The Afghanistan I Knew and Fell In Love With"What? You live in Afghanistan!" How I came to fear this response each time people asked me where I live. I know it shouldn't have bothered me.
But those very words coupled with the look on my interrogators' faces created in me an excruciating need, a necessity to make sure they understand and identify with the Afghanistan I knew and love. My version of this beautiful country and its people.
Not the BBC or CNN or Aljazeera version they see on TV. Although that side of Afghanistan also exists, what country or object or person doesn't have a dark side?
I met her and fell in love with her. And like a hopeless romantic, I am blind to that side of her. Our love wasn't at first sight, but with time it grew. When it was time to move on, I did and left. They say when you really love something, set it free. She set me free and I left. But I carried her with me. In my heart where she will abide forever.
Living in Afghanistan as a whole was a fine experience. But it was really the quieter, greener, laid-back countryside and the rest of the country that won me. Let me count how...
The Stunning Views
|Qarghah Lake in the Summer|
|Miss ya dear!|
But why the compulsion to defend Afghanistan? Because there is so much more to this great country than just the Taliban, the bombs, and the burqas. I enjoyed her for 2.5 years. I also had so many firsts right here in Afghanistan.
My Firsts in Afghanistan
- My adorable son spoke his first words in this country.
- I had my first most favorite brunch in this country.
- I had my first experience with snow in this country.
- The first time I slept without locking the door was in this country. And never did for the next 30 months.
- I had my first earthquake experience in Afghanistan. Nothing to be proud of but it prepared me for my next assignment in Haiti.
- I witnessed my first bomb explosion in Afghanistan. Why is this important? It gave me the courage to tread the streets of Islamabad and Lahore in Pakistan.
The Dark Moments in AfghanistanSo try I might to simply smile it away each time whenever my acquaintances remark, "seriously, what in the world are you doing in the most dangerous country in the world? What with the bombings and Talibans....bla bla bla." Such responses make me want to sign up for an escapist travel show and shed much needed light on a country that I feel has has been judged harshly.
Because even a response short of "wow! must be adventurous living in country which despite 3 decades of war, Taliban forces, scores of human rights abuses, and all manner of hardships imaginable; you still find such sumptuous meals, incredible hospitality, and jaw-dropping landscapes; is insufficient to convince me that they fully understand this great nation.
And I am not just talking about everyday conversations with family and friends. Even the immigration officers would look at my passport showing Afghanistan as country of residence; and give me that look of, "seriously, is that dangerous country the best you could settle for?"
This is the country where I came to a clear understanding that just because I left for work in the morning, is no guarantee that I would make it to the office. Things we take for granted.
Above all, I learned to genuinely pray to God, ask for His protection and actually wait for an answer. Because my next breadth depended on His answer - literary. On several occasions my family and I escaped death by a whisker.