#5 Life in Afghanistan :: Project LadiesPosted: October 5, 2013
It’s 7:20AM I walk through the gate to the office and greet our guard. I pass the time of day with him spouting off the various greetings and questions required. It’s a practice that always makes me a little sad. The questions are asked by rote. “How are you?” “Are you well?” “How is your family?” “Is your house hold happy?” “How is your health?” “How is your day?” They’re asked without the expectation of an answer, a simple “thank you” is the reply given. It saddens me because I genuinely care about these people, I want to be able to ask them and have them know I care, I want to ask them and get a real answer.
Making my way inside I unlock my office and sling down my bag. Then I begin the process of peeling off the many layers making me modest enough for the street. First the ankle length black coat, then my outside head scarf, I hang them up on the hook behind my door, then I loosen my second headscarf and let it slid toward the back of my head so my hair peeps out the front. Finally I change from my outdoor shoes into my slip-on indoors ones. Footsteps in the stairwell tell me that some of my staff are arriving. I smile as I think about how courageous they are.
My first task of the day is about to start. A daily event which has recently been started. After my staff found out I was a dance teacher they begged me to do some exercise with them, foolishly I said if they came in half an hour early I would teach them – to my surprise for the past couple of months each day they have been faithfully turning up at 7:30. We gather in their office and I begin to teach them simple stretches, exercises, and aerobics. They laugh and giggle as they watch each other try, and as they give up tired or unable to coordinate. This is my favourite time of the day, before any of the busy-ness starts, simply laughing and giggling with these ladies, teaching them how to gain some fitness and talking to them about healthy lifestyles. Seeing them be free for just 30 minutes, free from family responsibilities, free from work, free from oppression, free from the effects of war.
8:00 rolls round all too quickly, and it’s time to start working. We talk about their days and the various areas they will be going to and the work which they will do out on the projects. These ladies do amazing jobs inspiring down-trodden women, instilling confidence into them, problem solving in hopeless situations, keeping track of all that goes on. They go where I cannot go, talk in ways which I cannot talk, and do what I cannot do. I have so much respect for them. I know they will come back at lunch time exhausted and hungry, and I am glad that there will be a hot meal, clean water, and a soft place for them to rest a while.
Lunch time, another of my special times. I make it a priority to eat with them during their break, and to chat away about seemingly meaningless things – their beautiful clothes, where to get your eyebrows plucked, why I’m not yet married and who would be a good suitor for me, the TV show last night, the latest bombing, the newest failings in the government. It’s all discussed and I enjoy being a part of their lighthearted chatter. Every now and then it will change to the sadness of someone’s relative who has died, or another who is sick. Maybe they will talk about a damaged home, or a kidnapping, or some other tragedy. I’m glad I am a part of those conversations too, to speak into them, to offer my condolences, to try and show love.
Lunch break is over and everyone filters back to their offices, my staff spend the afternoon sitting at their desks bringing data up to date, writing reports on their mornings, discussing project issues with each other, and preparing for the following day. It’s silent in their shared office most of the time as they all concentrate on the task in front of them, I am surprised at how well these women concentrate. I know many of them had their schooling interrupted by war, and others still have not completed their high school education – they will spend hours after work sitting in a classroom studying and learning in order to achieve the qualification. They show commitment and drive like I have seldom seen in the West.
The day is over for them at 4:00, one by one they stick their head round my office door to say goodbye for another evening. I stand up for each of them, giving them a hug and three kisses and wish them a good evening and say I will see them tomorrow “inshallah” – God willing.
As far as I am concerned another day with them is over. They still have hours of cooking and caring for their many children and of doing housework before their days will be over. For me, I still have dance classes to teach and meetings to attend before mine will be over.
I watch out my window as they cross the yard and exit through the gate. I wonder if anything in my words or actions have allowed them to know they are loved and valued. I wonder if today they are any closer to Christ than they were the day before, I wonder if today they have encountered God. I say a prayer from my heart that one day they they will know. They will know they are loved by Him, valued by Him, meaningful to Him. That they will know that He saves, He gives hope, He helps, He corrects, He forgives.
I hang on to hope, that one day it will be.
This is part of the 31 Day series