Latrines and one month Dari 100% Guaranteed

I am writing from Kabul, arriving here safely Alhamdulilah yesterday. Sunbol’s family has really welcomed me here. When I arrived, my Afghan Modar gave me some sweet assortments which she dua(ed) prayed over. Last night I really felt l was genuinely being cared for when I stirred awake momentarily, feeling someone behind me drape a blanket across me in the middle of the night. The girls (se khawhar, meaning us 3 sisters) are arranging for the same red salwar for Eid for the 3 of us. Sunbol is 16 now (Chacha and I sponsored her when she was 9, so we have known them for 7 years) and Mursal is 21 like me.

To be alone, to be foreign and to be a young woman can be very difficult and lonely in Afghanistan. So I had to tell them what their company, love and care meant for me. It makes a difference to your experience.

Dropping BOMBS
The girls are by my side all the time, teaching me how to take a shower (even offering to shower me!) and how to use the toilet, then waiting outside for me to do my business. It was really a laugh when I attempted to ask how and where they pass motion (my biggest worry! = Im worried about a different kind of bombs haha), not knowing if an expressive gesture would offend them. Actually one did not understand me, calling the other, and then the other calling the another until I realised this could go on a long time. I apologise for this explicit detail, but this is truly a dilemma for a first world countryside girl.

Actually the toilet (hole) is situated at the top of the house, opening itself to a 5 metre pit drop where you can find everything wrong in the world. It is quite smelly and the view downwards is pretty clear. I will attach a picture soon, its quite a sight. Nonetheless the family is really clean and neat, which makes a huge difference. Sometimes people think I have it difficult in Afghanistan, but actually there is a difference between difficulty and a little discomfort. Toh fikir mat karo, sab theek ho gayega ( Urdu for> So Don’t worry, everything will be alright). I find myself using this line all the time when they worry about whether I am comfortable.

100 Percent Dari guaranteed
Modar guarantees 100 Percent that I will be able to speak Dari in a month. I still speak with a mix of Hindi and English, sometimes trying my luck with Arabic loan words in the Malay language that they might share in common. Actually trying to express myself can be quite tiring but if I really tried, I can have quite meaningful conversations with them.

Today afternoon we watched ICE AGE on TV. It was in English completely. What I found interesting though was my Afghan family was laughing at the same things I was laughing at. There is something about the human comprehension that intrigues me, and I don’t know what depths of similarities we still may have undiscovered.

(By the way Amir and Baba, they were so impressed by the graphics!! I heard one say ‘How real is this’)

Female Expressions
I am slowly starting to discover how women here express themselves, or how they mediate their expressions in their relationships with men. These survival instincts are very different from those in England and also Singapore. I was looking through Modar’s old albums, in the 1960s back when Kabul was thought to be a fashion capital of central Asia / Elvis cuts and for women big puffy hair. Yet when we think of Afghan women, our memory don’t span back before the civil war, how they were like, what they studied, and actually how educated they really were. Some of the elderly women who lived through the 50s and 60s may still carry this confidence and intelligence. Modar certainly does. She’s a very expressive and confident woman.

Today afternoon they showed me some Afghan dancing (raqs = all three girls here can dance very well!) as well dance wedding videos. The Wedding is a lavish affair in Afghanistan. (There is even a law in the civil code regulating how much a family can spend on it!) But it is here in these private festivals, behind closed doors that you see women and men very self-expressed (the way they interact and the confidence in their interaction, the clothes they wear). If reporters rolled their cameras and filmed women in their private lives, some people might be quite surprised.

xx

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