PARSA Job Corps and “Talk Time”…

In our youth program’s we include as much “talk time” as we can to give them a chance to voice their feelings or opinions as a part of developing their critical thinking skills. Sometimes we tell stories for them to think about and to talk about. As loving as the Afghan family is, traditionally the youth listen to their elders and do not express themselves. PARSA staff who run “talk time” listen. My son, Reese and I, with Haji had a “talk time” with boys in PARSA Job Corps # 1 yesterday. I always love this time with them as I learn so much and I am often surprised and inspired.
I asked them about “rosa” (fasting during Ramazan)and how the month was going for them with this. Two of them were fasting and a younger one was not.
I told a story about two Afghan’s I traveled with during Ramazan 10 years ago in Badakshan and Bamiyan, and how every day they would argue about “rosa” and the best way to do it as well as which way was the best Muslim way. And it seemed like every day they became angrier and crankier with each other as they fasted through the trip, and I became more annoyed with them. On the last day of our trip, we climbed a mountain and I found myself frightened when I went up and terrified when I started down. I was worried about them. I thought they might push each other down the mountain they seemed so mad at each other. I looked up when I took a rest, and there they were arm in arm helping each other down the mountainside laughing and teasing each other for the first time on the entire trip. I asked the “what happened?” when we got down.  “Ramazan!!!” they said merrily.

I asked the boys what my story meant to them.
Esmat said” Fasting is an honor as a Muslim.  Islam is a gentle religion and it teaches us to be gentle.” Farhad said” there is no arguing about good or bad Muslim.” and Mustafa said “It is hard but it is our job as Muslims to live our life according to the teachings of love by Mohammed.  It is really hard sometimes.”
I asked them “Tell me about how you have felt this last week with the bombing and other problems in the city.”
Farhad said, “We are used to it.”
“Are you not frightened, now?” I asked. Ehsmat said “I am frightened that people from other countries will think that all Afghans are like the people who are bombing us…that Islam is a violent religion, and that you will abandon us.  I am really frightened of that.”
I learn so much from them. Marnie