I wrote about the beauty of Afghanistan in one of my recent columns, and it truly is a place of spectacular vistas. There is, however, nothing like a trip to Afghanistan to make a person appreciate the beauty of Albany.
My wife and I drove back into town from the Portland airport on a sunny spring afternoon that featured countless flowering trees, well-tended property, some attractive new buildings, and Waverly Lake at our east entrance. The contrast between the blast walls, unpaved streets, razor wire, dust, and armed soldiers at most major intersections that you see in Kabul and all that we enjoy here at home is remarkable. In the days since my return, I’ve taken the time to walk, run, and drive around town just to enjoy the scenery. I visited some new neighborhoods in North Albany where attractive and affordable homes have been constructed in recent years and passed through older neighborhoods where mature landscaping and nicely maintained homes create a welcoming environment.
Shortly after my return, I met our visiting fellows from New Zealand, and I’ve taken some pride in being able to show them a community where people care about the place they call home. It looks like permits for more than 100 new homes will be issued in 2012-13, and I find it encouraging that many new families are choosing to invest here. Our new residents probably see many of the same things I regard as important to making a city a nice place to live.
I visited four restaurants in Afghanistan and had to go through a succession of blast barriers and metal detectors as well as a quick frisk before I could be seated. With one notable exception, the food wasn’t very good and the service was not up to our standards. Kabul is a difficult place to do business, so I understand why things may not measure up. Nonetheless, it has been a treat to visit stores and restaurants in Albany that offer a wide selection, are generally clean, and food that is appealing to almost any taste.
Albany is far from perfect, but I am really glad to call it home. I am equally glad that my grandchildren are being raised nearby in places like Albany that are safe and attractive. I have learned that any place can be a good place to visit or live if you are surrounded by people of goodwill who care about their communities. I believe Albany is such a place, and I consider it a privilege to live here.