Somehow, I just don't think so.
I had every intention of falling in love with Afghanistan before I came. But it hasn't happened, for a variety of reasons. I doubt I'm going to get stars in my eyes years from now when I talk about my experience here, the way so many PeaceCorps volunteers and others have when they have told me about such assignments. It's not just about the country: if I had come for only a month, I would have always seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and everything would have still been new and exciting even as I was leaving. Or had I been single and entirely alone, I think I would have had a different experience, because I wouldn't have continually been pining for my little German family.
I know I will watch the news intensely whenever Afghanistan is mentioned. If Afghanistan ever fields Olympic or World Cup teams someday, I will totally pull for them. But right now, if someone asked me if I would come back, my answer would have to be NO.
The **glee** with which men and boys here torture dogs - which I've witnessed for myself -- has been one of the big reasons I haven't warmed to the people of Afghanistan. The other reason is, ofcourse, the abhorrent treatment of women and girls here. There's nothing honorable about it. It's so deeply embedded, ever-justified by religion and culture, ever-excused by most international workers. Never mind that this discrimination and oppression comes at the price of prosperity for the entire country, men included. And I have had a hard, hard time finding a place in my heart for a culture that, more often than not, seems so incredibly heartless and brutal and brought me to tears on so many occasions. And I apologize to anyone I've offended with that statement - this place makes my heart hurt, and I have to say so.
(if you want to help regarding the stray dog situation in Afghanistan, please make a donation to the Mayhew Animal Home and Humane Education Centre, and tell them you want your gift to go to their efforts in Afghanistan. They are working to help spay and neuter dogs there, to train Afghans regarding veterinary medicine, and to change Afghans' cultural practices regarding dogs, which have no basis in the Koran. I have spoken numerous times with a representative of this organization; they ARE making a difference, and your support will help them do even more!)
I also have been uncomfortable with the Afghan desire to be seen as related ethnically to Germans. Many Afghans have proudly told me that Hitler's mother was an Afghan (she wasn't). They have told me that Hitler executed the German cricket team when it lost to Afghanistan (neither the executions nor such a match happened). They have told me "Afghans are Aryans, just like Germans!" They are proud and utterly convinced of all these false German connections - and for all the wrong reasons.
When I meet people from Afghanistan, I will tell them what I loved most about this country: the natural beauty. By far, it's my favorite thing about Afghanistan. The mountains, the valleys, the rivers... they are stunning, as beautiful as anything in my own country. I wish the country was safe enough, from religious fundamentalists, warlords, petty criminals, brutality and poor sanitation, for people from around the world to be able to partake in just how beautiful this country is. It's a landscape that begs to be hiked, biked, skied... Utah tourism should be very worried if Afghanistan ever pulls it together.
I will miss Kabul Kitty very much. I have loved having a cat again. I haven't had a cat since I was a teenager. They are so much fun, so self-assured of themselves. Kabul Kitty - or, "CC", as is her proper name given by Anne, and what I call her - is fun to watch, and I've appreciated her affection very much; it's gotten me through my last eight weeks more than anything. And I've already talked to Jean, the French guy, about please please please continuing her diet of actual cat food, as it's made such a difference in her. And talked to the woman who will move into my room when I leave - she's assured me that she does like cats and will pet and feed her regularly. But will she let her sleep on the bed?
Beyond that... yes, there are some other things here that might bring a smile to my face when I remember them once I'm gone. I will miss the women I work with very much. There is a certain smile Afghan men can sometimes throw that, when it's not creepy, can be really endearing. I'll miss that. Afghan men, gussied up just a little but not trying to look like 1980s Bollywood stars, could be the best looking men in the world - I'm not kidding. I will always compliment Afghans on how hard they work - I have never seen manual laborers work so hard. No matter what time of the morning, and no matter how hot the day gets, they just keep right on working.
And for sure, *I'll* miss working. I love working. I don't mean just for the paychecks. I love doing what I love to do AND getting paid for it. It's felt exhilarating to WORK. Also, I have learned SO much, and I have really enjoyed being able to learn so much. And, as usual, learning so much has shown me just how much I *don't* know.
Outside of my job, it's the little things here that have kept me going:
That said, I'd really like to have a little Afghan flag, with golden fringe all around the sides, but I haven't been able to find one. And I've thought maybe that Persian might be a better language to study than Arabic. I had no idea how widely-spoken it was: it's the native language of Iran, most of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It's also the second language of oh-so-many people. And it's so pretty... just as poetic as I had been told it was over the years.
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The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.