Friday, June 30, 2006

Afghan Friday

A lovely day. I spent it in typical Afghan fashion, visiting relatives, drinking tea and chatting.

My pink outfit was a hit with the relatives (thanks PFR!). It was great to catch up and I'm happy.

Sadly, Argentina lost. I wasn't really rooting for them but I wanted Germany to lose. My Khala, who lives in Germany, watched the game with me and was quite happy (and rubbed it in) when they won.

Off to bed - busy week tomorrow!!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Un-riots, shukur

Two posts in one day! It must be a Thursday. Tomorrow is my day off and I look forward to seeing some very close family friends. My Khala and her family always remind me why I'm here and I adore her children (all 8 of them and the extended family members she raised through the various wars).

Yesterday, we received word of potential riots. I was quite nervous but nothing happened. An American colleague and I walked to an office about 10 minutes away and I was sure that we would be a target. Thankfully, no one bothered us and didn't even stare. In fact, a little boy went out of his way to show us the right way.

Perhaps I'll walk home today...

Afghans, Cell phones and Meetings

Afghans love cell phones. Almost everyone has a special ring tone, sometimes Afghan music, sometimes Arab music. It’s often quite catchy. In mixed Afghan and non-Afghan company, the Afghans are marked immediately by their reactions to the cell phone ring. I’ve seen Afghans inadvertently move their shoulders in tune with the Afghan music, especially Logari music.

But the rings are jarring in meetings. Afghan meetings (another post) are long, with many examples (misals) and hot debates. A phone will ring, with it’s catchy tune, and because most people do not have voice mail, the person will immediately answer.

(Sound of Arab music)

Balay (yes)? Salam! How are you? How is your family, your mother, how’s her leg? Is it better? Which hospital did you go to? No! that one is terrible. Listen, brother – you’re wasting money if you don’t go to so and so. I’m serious. Tell him you know me! Fine thank you fine thank you. I’m fine? Really? Who? Congratulations! No, go ahead, eat without me. I’m here at the ***, In a meeting. An important meeting. Of course, well, I told them. And I will tell them…

It’s disconcerting and I don’t completely understand why the cell-phone user is so loud and so willing to share personal information.

Perhaps it is the communal nature of Afghans. Once you’re off the phone, you usually share the information of phone call with the rest of your family. It was so and so. She says Salam to you, her wedding is this day. She’s not happy with the gifts her fiance’s family has brought her (oh, this is another post too).

And when someone from abroad calls, you say, ‘Your eyes are bright (Chishm-et-roshan)’. It’s a form of congratulations. In the U.S., Afghan-Americans only use it when someone comes home from a long trip or visits from far away. Perhaps we use it here because for about 20 years, no one came back.

And I never say anything during the meetings when they take a call. The other day, I watched a man hotly argue and then stop to take a call. I was irritated with him but his phone call amused me and reminded me that he has a family too. Cell phones bring a touch of humanity to us, who would have thought?


Sunday, June 25, 2006

another update

I’m feeling better. Not sick anymore (shukur) but I am hiccupping like I have just found it in Kabul’s outdoor bazaar, ‘mandayee’, bargained for 30 minutes and then put it in a thin pink plastic bag and proudly carried it home. Yes, that is how I’m hiccupping. With flair!

I’m alone in my office, eating my sandwich, writing this entry and gazing at the following website: Oh, and hiccupping too.

I’m slowly getting used to Kabul. I am still homesick but not as sad as I was last week. I’m slowly getting in the rhythm of Kabul. It’s different from last time and it’s taking some time to reconcile the Kabul in my head with the Kabul of my life. Also, I haven’t been walking around the city, so that’s just odd. I am driven from location to location. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to get around, of course – but I miss my walks. I should start them again.

Last Friday, I helped paint an Aschiana school outside of the city. It’s part of Love Kabul, Clean Kabul. Once a month, we do things like paint schools or orphanages, plant trees and etc. It’s always a good group of people. I’m uploading a picture of my paint-splattered hand to prove that I actually worked. A certain relative of mine equates messiness with efficiency so perhaps he will understand that I merely washed up sooner than he did.

