I’ve been home from Afghanistan for about a week now, and am finally feeling like a human being again. Eleven and a half hour time change and being a bit sick on the trip home really took it out of both Mr. Incredible and me. We just gathered our kiddos up in our arms and stayed home, revealing in how well Jack Jack can walk and enjoying clean, running water, crisp autumn air and, of course, an abundance of bacon.
It was fantastic to be back in Afghanistan after being away for three years. The night before I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Our plane landed in the smoggy, smoke-choked air and I took a deep breath and said, “it is good to be home”.
We went with several purposes in mind: to see Afghanistan with eyes of Jack Jack’s parents and to consider our family’s future there, to show seven people around the country, introduce them to people and projects and help them understand their futures there, and to pray pray pray for the country, the Afghans, for peace and healing.
We spent our first week in the capital, Kabul. That was a real homecoming for me. We walked the familiar streets of the neighborhoods we use to live in, visited the same shops, restaurants and homes, and Mr. I even got his hair and beard trimmed up at his old barber shop! We heard from several people that Jack-Jack would be well loved and cared for by both the foreigner and Afghan communities and that did this momma’s heart a lot of good to hear.
One of my personal goals in coming back, was to visit the cemetery where several friends and co-workers who were murdered in the past couple of years are laid to rest. It was cool and cloudy and rain was splattering down as we walked around and remembered stories about each person. It was a salve on my heart to be there.
We traveled a lot on this trip. I saw more of Afghanistan in this seventeen days then I’d seen in the previous four years that we lived there. A definite highlight for me was visiting the ancient city of Herat. Herat is on the border with Iran and it feels and looks different from other Afghan cities. The women wear a more Iranian style head covering and it’s pretty much like wearing a giant bed sheet on your head and walking around. Herat has survived much of the last thirty years of war in tact and we saw an ancient mosque, fort and even an old synagogue that is now a boy’s school. It was lovely to see what Afghanistan can be — paved streets lined with trees, a bustling down town that isn’t filled with ruble and debris, decent security and some order to the traffic.
Mr. Incredible taught a leadership development class for three nights in Herat. He had excellent dialogue with the students and his subject, “peacemaking” generated a lot of great discussion. How can there be true peace in a country whose culture values personal blood-feuds and tribalism over the greater good of the community? The Afghans in the class, all leaders in their communities, really wrestled with the ideas and seemed truly committed to changing their own hearts as well as their country.
We journeyed to the far north of the country, to where Mr. Incredible and I first landed as a young married couple more than eight years ago. The jewel of that city is a brilliantly blue-tiled mosque locally known as the Rouza. There we reconnected with dear friends, both ex-pat and Afghan. As I was walking out of our guest house I heard my name being called. I turned around and there was Fareeda, my very first language teacher, waving to me! It was a joy to catch up with her after not seeing each other for eight years! She assured me that my Farsi wasn’t too bad, and she did note, in typical blunt Afghan fashion, that I wasn’t at all as thin as I use to be!
We continued our journey by taxi to a small town about two hours from Rouza City and the ladies in our group got a good feel for what life is like under the burka. I’ve worn it before, so it wasn’t too big of a deal for me, but it’s never pleasant to put it on. We visited a small orphanage, a school and heard about the efforts to help with the very serious drought that is happening in that part of Afghanistan. It was good to be with people who are passionate about doing good relief and development work and bringing lasting change, in stark contrast to the waste and corruption that goes on with so many large government or UN projects.
When we boarded the plane in Kabul to head back to the States I told Mr. I that it was worth every minute of being away from the children, the sickness and the stress. I felt a real sense of peace and closure as we flew away. We haven’t made any long term decisions about our family’s future there, but we have a lot to pray about and we’ve come away renewed passion for seeing true peace and development come to that broken place.
Afghanistan salaam. Peace to you.