I left my heart in Herat…

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!


Underneath the veil…

Hello.  I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July.  I vicariously lived through all those facebookers posting pictures of fireworks on the newsfeed!  I envisioned myself lying on a sandy beach overlooking the California coast, letting my mind wander off and falling into a trance with the firework show. I think I am feeling a little suffocated with the dry air and the cloud of dust blanketing the horizon.  In any case, my celebration included me sitting on the balcony and taking in the beautiful sunset.  The sky was painted with wonderful strokes of pinks, purples, and oranges across the mountain range.

My trip is drawing to an end.  It hasn’t really settled in until two days ago when I told my youngest girls that I will be going to Herat at the end of this week and will only have a few more days in Kabul before I return back home.  Once I shared this news, they immediately burst into an orchestra of tears.  I was in complete shock and I had no idea what to do.  I was not expecting that reaction at all.  The first thing that came to mind was just to start acting silly so they would laugh.  That took a solid 10 minutes before I decided to tell them to all give me a group hug and equally distribute kisses.  I tenderly asked why they were crying and they all whimpered, “man to dooset daram.” (I love you)  My heart sank.  I have grown such close bonds to the kids and they equally reciprocated.  They long for affection and meager attention.  It’s unfortunate that the condition of this country has stripped them from it.  I hope that their collective environment and dozens of sisters and brothers gives them the minimum affection they need to sustain a healthy upbringing.

Here are a few pictures of my girls.

Hmm, do we look alike?

I myself had my emotional moment last week when I was speaking with the widow that works in our living space.  She has a beautiful round face, piercing slanted eyes, and high cheekbones — characteristic of Hazara people.  It was the end of the working day and we sat quiet on the balcony enjoying each others silent companionship.  She had been “spring cleaning” the kitchen and was physically exhausted.  Unfortunately her ride back home to the orphanage was not on time, so we talked late into the night.  After my basic interview (which I receive from everyone here), I was comfortable enough to ask her about her life.  This seemed acceptable because we saw each other daily.  At first she hesitated, but soon began to speak in broken sentences.  I sensed her pain through her words and could decipher her history by the lines that creased her face.  Like many of the widows left working in the orphanages, her husband was murdered by the Taliban.  She was left alone with her three year old son and was two months pregnant with her daughter.  Although I don’t know the details, she did mention that both her mother and father were dead at that time.  She now suffers from agonizing back pain and can no longer work.  Not too many words were exchanged, but I did stare deeply in her eyes and carefully examined her body language.  At that very moment, I felt my heart shrivel and tighten.  I somehow felt her anguish coursing through my veins and I began to uncontrollably sob.  Fighting my tears back, I forced out a few words in my broken farsi.  “My heart goes out to you and your children.  People around the world have no idea how much people suffer from all of Afghanistan’s turmoil, yet they go about their lives selfishly and ignorantly.”  I can not even fathom or relate to this, no one can.  I am ashamed to be living so lavishly.  I am ashamed that I complain about nonsense, while this woman’s life was uncontrollably defined by external events.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  Being a woman in Afghanistan is terrible — they are confined, powerless, and oppressed in many ways.  However, being a widow in Afghanistan is far worse.  It is impossible to re-marry and woman can not find work.  Additionally, widows are left with children and are unable to feed them.  How is it possible that a widow can provide for her family if  this social stigma are at all odds?  The woman that I have been speaking with all night was in this very same situation.  Her children were starving and she was left with nothing in this male-dominated arena.  AFCECO fortunately saved her from a spiraling discourse and now her life is completely dedicated to the children and the organization.  The other woman have similar stories, and I can’t bear to hear each and every one.

But this makes me wonder, what happens to those woman who are not rescued by AFCECO or any other women’s shelter/organization?  My answer was bleak–they wander the narrow streets of Afghanistan begging for small change.  Heartbreaking, I know. What makes matters worse is that if the police sees a women wander the streets, they believe she is running away from home.  They either take her back home or put her in jail.  No justice for females in this land.

Here is a woman I see begging in the same place everyday.  And yes, they still wear burkas here.

