This journey started many years ago when I met someone in DC who was from Afghanistan. I thought at the time 'wow' and 'sounds exotic' and 'where is Afghanistan.' I'm still thinking 'wow,' but now I know it's not only 'exotic' but rugged and filled with fierce peoples. And I know it's located at the start of a great adventure.
I've thought about exotic places since, including Afghanistan, and dreamt of going and doing my part to save the world. In fact, I studied Arabic for two years in preparation for going somewhere 'Arabic.' I was also part of a mini-study group reading up on the Middle East, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islam.
And then, in April, I went to a rug show put on by Arzu - a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide sustainable income to Afghan women by sourcing and selling the rugs they weave. Education of the women and their children is part of the program. I saw the rugs, wondrous designs and colors, but more importantly I heard the stories. One woman finally earned enough so that she could buy a veil; in her village without a veil she could not go outside. I asked about the men: how supportive were they, what did they think about their wives and children attending school. The response was one that I hear over and over again. The men (as well as the women) want better lives for their children and they all realize that only through education is a better future attainable. (Arzu means 'hope' in Dari.)
Well, that was the hook. And what was I going to do about it? Just when was I going to go to Afghanistan?
Nothing like a good talk to oneself.
I emailed Arzu and offered my services. I may have gone a bit gaga with my enthusiasm for their efforts and my proposed contribution to said efforts. Anyway, I didn't hear from them.
I knew there was an American University in Afghanistan so I went on line and found their web site. And, they needed someone to teach Physical Science. I have degrees in the sciences and have taught Chemistry for some years; I sent off my resume. I did not expect to get a reply.
But I did. They wanted to talk to me over the phone from Kabul.
Omigod, omigod. My office mate, I'm sure, thought I was having either a heart attack or an orgasm.
That was in late April this year and I was hired a few weeks later. Probably because I was the only one who had applied. I'm guessing there weren't a lot of people clamoring for the chance to go to a war zone.
And I've had over 3 months to try and get used to the idea that I'm going to Kabul, Afghanistan, for 10 months to live and teach. Omigod.
Enough of that.
I want to share some of my experiences in Kabul, but also some stories about the country and its people.
Here's rugged and fierce:
Ahmad Shah Mahsoud
Mahsoud was a genius of guerrilla warfare, drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980's and was his country's last defense against the Taliban onslaught (Junger, S., The Lion in Winter, National Georgraphic Adventure, March/April, 2001). He was assassinated September 9, 2001.