Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm fine

'Rocket' (Missile) attack in Shar-Nau-Park. It's close to my house but I didn't hear anything and I'm okay. No worries.

India this afternoon, Inshallah!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stressful day v.2

Uff, one of my favorite cousins is sick and we're all very worried about him. I wrote up another blog post yesterday but deleted it. Actually, I woke up at 3 am, in a panic, because I realized that I disclosed stuff that other family members don't know yet (and how terrible would it be for them to learn through the internet). I called my brother in the U.S. and asked him to delete the post. So, any family members wanting the inside scoop, shoot me an email.

I also complained and whined so it's just as well that I deleted that previous post.

I'm going to India tomorrow (Inshallah) and I'm super duper excited. I'm going to get my thyroid checked out and BUY FABRIC. I'm looking forward to sleeping in and de-stressing. I'll catch y'all next week!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Thanks to Cousin H (you need a nickname) for removing the advertisements and fixing my comments. I felt like a sell-out for having those ads (mostly b/c my other cousin A, told me that I was) and this is no judgment on other people who have advertisements on their blogs.

And I wasn't making any money, with my 16 readers. I love you all, by the way.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Introducing Mar Mar Makeez

Mar Mar means Marble in Dari and Makeez means Charming (or something like that) in Pashto.

I got her back. It was too much responsibility for the boy and he gave it back to me. And now we're reunited.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I have a lump in my throat

I have a lump in my throat. No, it’s not the thyroid, I am sad because my Khala and cousin left. I, hastily clad in my ugly black jacket and lovely purple scarf, over my yellow pajamas, stood outside as they piled in the car. One of the two old servants threw water on their car, for good luck on their journey. I fought off tears then and now I’m in my room, perhaps not fighting the tears now.

When they came, it was like a family vacation, laughter over tea, gifts, inside jokes and the special fits of giggles that only come with family. I showed them Kabul, they saw me lose my temper with others (I have to work on that), and they took care of me when my shaking got worse.

I came home every night, walked through the dingy door and was met with kisses, gifts and my fun family.

Shukur, I have a great family but it’s so hard to be away from them. Even when I’m in the U.S., we’re scattered to different places in a way that only refugees are. When we see each other, we are infected with our parents’ joy, they dance and laugh and tease. Happy to see each other again.

Life is odd, after spending their lives growing up together and starting families, homes side by side, they spent another 30 years far away, punctuated by phone calls and hectic visits to celebrate funerals and weddings. They are the roots of my culture and I feel bereft, in my homeland, without them.

And now, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself. Shukur, that they are in my life.

Bye Khala, Bye M. Safar Bakhair.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kabul is still beautiful

Most Afghan-Americans, when coming to Afghanistan felt very far away, hungrily gleaned their information from family stories, and books by non-Afghans. Tom Goutierre helped with his Journal of Afghanistan and the Duprees helped with their anthropological books.

I recently purchased ‘An Historical Guide to Afghanistan’ by Nancy Hatch Dupree, from a little kid on the street. It was published in 1970 and it simultaneously makes me happy that it was written, we need to be reminded that it is possible to have prosperity and peace; and heartbreakingly sad, we’re so far away from 1970 Kabul.

I can’t help but be sad when I read this:

The city is ringed with mountains, gleaming emerald green in spring; glistening white in winter. Even in summer barrenness they have an ever-changing beauty, turning from deep purple to brilliant pink under the rising and setting sun.

I guess (and hope), years from now, when Kabul’s mountains are emerald green and glistening white again (Inshallah), I can say, I loved you when you were dusty, brown, dirty, and cloaked in desperate hope.

Your Sunday update

I brought ALL of my work home on Thursday. Like I was going to do it all. Umm, no. Not so much.

We had Saturday off for Independence day and it was awesome to have a 2 day weekend.

I need to remind myself that I can’t do everything at home. And won’t. It’ll save my back from lugging all that work around.

Last night, we had a little going-away party for my Kawkoh (uncle) Y. He’s been in Kabul since 2001 and he’s going back to Europe to be with his family. He and my family go way back. He’s my uncles’ childhood friend and quickly assumed the role of Uncle when I first came here 3 years ago.

