Saturday, March 31, 2007

Blogs that make me go hmmmm

The very sweet Frida tagged me for a ‘meme’. I must admit, I have always wanted to be tagged for a meme (am I using this word correctly? Is it a noun or a verb?), and this one was especially sweet as I have been tagged for a meme and also been given a Thinking Bloggers Award. Check the link for the explanation and instructions. I have to nominate 5 blogs that make me think. They, in turn, must nominate the 5 blogs that make them think.

I initially wanted to re-tag Frida, as her blog very gently pushes me to meet my own emotions and thoughts about working in Afghanistan head-on. But I think that would defeat the purpose of the meme. I also added some of my own rules, as I didn’t think it would be appropriate to nominate private blogs or those that no longer post very often (I’m looking at Q & Vasco!).

The common theme among my list of 5 blogs is that they force me to broaden my thought process. They’re all honest, smart and courageous with the unique ways they approach life. Thanks y’all.

Safrang – I keep finding and then losing track of Safrang but each time I find him, I am struck by his insight on Afghanistan. Unflinchingly honest, direct and with a deep knowledge of Afghan politics, his posts are always thought provoking. Now, if he could just stick to one website address...

Revolt in the Desert – LoA adds pictures to my very literal world. Did I tell you that I sometimes dream that in words? LoA pushes me to meet art and philosophy and helps me grasp some of the subtleties.

Dans le meilleur des mondes possibles
– E puts up with no bull. Similar to Safrang, she refuses to take things at face-value, preferring to understand the intricacies of the subject. E is a new mother and development worker in Tajikistan, so her approach is always multi-faceted and interesting. She also disposes of comment trolls in an efficient manner; we should all take lessons from her.

AKA:OMG – My ‘real-life’ friend. O’s humor and wonderful writing style is always entertaining and insightful. After reading her blog, I pay more attention to every day occurrences, hoping to see life as she does. If only you would write a book. I would dawdle by your book display and holler, “THIS IS MY FRIEND, I TOLD HER TO WRITE.” I still hold out hope.

Koonj – Koonj approaches the Ummah (community of Muslims) and our failings courageously and openly but with great compassion. Refusing to let go of Islam while facing the hypocrisy of our community takes a brave soul. She also tackles the difficulties of motherhood, migration and academia with great honesty.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Too many women in the kitchen

I cried the first time I cooked Afghan food by myself. I cooked for one friend and it was a failure.

As I carefully stuffed the potato and leek mixture, inadequately seasoned, and folded the egg roll wrapper – I cried. I was angry and sad – the dingy blue kitchen was too empty. It was mine, and I was proud of it, but it wasn’t enough.

The one person beside me wasn’t enough. Neither was the rat that would appear only to me. His name was Snuffleupagus, but that’s another story.

My parents were upset and I was in my first apartment. I was blindly reeling and rolling into a lonely future, fighting for freedom, feeling desperately claustrophobic with my huge family, aunts and uncles calling every moment of the day, trying to get me to come home, just come home.

I wanted freedom but damn, it was lonely.

I thought then that Afghan food should be cooked the way it is eaten. With too many people in the kitchen, too many people in the house, enough food for everyone and probably enough to take home. Laughter, screaming children and perhaps some gossip and criticism. Too many women in the kitchen, pushing and poking, mentally judging the hostess’ food. A few children at the table, stacking the plates with forks, spoons and napkins, pouring coke into plastic cups. Too much noise, not enough help and depending on the family, too many lazy men sitting in the corner (Not mine though).

In my lonely little kitchen, I cooked and attempted to fry the bolani. The bolani fell apart as I fried it, stuck to the bottom of the pan. I over-salted the yogurt, meant as a dipping sauce.

It was nasty and I was heart-broken. These two lives just wouldn’t mesh. My yellow and brown afghan kitchen and my blue american kitchen. True to my melodramatic ways, I thought it was the end, seeing this lonely little kitchen as my future.

Sometimes I’m a bit too dramatic.

My parents calmed down. It took a while but they did. They made peace with my having my own kitchen. While they were calming down, my mom cooked food for me. She often left it at the door of the apartment, rarely coming in. I wonder what she thought, cooking for me in her kitchen. I know she was angry with me, but the food, elaborate dishes, more than I could possibly finish, what did she want to say?

I calmed down too. I found my way back into the family, I guess I never really left. I learned how to cook from my mom. I called her often while in my kitchen in DC. Why is the ‘aush’ green?! Too much cilantro, don’t worry. Why is the bolani sticking? Get a better pan.

It’s been years since that first attempt. I’ve cooked for myself and cooked for others. I’ve learned how to cook on my own, smaller portions when necessary, larger when my family comes over. I’ve moved out on my own, moved back in, moved out again but back into the family apartment in Kabul and then moved back in with my parents again. Back and forth, back and forth.

