#4 Life in Afghanistan :: Write

On Friday’s I link up with hundreds of other bloggers at Lisa-Jo’s place. She gives us a prompt which we write on for 5 minutes flat, no editing, no over-thinking,  no over-running. We call it ‘Five Minute Fridays’, it’s great, and I didn’t want to lose it during this series. So I’ve set myself a challenge, on a Friday I will combine my series “Life in Afghanistan” with whatever word prompt Lisa-Jo gives for the week. This could be VERY interesting people, in fact it could be disastrous, but let’s all be in this together and give it a go.


This week’s prompt is




سلم آلیکم

I remember my first months living in Afghanistan, unable to read or write the language. Surrounded by signs, labels, books, subtitles, none of which made sense to me. A script totally foreign to my eyes that looked like nothing more than squiggles and dots. It was frustrating at first, and then it became normal, and even freeing – not to have to take in information or respond to everything in front of my eyes. I fit in well, of course, with the rest of the population. A national illiteracy rate of 75% coupled with the fact that most of my work is done amongst the poorest meant that the majority people I came into contact with also could not understand anything put in writing.

For the office part of my job I need to be able to read and write Dari, to make sense of all those squiggles. So I set about learning, letter by letter, squiggle by squiggle, how to make sense of this new language. Reading ‘back to front’ (right to left), learning the difference between one dot, two dots or even three, learning that a squiggle was in fact far more than that and the number of loops and the way it is connected was carefully constructed. I felt like I was back in kindergarten sounding out words, getting my n’s and my b’s mixed up, feeling exhausted after just a page. I gained a new found respect for all the kindergarteners I knew who were learning to read and write themselves. You forget, when you’re an adult, how hard it was to learn, what a feat it is to be able to communicate in written form.

It was exciting at first, walking down the street and understanding the signs, enlightening even. I no longer wondered what that building with the grimy up-high windows on the cracked mud wall and the small dark doorway was, now I knew – it was a public bath house. Soon though it became overwhelming. My brain had adapted to not having information thrown at it constantly, it had become used to the rest – and now suddenly it was back, all that information, all those words, all hitting me constantly, unable to ignorantly ignore them. I never knew before that becoming literate could be so overwhelming, I always assumed it would simply be freeing.

This is part of the 31 Day series







7 Comments on “#4 Life in Afghanistan :: Write”

  1. […] Day Four :: Write (Where Five Minute Fridays meets 31 Days … When I became literate) […]

  2. Sarah says:

    I commend you for learning a new language and it gives you a new perspective on write, a language different from our own. Blessings!

  3. At work I once attended a workship that included learning the Arabic alphabet. Very complicated and (for me) pointless. I spent a summer in Europe in 1983, and didn’t understand a lot of what I saw in German and French, but at least the alphabet and some vocabulary was similar. Budapest in 2006 was far more challenging, but still Roman alphabet. It was indeed relaxing not to have to pay attention to what signs meant. It would be draining to be in the midst of language learning and feel obligated to figure everything out.

    • EJ Reading says:

      I find learning languages that seemingly have no point for me very hard and laborious. It’s interesting how much information we take in without normally realizing it.

  4. Michelle says:

    Such a great take on this week’s FMF prompt! I’m planning to follow your 31 Days series now as well. Thanks for sharing with us!

    • EJ Reading says:

      Thanks Michelle, so pleased you will be following my 31 Day series. Using the FMF prompts will probably be a challenge, but also provide a bit of a breather just writing for 5 mins on a topic I dont have to think up – I hope!

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