Another sad truth is that even though the Taliban regime has dismantled, the treatment of woman is still unfair and in some cases, more inferior.  Nowadays, woman are being raped and violently beaten by their husbands.  Andeisha shared a story with me that she heard about in the women’s shelter.  Brace yourselves. A woman from Herat suffered multiple blows to the head, her eyeballs were viciously gauged out, and each of her fingernails were ripped out, one by one by her husband. This is completely inhumane and monsters are now roaming the alleyways of Afghanistan.  Why are these woman falling victim to these terrible attacks?  They are finally challenging their husbands because they learned their rights.  Turns out, the men are not having it and are beating their women to keep them in their place.  From an alternative perspective, maybe it’s best for women to not learn their rights.  Maybe then they won’t have to deal with abuse and will accept their confinement.

All this horror has really thrust a dent in my hope for this country and their woman.  But this must not be damaged for hope gives us life and motivation to reach a more pleasant future.

Please comment, I’d love to hear your opinions.


1 month past…

I’ve been neglecting my blog! I apologize to all those who are eager to be updated.  I have grown exhausted from the long hours of work, the diabolical heat, and malnutrition.

I was not a happy camper last week.  I don’t want to complain too much because I am aware that I am very blessed. However, I’ll give myself a little wiggle room here.  I have managed to what we commonly say during our struggle to reach the finish line: hit the wall. The combination of dry heat and lack of refreshing wind has made my room into a sauna.  Beads of sweat collect behind my knees and at my temples as a restlessly toss and turn at night to fall asleep.  Understandably, because I desperately gasp for fresh oxygen, my window is continuously open.   Turns out that this was not the best decision either.  We are located behind a dried river bed that harbors an infested pool of mosquitoes and other flesh-biting bugs.  I guess they smell my blood-engorged tissues because I have been bitten over 100 times. Although I have made applying insect repellent a nightly ritual, I still get bitten on the soles of my feet and in between my fingers and toes. You probably understand my frustration.  Especially since I am not the type of person to ignore the scratching sensation.

Here’s a picture of my leg.

Additionally, I fell ill from overindulging in doogh.  If you are not familiar with this delectable treat– it is a salty iced yogurt drink that is generously mixed with diced cucumbers and chopped mint.  The delicious yogurt tasted as if I had just milked cow.  This might have been the case because my first world stomach could not handle the unpasteurized dairy product.  I enjoyed a fusion of nausea, fever, dizziness, and diarrhea.  What a ride.  I think I learned my lesson. Quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Ok, one last complaint, I promise.  I think my long hours at work, the heat, and fatigue has contributed to my lack of appetite.  If you all know me, I love my stomach and thoroughly enjoy the organic flavors and spicy aromas of all food.  Unfortunately now food tastes bland to me and I do not think I can eat another grain of rice.  I know, I sound completely rotten right now.  I can’t imagine how these children must eat rice, beans, and vegetables drenched in oil daily.  But this is all they have and are fortunate enough to have food in their bellies.  My spoiled lifestyle and knowledge of diverse cuisines has been haunting me.  This too makes me appreciate how much I have back home.

On a side note, my mouth does water when I see fresh fruit in the refrigerator.  The fruits in Afghanistan are 10x better than in the US.  This is when America’s mass production and import of products fails with respect to the organic produce here!  The melons are so sweet and refreshing and the grapes taste just like candy!  There is no need for skittles and m&ms when the mangos, cherries, and peaches suffice!

You may have all heard on the news about the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.  This was actually one landmark that I had on my list of places to see during my stay.  This devastating news in Afghanistan.  There are many police, security, and military men swarming the city to ensure security.  Traffic is completely blocked and we move in inches to our destination.   I am fearing my safety as a Westerner but I am glad to be associated with an International NGO that is completely made up of Afghan natives.  That being said, Gloria, Ian, and myself do not completely stand out with respect to American and European NGOs that are highlighted in the Kabul City map.

