Field Notes #1

Salaam Aleikum! Well, here I am in Afghanistan. Kabul is a lively and vibrant place at least during the day. Initially, I was surprised to see that things look really third-world-normal with not many "broken" buildings and only a little construction. But that was because I hadn't been all over the city. As we drove to the dedication of the newly reconstructed burn hospital, we passed by the part of town that you saw on TV--the desolate pock-marked shells of half-collapsed cement buildings, and adobe ruins that looked 100 years old. Some of the cement buildings are still being utilized as homes or offices and others are being reconstructed. But most of the city either wasn't destroyed or has been repaired. My project is steadily moving forward. The first RAWA project I visited was one of their literacy centers. RAWA (The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan) posters lined the walls as well as samples of their sewing products. Once the girls, ages 13-17, are literate, they will enter the public school system. Equally as important as the reading almost, is the healthy dose of feminism that comes with it. These girls want to be doctors, engineers and not only teachers but directors of schools. In the conversations I've had so far, there is a consensus among the women that they are glad that the U.S. drove out the Taliban, but their message/plea to George Bush (one of my questions--If you could talk to George Bush, what would you say to him?) is that he "not invade our neighbors". The Afghans I have met are very tired of war and are energetic about getting on with their lives. On the ground here, I feel very optimistic about their ability to create a viable social order. It's when I read the news and talk with people who are more aware of the actual political realities that I get discouraged. It is certain that fundamentalism will return without some kind of peacekeeping force. And maybe even with one. It's surprising what things make it all the way over to Afghanistan. Would you ever dream of finding Girl Scout Cookies? (I found Lorna Dunes and some Mexican wedding cake kind) And (probably not) straight from San Antonio is Pace Picante Sauce. From Scandinavia comes Norwegian Compact Food which contains baked wheat, vegetable fat and protein, vitamins and minerals. The directions say to "eat slowly and chew well". Thankfully, it has never appeared on my table. My life here is good. I'm staying in the Airserv guest house where I'm well taken care of and cooked for. When I go out, I carry a cell phone and a high frequency radio, and I am usually driven where I want to go. I feel very safe and the Afghans on the street are generally friendly. I am enjoying my stay here. And I hope you are enjoying your lives. Khoda Hafiz, Peggy

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