#29 Life in Afghanistan :: Haji Mohammad

We’re running a day late – it’s just how I roll… late. No really, I’m late for everything, always. Plus it’s pretty Asian. So I’m going with it! That means tomorrow will be #30 where I will answer your questions, so keep sending them in. Comment here, tweet @e_j_reading , or email me at pathofauthenticity.gmail.com . You’ve got about 24 hours left! Friday we will be “finishing” this series up. But if you’ve enjoyed it then make sure you come and read on Friday because I have an announcement to make!

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I sat in Haji Mohmmad’s* little office, in this Christian NGO, opposite his desk from him, ready to conduct the research interview I had planned. His thick black facial hair encased a friendly smile. This, combined with his rounded belly, little wire glasses, and deep laugh made him seem like a jolly character. His title ‘Haji’ tells me that he has been on the Hajj, and suggests to me that he is a very religious person. I wonder what it is that has found him working for a Christian NGO. I am in a privileged position, it often takes months or years before you can start asking some of the questions I had been asking of Afghans, but as someone conducting research they felt it acceptable for me to ask, and for them to answer. Prompted by my questions Haji Mohmmad tells me his story:

“We are 4 brothers and 2 sisters. My mother and father new that education was important, so as we grew up we were always went to school. Even when we had to be refugees in Pakistan, still my parents made us study and learn. When the oldest brother was getting old enough to think about university my parents spoke with us all. They told us that it is good for us to study in healthcare, that this is a good profession because it is honorable and because it makes good money. My eldest brother studied to become a doctor, the next brother studied to become a dentist. I was always top of my class at school getting the best grades, I wanted to be a doctor. My family made me see that it was good if I became a pharmacist instead. That way our family has a good business – a doctor, a dentist, and a pharmacist can all work together. So I did what they said. Now in my family we have a doctor, a dentist, a gynecologist, and two pharmacists. I own a pharmacy, but as you can see I do not work there anymore, instead my brother runs it.

Many of my brothers and sisters now live in different countries. I was going to live in Australia, to find an Afghan wife there. My brothers spoke to my mother though and said that if I left she would not have a son to take care of her – so she asked me to stay here. I stayed and found a wife here, and now I have 1 son and 3 daughters. It is my duty now to stay and look after my mother, my other family will sometimes email to find out how she is, or maybe sometimes they will visit.

Now I am an office manager here. For some time I worked helping with the finances and learning, and now I am the office manager. I like working here a lot. The atmosphere is very good, they are very honest people, and very kind. My brothers often tell me to leave this job. They say that I can make much better money in other places. The other places will pay me a better salary and I can also make more money by issuing fines or through bribery. But their work is dirty, it is not honorable, it is not pleasing to God, and if I did it it would make me feel very worried. Here the work is good, everything is done the right way, and everyone is treated fairly. Here my conscience is clean, and that is the most important thing to me.

I like this work very much. Now it is like I have two families. My family at home, and my family at the office. Here everyone takes care of each other, sometimes we argue, or we don’t like what the other person is doing, but then we learn to say ‘ok, that is their opinion, or that is their way of doing something, and this is mine. We are just different’ and then we can be peaceful together again.

I am very happy with this job, I would rather have less money and work here than have much money and work there.”

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Haji Mohammad had been fortunate to be a part of a family who educated him well and a family who forward planned and worked together to achieve financial stability. He has high moral standards and is not willing to compromise them for money. He recognizes the love, honesty, moral standing, and grace of his Christian colleagues.

There is much poverty in Afghanistan, there are many uneducated people. But there are also people and families like that of Haji Mohammad who have studied hard and worked hard to become educated and financially stable. You may perceive Afghans as being those who hate the West, persecute Christians, and threaten peace – yes there are some – but there are also many, who like Haji Mohmmad, embrace the grace and honesty of Christians, who would like to learn from the good aspects of the West, who simply want a brighter, more peaceful, more moral future for their children, and who are willing to work hard to achieve that.

Let’s remember them, let’s thank God for them, let’s cheer them on, let’s shout out their stories.

*Name changed to protect identities

This is part of the 31 Days  series.
Click the button to find my other posts.

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#28 Life in Afghanistan :: My First Meal

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I decided to take Saturday off, for many reasons… and then Sunday just kinda followed suit by accident. Now here I am on Monday (which is technically Tuesday now) finally posting. But, let me tell you this – it is well worth waiting for.

