Trudi-Ann Tierney used to work on Home & Away, before taking a leap of faith and moving to Afghanistan to work on the country’s most popular soap opera ‘Secrets of the House’. Trudi’s is a fascinating, inspiring story which she shares in her book Making Soapies in Kabul.
This is an edited extract from MAKING SOAPIES IN KABUL, published by Allen &Unwin, RRP $29.99, out now.
The whistling dog woke me up again, for the sixth morning running.
Despite having not hit my pillow until 2am, I smiled when I heard his
feeble toot-tooting just after five. My mangy Labrador alarm clock
didn’t exactly belt out a tune (although I had picked out a solitary
bar of ‘Sweet Caroline’ two mornings before), and as I watched him
sitting alone under my window, serenading the first signs of sun,
I couldn’t discern any actual lip-pursing or puckering-up. But he
was most definitely whistling.
I had never encountered a whistling dog before, but then the past
month had been a rollcall of phenomenal firsts; my entrée into life in
Afghanistan in April 2009 had been nothing short of mind-blowing.
Hundreds and thousands of expats had made this journey before me.
Soldiers ordered here to fight the bloody war; aid workers
committed to cleaning up the mess; doctors and diplomats; moneyhungry
entrepreneurs who’d sniffed out the scent of a quick buck
to be made in the battle zone. Amongst them, I felt uniquely out of
place in my mission to Afghanistan; I had come to Kabul to manage
a bar and restaurant—‘The Den’.
I spent my entire three-hour flight from Dubai into Kabul pressed
up against the plane’s window, marvelling at the alien new world
below. I gazed in wonderment as the plane cruised over chocolatebrown
mountains, their tops sugared with snow, and then dipped into
barren valleys where the only hints of habitation were tiny perfect
grids of crude mud fencing. I was an unabashed, window-licking,
mouth-breather, and I was not even particularly disconcerted when
the turbaned fellow in front spent minutes at a time staring back at
me through the gap in the seats. As we skimmed over the NATO base
next to the airport and landed alongside military choppers standing
to attention on the tarmac, I fumbled for my headscarf and recalled
the extraordinarily easy journey that had brought me to this place.
It all began late in 2008 over dinner with my brother Adam, one
of my life-long friends, Paul, and his partner, Jose. Paul had just been
appointed as the head of production for Afghanistan’s largest and
most successful television broadcaster and was back in Australia
trying to assure his family that moving to Afghanistan was a sane
and sensible life choice. My TV career in Australia was kind of at a
standstill. My business partner, Muffy, and I had recently had a comedy
show optioned by an international production house and an Australian
network was showing genuine interest in funding the series in the new
financial year. Muffy also had a documentary in early development
with another company. We were playing the waiting game and I was
in need of a new adventure. Much to Adam’s horror, I farewelled Paul
that night with a commitment that, if ever there was an opportunity
for me to join him in Afghanistan, I wanted in.