Hello yall! It is the morning after my arrival from Herat and I had a wonderful time. My family treated me like a Queen and spoiled me with love, gifts, and FOOD! I spent four memorable nights there, but I will only share with you the highlights of my mini-vacation.
First and foremost, the Herat airport is definitely one of a kind. There was a very small building standing in the midst of a field of pebbles and stones. I stepped out of the airplane and immediately felt the striking heat; beads of sweat growing on my temples. While walking down the stairs, I felt my body electrify and tingle at my fingertips and toes. I have finally reached the one destination that I have been yearning for so dearly—my father’s birthplace. My pops always reminisced of his life back home, sharing stories of his childhood and adolescents. He depicted them so vividly that I felt as though I was experiencing it standing next to him. I felt apart of me was left in Afghanistan and now I finally had the opportunity to reconnect with my roots and my personal humanity. Whatever the outcome of my experience here, I knew I was going to love it nevertheless.
I continued to shuffle through the rocky terrain and walked towards the exit when I realized that I had forgotten my bags because I was so excited to meet my family. Where do I find my luggage if there was not a single building insight? The answer was simple – I must fiercely rummage through the bags piled high on a truck that was near the entrance. A little different than the baggage carousel and long lines at the security check-ins in America? I think so.
My father’s cousin, Shapoor and his wife came and picked me up from the airport. Not an ounce of nervousness or fear passed me—I was overjoyed to finally meet my family in Herat. They greeted me with warm welcomes, laughter, and gentle embraces. Their home was nearly a 10-minute drive away in a village. We parked within the driveway that was closed off by a large black and gold-trimmed gate. In front of me was a beautiful sight, nothing like I envisioned Afghanistan to be, especially after my experience in Kabul. Their house was large and surrounded by a well-nurtured garden. To the left was a forest of trees of all sorts – peaches, pomegranates, plums, and apples and a garden of vegetables. To the right was a freshly cut lawn that was overshadowed by an umbrella of green grapes. Here are a few pictures of this breathtaking landscape. It is unimaginable what lies behind the walls of my family’s residence.
After being momentarily distracted by the scenery, I stepped into their massive three-story house. Sure enough, my grandmother’s sister was the first to greet me –attacking me with hundreds of wet kisses. I immediately felt the intimacy and love between one another. After the initial love barrier I was welcomed by dozens more of my extensive family. My grandma’s sister has one daughter, and three sons—two whom are married with children and one that is scheduled to marry in the next two weeks. The beauty of this household is that each family lives on their own level within the house, which is fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and several rooms. If only this could be the case in America. Unfortunately we have distanced ourselves so far because are lives are consumed with work, school, children, and more work. That evening and all nights there after we all enjoyed a delicious Afghan cuisine outside on their patio sharing stories and everlasting memories.
The next day my family took me out on an adventure in the city of Herat. They gave me a tour of all the historical landmarks including my father’s old home and school. Here are a few pictures.
Another surprising adventure they proposed was to take me to a wedding the following morning. Despite being physically debilitated from overindulging in four meals a day, I agreed to go. We dolled each other up with makeup and curled our hair. When it was time to get dressed, my grandmother’s sister and her daughter picked me out a sexy number. It was a short dress that went up to my mid-thigh and revealed my shoulders. I initially chuckled out loud thinking it was a joke. This kind of outfit is considered haram in Afghanistan. In any case, before leaving the house we wrapped ourselves like a cocoon with a charda namaz, which is required for all women to wear. As we stepped into the wedding hall, I was struck by bewilderment. Women were lined up along the staircase removing their chardas, trousers, and re-adjusting their hair and makeup. What a silly site. Once I impersonated the other woman, we began walking inside the banquet hall. Then another shocker –the women were wearing the most revealing dresses and outfits that I have ever seen. Their breasts were screaming for air, stomachs were covered with sheer fabric, and legs for days. I think I was a tad bit overdressed for this occasion. (I may have forgot to tell you that only women were attending this celebration. Weddings are strictly separated) In any case, the bride and grooms family were dancing to Afghan and Persian infused tunes the whole afternoon. I was eager to get up and starting dancing but I was faced with the first drawback of the wedding. It was considered improper behavior for people to get up and start dancing; you must be pulled onto the dance floor. The second disappointment was when our meals were served. There was an announcement on the loudspeaker that men were entering the premises. Suddenly all the women fiercely ravaged through their belongings to cover themselves up from head to toe. This entire debacle for five men. Oh vey, I was a little irritated. However, overall it was a pleasurable afternoon and I could not have spent it with anyone else. The highlight of the day – taking the rickshaw back home! This is a very common form of transportation in Herat and I am glad I took part in it.
That evening I played futbol with the young boys and we grew quite an appetite. We all then ate a scrumptious dinner out on the patio. Although I can feel my stomach mushroom over my pants, my mouth was salivating. Right when we began to indulge in our meals, the electricity went out. But luckily this did not ruin our night. Shapoor drove the car near the patio and turned on the headlights and blasted some music. One of the kids danced the night away while we clapped and cheered on. The night did not end until we ate sweets, fruits, and washed it down with chai.
In the meantime during my stay Asal jan, whom is engaged to my grandma’s sister youngest son sketched me a wonderful picture. Here is the picture.
This is another sample of her artwork.
My high spirits began to dwindle as my trip drew to an end. I did not want to leave my family and I feared saying my goodbyes. I packed my things slowly and something came across my mind. Why is it that my family in America rarely ever visits our family in Afghanistan? Friends come and go but family is forever. We have been so thoroughly blessed with fortune, why not pocket some money and make memories with those that share our blood? We must work to strengthen our bonds rather than disintegrate them. After this wonderful experience, I am sure to come back to Herat—after all this is where my heart is.
It was time to go and my family was evenly lined up to kiss me goodbye. I fought back tears while hugging the first two members but than I began to sob uncontrollably when my grandmother’s sister embraced me. I loved them dearly and I knew I was going to miss them even more. I did not want to go back to Kabul….
That was my experience in Herat, but now I must finish my packing to back home! (well a small stop in Germany first) My trip went by quickly and I will forever cherish my experience. Before I head to the airport, I will be saying bye to all my students. I bought a good luck charm to my little girls to remember me by and to always remind them to never stop reaching for their dreams. (Not that they need the luck, they are intelligent girls.) I will be posting one more blog when I arrive safely in Europe. So please stay tuned.
Thanks for reading!