I’m still getting used to new kitchens, and sometimes I’m upset that I didn’t just stick to one kitchen, but oh well.

I like to cook, even in Kabul though my servants often kick me out of the kitchen. The lack of utensils in Kabul is bewildering, that and I don’t know where anything is. Nor can I buy egg roll wrappers for the bolani. Who knew they made the dough themselves? I like to sit in others’ kitchens in Kabul, knowing that if they let you hang out there – you really are family. Chatting and laughing, taste testing, washing dishes when necessary. Even if it’s just two people, it’s still fun.

I like to have people over for dinner, welcoming them, forcing them to take food home. There is so much love in cooking, so much worry; will the food come out okay? Will I make anyone sick? Too much salt? Too little? The kitchen is where I mentally assess each guest; will they eat this? Are they vegetarians, do they only eat halal? Will I have enough food? Will they think I didn’t cook enough? Will they know that I tried my best? That I want them to feel welcome?

I’ve made peace with the kitchens in my life; the warmth and the heat come, no matter the size. I’ve made peace with my need for solitude and my need for my family. They’re meshing. I think my parents and their generation have made peace with us, this generation who are so achingly different yet familiar, new versions of their own mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

We’re often in the kitchen together these days. My mother, aunts, cousins and myself, grumbling why the younger generation won’t stack plates and pour soda (why am I, at 29, still doing it?!).

Then we’re done cooking and we send one out of the kitchen and into the living room to say, “Naan tayar ast (The food is ready).”

For more Sunday Scribbles

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Help the Afghan Journalist

Dear Colleagues ---

As of March 21, Ajmal Naqshbandi is still being held, even though Daniele Mastrogiacomo has been released. The Committee to Protect Journalists will continue to publicize Ajmal's case (our most recent release is at ), but we all know that it will not receive much media coverage now that Daniele is safe.

We all know how much we rely on people like Ajmal to do our job. Here is one small way we can help him. We are asking you and your employers to call or message the Afghan Embassy in Washington and the Afghan Mission to the United Nations, asking the Afghan government to work to secure Ajmal's release.

Here are the contacts. Phone calls and faxes are best:

H.E. Ambassador Said T. Jawad
Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: 202 483 6410
Fax: 202 483 6488


H.E Ambassador Zahir TANIN
Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
360 Lexington Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (+1-212) 972 1212 or 972 1213 or 972 1221
Fax: (+1-212) 972 1216

Thanks in advance for any help you can give us.

Bob Dietz Asia
Program Coordinator
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Ave, 11th floor New York, NY 10001 +1 212 465 1004 ext 140

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Italian Journalist Released

Glad he's been released

Protests over Taliban exchange for journalist

what about the translator?

Meanwhile, relatives and friends of the dead driver protested outside the Italian-run hospital at Lashkar Gah where Mastrogiacomo had been recovering. They accused Kabul of caring more about an Italian than an Afghan.
"Why would the Government release five criminals for an infidel foreigner and not for a poor Afghan?" demanded Khan Jan, an uncle of Sayed Agha. Another uncle, Delbar Jan, said "The government makes sacrifice for foreigners, but not for an Afghan."

In exchange

The Taliban prisoners who were freed were named as Ustad Yasir, head of the Taliban?s cultural wing; Mufti Latifullah Hamkimi, a former spokesman; two commanders, believed to be Hafiz Hamdullad and Abdul Ghaffar; and Mansoor Ahmad, brother of the notorious Taliban fighter Mullah Dadullah

Monday, March 19, 2007

Anti-Corruption brainstorming

I've been a bit preoccupied with corruption and how to deal with it. Everyone says it's a problem but I've seen few plans to combat it.

Our favorite commentor from Chaoyang mentioned a movie and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

Any ideas?

Here's an article: Graft threatens Afghan government legitimacy

Oh and I've responded to people's comments. I'm slowly gearing up and focusing. Slowly slowly.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

In case you were wondering

I'm reading all the books I bought during the last four months. Tariq Ramadan's 'In the Footsteps of the Prophet' is what I'm reading right now.

I'm thinking deep thoughts. Well, not really but it's my blog. We can pretend, can't we?

I'm meditating. I'm on day two - I think entirely too much and in words. It's weird, I know.

I'm acknowledging all my blessings.

I'm making cards and the envelopes. Don't hate.

I'll consider writing up a real post later.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Update again

Took the exam. It was hard but I'm trying not to think about it now. Now I'm just hanging out with friends and relaxing. It's hard getting used to an unstructured day...

Thank you all for being so kind. I feel so grateful to my friends and family for giving me support and love. It's a nice feeling. :)