This is only a few months late – but – NEWSFLASH – I left Afghanistan.NEWSFLASH #2, it didn’t spontaneously combust, nor did its problems spontaneously get resolved. Since the vast majority of my colleagues (military and diplomatic) will be doing the same thing, and the same result is pretty likely, I am left with the unsettling question of “why” looming awkwardly in the background, but I don’t plan to subject my dear readers to THAT tired old song.
What I AM going to do is say a big thank you for all my friends and colleagues who joined me on the journey, helped keep me safe, shared and provided entertainment, food, recreation and so forth. Above all, I want to thank my Afghan friends and colleagues who touched and changed my life with their generous and indomitable spirit.
Probably the greatest joy of living and working in foreign cultures is that it gives an opportunity to extend the magical part of adolescence (not acne or finding a prom date), where you subconsciously are picking and choosing how you approach life and what you believe about everything from how you plan to raise your children, to what you like to do in your free time, to what you believe about God.It does this (if you allow yourself to be immersed in the culture) by putting your own beliefs in the minority position.
For example, the unspoken but firm expectation that a middle-class family will have two vehicles and spend an obscene amount of time shuttling children from one activity to another is assaulted head-on in many places where such profligate use of the automobile is either an unimaginable luxury, or an expensive and impractical alternative to using public transport. However, while I love the practical wisdom of habits like keeping your fork in your left hand instead of switching back and forth, it is the more fundamental parts of how people live their lives that really leave a mark.
Flags at Bagram
In our first posting in Latin America we learned that it is never too late (or too early) for another dance, or another drink. In Europe, we learned that eating is about more than caloric intake, and that walking to the store is a great way to shop (particularly if they sell pastries).In Africa we learned that every day people who live in what I once thought of as grinding poverty and ill-health, meet the sunrise with joy in their heart and a smile on their lips and find a fulfillment I seldom see in the "states".
Afghanistan has a similarly unbreakable spirit, and showed me that decades of struggle and death has not extinguished the humor, hope and warmth of the Afghan people, and that if graciousness, hospitality and generosity can thrive there, we have no excuse for not holding onto that spirit under circumstances that are considerably less challenging.
Friendly Reminder at the Kabul Airport
I had planned to regale my readers with the details of the administrative nightmares of escaping the Embassy Kabul vortex, or my joy at running into an Afghan food vendor in New England whose family is from Parwan province, or the thrill of waking up, putting on running shoes, and going as far as my legs will carry me in any direction I want with only my dogs as my (optional) escort.
Instead, I’ll say thanks for reading, thanks to all my hosts, and please keep Afghanistan and its people in your thoughts and prayers, I do, and always will.