how much time it took. In the afternoon, I went down to the
District. When you see a photograph thats trying to conjure ,
its probably . The crowded, dusty streets, with brightly colored
hanging from windows, are somehow repulsive and appealing
at the same time. Men in sweat-stained shirts, women in
, and the occasional animal stream down the main
thoroughfare in both directions. In American cities, large groups of
people divide naturally into lanes to facilitate getting down a crowded
street. Here, two masses just pushed forward, bumping and weaving
as they went.
I couldnt help thinking the controlled chaos was the perfect metaphor for . After all my reading, I knew the broad outlines of the history and political fissures that had shaped, and also oppressed, the country. After the .
Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury USA.
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