It’s pretty sad that he’s leaving. Three years ago, he didn’t want to leave. Now he’s leaving with warnings of Afghanistan’s deterioration. It’s unsettling and just plain sad to think that he won’t be here in Kabul.

On Friday, I helped with a JAHAN distribution (link on the right) and then we went over my cousin’s house for a khatem. This time, it is for an aunt who has cancer. It felt longer than the khatem that we did for other relative. At the end of the khatem, during the dedication, I started to cry. I saw a beam of light shoot up from our little table, covered in twister-esq tablecloth and raw kidney beams, ricochet off the sky and turn towards my aunt. She was sleeping in a white hospital bed and the light covered her.

I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but I hope not.

We found out later that she’s doing better. Please say a little prayer for her and my other cousin (previous khatem).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kitty come, kitty go

My cousin found a little kitten on Sunday morning, gave it to me on Sunday evening and I took her home that night. I bought her a baby bottle and looked up kitten formula recipes (she’s barely 4 weeks old).

But I have to give her away. Our place is too small and I just can’t give her enough attention in the few hours that I’m at home. My cousins are here for vacation but the kitty will go stir crazy when they leave. We’re all sad. It came to me last night, when she peed in my bed (she was too tired to move to her litter box – though she knows how to use it).

I am very, very sad. The only good thing is that one of my cousin’s relatives, who works in her house, fell in love with the kitten but couldn’t keep her because she was promised to me. So I’m giving the kitten to him.

But oh dear, I am sad.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Driver Tales

This story is going to make me sound like a bitch and it also shows how much meaner (tougher?) I’ve gotten. It usually takes me about a month before I start making smart-ass replies to everyone and refusing to accommodate other’s inappropriate requests. It’s been about 2 months now. I don’t know what it is, whether it is because Afghanistan is a post-conflict country, it’s just the way we are, or this is the only country where I deal with servants on a regular basis. I just worry that I will go to far in one direction and become just plain mean, or ‘zisht’ as the Afghans say.

I was assigned a new driver today. I told him that I was leaving at 5:30. He came by my office at 5 pm, saying, “I’m waiting for you.” I replied, “Okay, I’ll see you at 5:30 pm.” I left at 5:40 p.m.

He and I are quietly and politely battling for dominance. If I accommodate his requests now, go home early and etc. Then I will have to do what he says (and be on his schedule forever).

I sat in the car, an old, old, sky blue Volga. The crazy old man who won’t open the building door for me but opens it for foreigners (until I argued with him and now he won’t open it for anyone), leaned into the car window and said, “Tell my sister what time you have to leave and what your schedule is.”

My new driver laughed uncomfortably and I said, “Well, go on, what’s he talking about?”

Well, it’s just that I live so far away so I need to leave earlier and blah blah blah.

I quietly said, “I am actually leaving early today, I usually stay until 7 pm and if you can’t do that, perhaps you should speak to your boss to be reassigned.”

He was quiet for a moment and then he replied, “No, no! It’s just that the car they gave me is old and I live so far away and what if I get stuck on the street. If you work until 10 pm, I can stay until 10 pm.”

So we decided that I would ask for a new car. It really is old as dirt and the brakes don’t work that well.

Oh, and he doesn’t live far away, if traffic is not bad, it takes about 20 minutes to get to his house. When I asked him where he lived, I said, “Oh, right by that Lycee (High School)?” He looked a little embarrassed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Khatems, Clinics and Koreans

I’m sick. And it’s not fun. I think it’s the flu plus food poisoning or just one of the two. I started to feel sick on Wednesday night but went to work anyway. I left work early on Thursday and went straight to my cousin’s house. My Khala (Aunt), my cousin’s mom, is in town and I knew that she would make sure I was taken care of.

I went straight to the room designated to as ‘my’ room and threw myself on the bed. I spent the rest of the day sleeping and being fussed over. My Khala checked my temperature and my pulse, gave me medicine, put cold compresses on my forehead, prepared soup and generally just made me feel better. I love my Khala.

Friday, we went ahead with the khatem for my friend’s daughter. A khatem is prayer round and is usually done as thanks to Allah or pleas for help. Generally, a khatem is a reading of the Quran Sharif by a group of people. Other types of khatems may be repeating a verse or a prayer from the Quran Sharif a number of times.