Today I get to introduce you to the amazingly talented Alyssa Hollingsworth, award winning writer and beautiful lady inside and out! She is guest posting for me here, and I am SO glad that she is. You are in for a treat!

Alyssa visited Afghanistan in 2011, and I think it is safe to say it is an experience she will never forget. I’m excited that we get to hear from someone who has a heart and love for these people, but the freshness of a visitor. Someone who was blown away by the reality she found in Afghanistan. Alyssa is the sister of one of my dear friends with whom I don’t think I could get though life in Afghanistan (of life in general) without.

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Upon arriving in Afghanistan, I was worn out from travel and the stress of being in (what felt like) a completely alien world. My journey had been hitch-free but not easy—from the splendor of Dubai, through terminals where I only saw a handful of women amongst crowds of bearded men, all to arrive at a tiny airport where I had to walk past numerous security points to exit, each one guarded with men holding guns almost as tall as me. My throat was caked in dirt before I even got to the car, and the drive to my sister’s house—where I was staying—overwhelmed as much as it awed. My initial impression of the capital city: Brown. Brown and crowded and bewildering.

But no sooner had I arrived in the safety and quiet of my sister’s walled-in house than she was dragging me out again to have lunch with our Afghan driver’s family.

We were greeted with wide smiles and ushered inside. I sat down on a toshak against the wall, trying hard not to point the soles of my feet at anyone, or let my chadar slip off my hair, or trip on my long skirt, or make eye contact with the man of the house or his son… I had counted all the rules carefully, but I hadn’t counted on the hospitality of this Afghan family.

I came steeped in prejudices and, frankly, fear—fear of offending the family and of being in that country at all. But no sooner had I sat down than my expectations—my prejudices—were blown away.

The grinning mother and daughter laid out a generous meal for us—rice, salad, french fries, naan, chickpeas and beef in a sauce. The father of the house sat and chatted with my older sister in Pashto. While he talked, his young daughter came to perch on his lap. Eventually she got bored of that and began crawling over him, playing with his beard, eating her feet—just being a little girl. He would grin at her, tickle her, encourage her. Watching them play—watching how much he loved her—was one of my most touching experiences in Afghanistan.

When my chadar kept sliding, they insisted I take it off and relax. When our legs began to cramp from sitting on the floor, the wife brought out a cloth to cover our feet and, laughing, joins us. When we finish eating, we are presented with family photo albums, and linger to pour over the pictures and drink tea.

Here was I, entering the country with my head full of textbook knowledge and an unhealthy dose of the news, expecting it to be a completely different world.

But it wasn’t.

It’s not all war. In Afghanistan, there is a driver who loves his daughters and his wife and his son, and while I sat and ate with them I was welcomed as part of the family—I felt like part of the family. It wasn’t alien. It was like coming home.

This is part of the 31 Day series.
Click the button to find my other posts.
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#25 Life in Afghanistan :: Together

It’s time for Five Minute Friday again. We link up with Lisa-Jo and write for 5 minutes unedited on a prompt.

This month I’m combining FMF with my 31 Days series.

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My laptop charger seems to have broken and my back-up one is buried in amongst the boxes of stuff taken out of the kitchen that’s being stripped and re-done. So I’m attempting to do FMF on my phone, sorry it’s not pretty, sorry if it has a ton of mistakes, sorry if it’s super short.

Together

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I admired Razma’s* headscarf, said I had been looking for one just like it. Razma is one of the first afghans I ever met, she’s my language teacher, she taught me to communicate and behave in Afghanistan.

“I will show you the shop, and get a good price. We will go together!” I accepted her invite and the next day we went together, and we laughed together, and we enjoyed time together.

I sat in my lesson that day and tears rolled down my cheeks, I had been holding them in all day, but With Razma I felt comfortable and they came spilling out. “It’s been a year today since she died. I miss her very much. My heart still hurts.” I confess. She clasps my hands in hers “She was a very kind girl. And so very happy. I am sad too.” We talked that lesson about the pain of grief, about the hope of heaven, about the bitterness of death. We cried together, we remembered together, we grieved together.

Together is better. Together is stronger. Together is how we are supposed to do life. All of life, the laughing and the crying, the beautiful and the ugly, the easy and the hard – we were made to do it all together.

*Names changed to protect identities

This is part of the 31 Days series.
Click the button to find my other posts.

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