I'll try to update more often. I am not looking at Kabul with traveler's eyes anymore. Which is a shame, but perhaps it's a sign that I'm settling in?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


I'm sick.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Checking in

Well, I got my first hate comment today. It was pretty weird, since I was expecting it about a more controversial topic and this was about my 'crybaby' post. I think it said something about me being a self-absorbed little twit. I deleted it. Why? Because it's MY BLOG. And, I have a sneaking suspicion of who it is.

Today was my first day of work. I was really nervous before but it ended up being alright.

Nothing too special to report. I am still trying to guage measures to take to be safe. I am now worried about the Afghan Police. A friend told me that some Aid workers were taken to a police station and harassed for three hours. I hope that isn't going to become common. It really wasn't before.

Fridays are my only days of here and I spent last Friday with my cousins, playing volleyball. Team HomeinKabul won one game and then lost terribly the second time around.

I'm exhausted, early to bed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm feeling less like a drama queen now

But the screaming baby (the WHOLE flight) did not help matters.

R: you have to think of a better name than Anonymous. Titanic was sad! Not when DiCaprio died though but when the Musicians went down with the ship. The social injustice of it all!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I cried while packing. I cried on the way to Kroger to cash in my coins. I teared up while pushing my pennies and dimes through the slots. I cried while saying goodbye to Bobah (Dad). I cried on the way to the airport. I teared up while getting my boarding pass. I cried (hard) while saying goodbye to Madar (Mom) and to my baby brother. They cried. My cousin, Z, called and cried.

We're the cryingest family in the world.

I'm starting to cry now at the free internet lounge at JFK airport. Or maybe I'm crying because I had a quarter pounder with cheese and want to vomit right now.

I hate goodbyes and I don't know why I'm going right now. I'm a bit overwhelmed and I just want to go home (in the U.S.). I don't know what possessed me to think I could leave all my family and friends and move to Kabul and pretend like it could be my home.

I didn't cry the other times I went to Afg. This time is particularly hard.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cheating and Wasting a Life

My two Khalas (Aunts) had a party for me today and it was quite fun. I scraped the side of my thigh while trying to cheat during a game of Marco Polo. I tried to hoist myself into the baby pool, that is attached to the larger pool, and couldn’t. In an effort to be helpful, my two cousins, W and M, tried to push me in the baby pool. At one point, my head was in the baby pool with my chest and hip scraping the brick divider. I think I heard howls of laughter while my head was underwater. My extended family was drinking tea, eating watermelon and shouting instructions and encouragement during our games and enjoying my many attempts at cheating.

It was a fun day. But it was also really sad and a reminder of what I’ll miss. No matter how hard I try, my family is in the U.S. and is not going back to Afghanistan. I don’t expect them to and personally get quite frustrated by those who expect all refugees to return. It’s been 26 years since we’ve left and my parents have worked hard to build stable lives for us all here. This is home. So, why do I want to go back?

While everyone was laughing and talking, my mom would stop, turn and sadly look at me. I don’t know what she was thinking but it was probably the thought that I’ll be far away and somewhere that isn’t really safe. She’s religious, so she knows that it’s God’s will but it can’t be easy for her.

My Uncle K, who nicknamed me ‘stupid teenager’ years ago, told me, “After your contract is up, come back. Don’t waste your life there.”

I don’t know. It’s not wasting my life. But I’m Afghan and the bulk of my family is not in Afghanistan.

I’ve planned to spend a few years in Afghanistan and then move back to the U.S, Inshallah. Hopefully, I’ll have a job that will allow me to participate in the reconstruction and travel back at least once a year. But this is all daydreaming.

I can’t get into the mode of daydreaming about the U.S. I spent the last three years daydreaming about going to Afghanistan and working there. I cried when I couldn’t get a job there in the summers and was insulted when I was once told that I didn’t follow up enough. I have to be happy where I am. And be happy with all the choices I have. The freedom is scary. I guess I can't stress about it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Humor for all religions

Her People Love Fashion at a Bargain

Older woman: Excuse me, miss?
Younger woman: Yeah?
Older woman: Your veil, your burqa is very beautiful. I didn't know your people were allowed to wear it in bright colors.
Younger woman: It's not a burqa, it's a poncho. I'm Jewish. It's for the rain. I got it at TJ Maxx.