We did the latter. It took a long time, as two of the participants (myself and Y) were sick, and our khatem had a repetition of over 100,000 times. I had to stop an hour into it as I thought I was going to throw up, but I started back up again in about half an hour. It was a good thing that I did, because my other cousin A, was outside and we couldn’t hear the doorbell over the loud hum of the generator. He called me, I opened the door and we both joined the khatem.

We kept track of the numbers with raw kidney beans. It is the way our grandmothers did their khatems, which is a nice thought. My cousin counted 1,000 beans and put it in the middle of the table. Each person would recite a verse and then put it to the side. Once we all finished 1,000, my cousin or my Khala would take a bean (from a completely separate pile) and put it in another bowl, to keep track of our 1,000s.

It was a happy khatem and made us feel that helpful to our friend and his family – which is what we needed also.

We finished and my Khala dedicated it to my friend’s daughter and rain for my beautiful but dry Afghanistan. As we all prayed, together but praying separately, I felt my little group’s deep prayers that our friend’s daughter is restored to health. I hope it works.

I was also going to write about the clinic that I went to on Saturday, and how they only let me in because my driver yelled out, “She’s a Kharijee (foreigner), Let her in,” but I’m pretty exhausted. I guess there is a free health clinic for locals, and because of demand, they can only let in 100 people a day but foreigners, who pay, can go in anytime.

And I haven’t seen any of the fabled Koreans yet but my friends who have recently gone to the airport have seen them, and I guess lots of children and teenagers? Really, why? Why would you put your children in danger? It’s been so hyped in the Western media and the security emails that I get everyday, that I’m afraid that I’m going to see one of the Korean evangelists and scream, “Aahh, Koreans!” and sprint out of the room. Dude, cuz they’re targets and I don’t want to be sitting next to them when fanatics come by.

But I do want to know why they’re here in Afghanistan. The summer is not the safest time to be here, and why here? We’re Muslim and happy with our religion. If you want to help, come help but don’t come for this. This isn’t helping.

I have no problems with Christians, having spent most of my life in the Bible Belt of the U.S. and have plenty of friends who are staunch, conservative, Christians…but I don’t appreciate evangelists. When I worked on an American Indian Reservation for a summer, I remember a Church group coming to the Rez and telling the kids that they would go to hell if they weren’t saved. And then the Church group wouldn’t or couldn’t break up a fight between two 8-year old boys. Is that supposed to help them?

We need practical help. Rebuild some sewage tanks, fix up our water supply or plant some trees…but this? An evangelical rally, do they think this is going to get people to convert? We’re trying to rebuild this country here and frankly, we just can’t handle it. Security is iffy for Afghans, how are we supposed to guarantee it for evangelists?

Oy, this has become a rant, I’ll stop now.

I’ve also been thinking about how Koreans, who are trying to convert the Afghans, converted once they were in contact with Anglo/European Christian missionaries, but I can’t articulate it properly. And I’m not quite sure how Koreans became Christians so maybe I’ll shut up now.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Last thing we need now

Evangelicals Defy Warnings to Head to Afghanistan

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea

Some 500 Korean evangelical Christians have headed to Afghanistan in defiance of government warnings to attend what is billed as a "peace festival" there.

A government official said on Monday, "With the security situation growing even worse due to the Israeli attacks on Lebanon, we have to be prepared for everything." The Institute of Asian Culture and Development (IACD), made up of various evangelical groups, has been working on an "Afghan peace march" of some 2,000 participants, since last December.

Event organizers say it is "primarily a cultural event, with a small peace rally," and there will be no religious content and thus no room for misunderstanding. Kabul's foreign minister in March wrote to the Korean government withdrawing support for the event saying Afghanistan cannot guarantee security. When it emerged that participants would travel on individual visit visas, Kabul temporarily suspended all visas for Koreans on June 27.

"Even aside from the state of international affairs, Afghanistan is a Muslim country and the majority of its people are Muslims, therefore it may be dangerous place for a Christian event," a Foreign Ministry official said. "By way of the embassy there, we are requesting that the participants return home ahead of time."