We are staying at Mr. Nasruddin’s house, a friend for quite some time now. He has sent his family to be guests at a relative’s in order to accommodate us here. There are 9 of us in two small rooms, intermittent electricity, no running water, one toilet, one bathing room with icy cold water – and we chose this. Mr. Nasruddin’s son cooks our meals, and everyone joins us for our evening dinner. You would think that it would be difficult, but somehow we have all learned to get our work done, with everyone including the drivers weighing in with their opinions on all matters.
I don’t think people who have not lived with Afghans understand the amount of talking and consensus making that goes on in Afghan culture. There is on our trip a slight nod toward Yasin and I having the most responsibility and therefore one should at least act like one is interested in what we have to say. But mostly everyone feels compelled to weigh in with an opinion on everything. And we listen. Today we had competing agendas with half the team working on a “closing” ceremony with the Scouts for our Messengers of Peace program, a visit with a local colleague who is working with us on formulating a residential Trade Afghan women’s center that is modeled on our center in Bamiyan, and a local “Buzkashi” event, the traditional free-for-all-polo game, using a carcass of a goat or calf…we managed all three, plus Alyssa and Reese shopped for “chapandaz” clothing and came home looking, well, exotic. Alyssa is jazzed up and muttering about how authentic warrior games are and telling us she should have been born 1,000 years ago. Reese is worn out from trying to manage the crowd that Alyssa, Dawn and I drew in an all-male buzkashi audience, and from trying to make sure we didn’t get run over by panicked horses…most of which we were oblivious to. Yasin wants a $60,000 Buzkashi horse. Mohsin, Amin and Sharif are flush with the success of having the top commander for Badakshan attend our closing ceremony and how proud the Scouts were. And our drivers are cracking “Laghmani” jokes (the province they are both from) most of which Yasin refuses to translate.
Oh, and finally, Dawn and I finalized a contract and submitted our IRS reports in the midst of it all….Sharif sighed in contentment tonite as we sat together for dinner: “See, now we are all family and we sit for dinner”….and it does feel like that in the best way.