Blog of Karen Woo - executed in Afghanistan - gives insight into life

DOCTOR Karen Woo was with nine other aid workers in Afghanistan, returning to the capital Kabul from a remote area, when she was executed by gunmen on Friday.

Dr Woo, who grew up in Brixham Close in Stevenage, had been due to marry her fianc� Mark Smith next week.

Here are a few snippets from her online blog, which give an insight into the woman she was and the life she led.

Tuesday, July 20 (Dr Woo’s last entry)

“So, I’m busily preparing for the trek to Nuristan and also manoeuvring around the chaos that is Kabul.

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“We found out a couple of days ago that there is still a lot of snow on the pass and the horses won’t be able to go all the way over.

“We had planned for the horses to carry the bulk of our kit (and there’s a lot of it) so now, when their little hooves can go no further, we’ll be lugging it over the pass ourselves.

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“The image of a straggly band of people labouring through the snow at 16,000 feet comes to mind but seems so very remote and painless as I sit at my desk in Kabul - I know it’s going to hurt but I just can’t imagine it right now.”

Monday, July 12

“I’m in Afghan Spinney’s supermarket and I’m there being totally girly, lured in by the cosmetics counter.

“There’s not that many to choose from, but enough to occupy that portion of my brain which delights in such fripperies, and I am absorbed blissfully in this activity for at least 10 minutes.

“Such tiny pleasures, I’m thrilled to pieces when I find that the store stocks proper nail scissors, an emery board, and a pumice stone, and I go totally wild when they offer me not just one but three choices of face pack.”

Sunday, July 11

“This is a very different place from England, and family and the social hierarchy are strong.

“The upsides are the generosity, the subtleties like the terrible driving but the lack of road rage, the lack of food, space and money but the offer to share nonetheless.

“The downsides are the rigidity of the system, the safety in conformity and therefore the lack of courage to break the mould by being an individual.

“It’s difficult to explain, but to step outside of normal behaviour here results in rapid condemnation either because people believe it is dangerous, or have to be seen to be saying that they believe it to be dangerous.

“Either way, the downside is that attitudes change very slowly.”

Wednesday, June 23

“This morning I woke up with puffy eyes; I’d been crying a lot and when that happens, just to make me feel extra glamorous, my eyes get piggy pink and swollen.

“It’s an up and down existence here and things really do change in an instant.

“All told though I am doing ok and relentlessly busy - one minute you’re elbow deep in a bowel repair operation, the next you’re in the back of an ISAF military vehicle having your phone jammed and sweating, the next in a random office talking about designing uniforms for the Afghan Police Force, then Caesar salad and espresso in the gardens of a five star hotel before finding back home that your loo doesn’t flush and it’s back to reality.

“It’s probably the absolute randomness of this place that I love so much - from the sublime to the ridiculous is a daily occurrence.”

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