I am dressed for “going out.” Norms for modesty require that women’s heads and necks be covered at all times, that tunics ideally go to the knees, and that a skirt or loose fitting pants be to the ankles. Socks are preferred, but sandals are acceptable. The women are teaching me to tie my scarves for maximum modesty, and ensure that my clothing is appropriate. Only two of my tunics are long enough, and I contrast these standards with the short shorts and skimpy tops so prevalent for young girls in the US during these hot summer months! However, I do know that this style is very comfortable for sitting cross-legged on the floor at the Center!
I was delighted to sit in on a class for street kids who are learning to write Dari (their language) and to do simple math. The more than twenty students are attentive, engaged, and actively participating, even though it is late on a hot afternoon.
The Street Kids Program is wonderfully structured. All students, who register and regularly attend classes, receive a large bag of rice and a gallon of cooking oil once a month. If families agree to let their kids be part of the education program, they are given these foodstuffs so their child won’t have to spend too much time on the street shining shoes or selling trinkets. It is a very successful effort, and the kids are eager to learn.
Zekerullah, the co-chair of food distribution was himself a street kid, selling matches and cigarettes from a wooden tray hung around his neck. Hakim saw and took a photo of him about 6 years ago, and, over time, after gaining his trust, invited him into the program. I encourage you to take a look at an interview that was done of Zekerullah for YouTube in 2008/9 talking about his life.
This evening we met with six of the older Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) who have been invited by Ektaparis had to spend two weeks in the Bhopal province of India, with students from all over the world, to study nonviolence. Our APV representatives have to commit to a rigorous educational preparation, team building, community involvement, self assessment, etc. Each of the six boys who have been invited to go are already leaders in the APV community, and they must carefully consider the invitation and the additional responsibilities before accepting the invitations. The experience has been life-changing for earlier delegates. Zarghuna, a Journalism student, said she’d never before imagined all the rich opportunities available to girls; in her Afghan culture the role of women is very traditional and structured.
As we walk back to the house under the glorious light of the full moon, I am struck again by the sounds of Kabul. The chanting of mullahs from the local mosques is in sharp contrast to the frequent tinkling of the “Happy Birthday” song, used by ice cream carts across the city to announce their arrival. The occasional explosions, and constant honking of car and motorcycle horns, create a cacophony of sound, only slightly tempered by the gentle chirping of birds in our garden as they search for their morning snacks. And, as a constant presence, the pervasively whirling helicopters hover overhead in the beautiful blue skies that we hope will one day be Borderfree…
Thank you all for your support and solidarity, or, as I have learned from my Afghan friends Tashakur.
Monday, August 11, 2014