--53rd & 7th

via Overheard in New York, Jun 9, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

On Being Muslim (This Post is for PR)

Yesterday I had my teeth cleaned. I, as usual, promised the hygienist that I would floss on a regular basis. It’s very difficult for me to floss. It hurts and in the evenings, it takes everything I have not to pass out with my shoes on, let alone floss. I did floss last night, so everyone, wish me luck.

The Dentist, Hygienist and I had an interesting exchange on Afghanistan and Islam. Perhaps I’m just more sensitive to it now, but these days, I am interested in others’ attitudes to Islam and Muslims.

The Hygienist asked me what I was doing and I said I just finished law school and am starting work next week (Yes, next week!). I attempt to avoid telling people what and where I’m going as it entails a much longer conversation – but I also don’t like to lie. So, I told her (don’t ask me what, I’m not posting it on the blog, and no, it’s not the CIA) and she was super, duper excited.

It seems that she has been recently interested in world events and was absolutely fascinated about my trip and new job. She LOUDLY announced to the Dentist.

This is where it became uncomfortable.

The Dentist started talking about Iraq, cutting off hands and heads in Saudi Arabia if I wore T-shirts and going on and on about religious police. Do I speak Arabic? Do I speak Afghanistani?

I just didn’t know where to start and they were also poking in my mouth, checking for cavities (none found!). I was irritated and defensive. The Hygienist didn’t know that much about Afghanistan but she had a completely different approach. She just seemed genuinely curious, while homeboy wanted to spout off his spiel. And I don’t mind people not knowing about Afghanistan. It’d be nice, but I couldn’t tell you too much about East Timor and its politics either.

Even the stuff that was correct got on my nerves (low female illiteracy rate & etc).

Then he said, are you, Islam? I said yes, I am Muslim.

“You don’t veil then, that’s good.”I just didn’t know what to say.

Perhaps he thought that I was what some label as secular Muslims. I’m not, I consider myself a practicing Muslim. The hijab is something that I respect. And I immediately wished I were wearing a head scarf, just to prove that Muslims who veil are okay. My friends who veil are such good people. I know that its not what makes a good Muslim, but they truly represent the best of Islam.

But I’m not ‘Islam’. I’m just part of the ummah (Muslim community), trying to figure out how to best serve Allah. It’s a lot to ask of a person, to speak for the religion and I don’t think the Dentist or the Hygienist realized that is what they expected me to do. Well, not the Dentist, he wasn’t really listening. But we have to let them know that we are Muslims, to break down at least some of the stereotypes (even within our own community).

My friend, H, and I had discussed this about a Belgian friend of hers, who once told her, ‘You’re cool and open-minded, not like the other Muslims.” H is a practicing Muslim, doesn’t veil and truly, is really cool. But she is like other Muslims.

They, and the Dentist, think that we are ‘cool’ in spite of our religion, not because of it.

Whereas if you asked me (or H), I would tell you that my sense of right and wrong, tolerance and my attempts at being kind – are all because of my religion.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Da Plane, Boss, Da Plane!

(Did you know that guy from Fantasy Island, the little one, was Afghan?)

This morning, I received all of my tickets…no contract, but I have my tickets.

So, I’m leaving for Kabul in nine days, Inshallah. Even though I’ve been there twice already, I am nervous. A friend asked if I was worried about my safety, because of the recent riots. I'm not. I'll do my best to be safe and not attract attention, but Inshallah, I'll be okay.

The most pressing concern right now is the make sure I have the proper clothing. It's hard finding culturally appropriate clothing and this time, I want to make sure that I dress nicely. It makes me feel better and less frumpy. Besides, my mom asked me to make sure to wear make-up every day. "Nobody likes to look at a washed-out face."

But when there is no water, perhaps a washed-out face isn't so bad?

She's right though, I like to be around people are put-together. So, wish me luck! Do you think they would do an episode of 'What not to Wear' in Kabul?

I think I will go shopping today. Being at home, surrounded by boxes and papers, is slightly overwhelming.