A little update on my classes – I am so proud of my children!  They are so eager to learn and absorb new material that they are learning fast.  It is rewarding to see that my efforts paid off and I can see how teachers enjoy their work.  They all are so competitive that they fight to shout out the answers to impress their teacher!  Such superstars!

Here is a video that you all may enjoy.  This made my heart blossom with warmth!

Why, hello.

Hello good friends.  May you all be in good spirits.  I am doing great despite my minor head cold and 75+ bug bites.  I guess it is inevitable that I would have caught some sort of illness–especially being around little rugrats who are not too hygienic.  That being said, this would be a great opportunity for me to teach the little tikes about spreading germs, the importance of brushing teeth, and how to maintain a healthy diet with fruits and veggies!  I can’t give an explanation for my bug bites.  Maybe it’s that cocobutter lotion that my dad insisted me on using daily because of the dry air here!

So over the course of a week, my schedule has changed yet again!!!  Voy, this was somewhat frustrating.  However, I am delighted to be relocated to the New School!  In addition to English classes, art, woodcarving, computer, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and music classes are being taught here.  This is such a wonderful building and I get to see all the kids from the five different orphanages!  Here are a few pictures of this school.

These are the instruments used in music class.

Woodcarving class!

Consequently, I have gained new students with the relocation. In particular, adolescent boys.  I find this role as a teacher very empowering, especially as a woman.  I wonder what crosses their minds when a liberated and educated female stands up in front of a classroom and calls them out on their bullshit?  Excuse my french, but I have noticed that males of this age feel as if they are the kings of the world, that they are invincible, and may possibly credit themselves superior to women.  This is especially the case in Afghanistan, where woman are seen as only half of a man.  I hope to show them that women can be educated, can acquire a career, and be outspoken without fearing male recognition through my words and imagination.  In order to liberate girls in Afghanistan, we must also liberate boys.  Maybe my presence will give them insight on how women should be respected and how women should be seen as equal to men.

One thing that I have noticed with respect to my fellow educators is that I lack continuous affection to my little students.  I know my kids have gone through moments in their lifetime that normal children could not comprehend.  My heart reaches out for their pain, terror, and animosity.  Yet, I found myself taking on a different character–as an educator and as a stimulator.  I am fierce in the classroom, cracking down on them to complete their homework assignments and not tolerating any fighting.  I just point to the exit door if I receive any complaints, laziness, or disagreements.  I want them to learn and I want them to succeed in my class. I try to stimulate their thirst for more knowledge in an attempt to develop a love for learning.  My voice exudes confidence, my facial expressions are completely animated, and I gallop fearlessly in the classroom hoping to leave a deep impression on their lives.

There is something miraculous going on within these orphanages.  I try to imagine how much trouble an Afghan child may go through if they lived in the United States.  What I am referring to is how a child copes with family dysfunctions, detrimental conditions of displacement, and mental health.  If they were in America, they would have a file four inches thick and would have to see a psychotherapist daily.  I do not even want to think about how many meds they would be prescribed.  There is something holistic, almost magical going on behind these massive gates and tall rose stems.  The collective unity, brotherhood (and sisterhood) really interconnects the children.  They all have humble qualities–learning to share, being responsible for each other, and respecting all differences amongst ethnic divides.  The older boys and girls, caretakers of the home (whom are widows), and teachers are the role models that infectiously spread these characteristics.

I also have some great news to share!  I will be arranging my small visit to Herat!  My father is from Herat, and I am so eager to see the homeland that he constantly reminisces about.  I have spoken to many people here about Herat and they all say that it is like a different world with respect to Kabul.  The streets and neighborhoods are very clean and family ties are much stronger.  My grandmother’s sister lives in Herat and I am hoping to stay with her.  Moreover, I’d like to visit AFCECO’s two orphanages there.  I can not wait to set foot on the very paths that my father ran through.

I have grown quite tired because of my long days of teaching and it seems as though it is ticking right past my bedtime.  My eyes are getting heavy!  Goodnight folks.

Girl’s Soccer Game

It is Friday evening and I am quite satisfied with my productivity today.  I managed to do three loads of laundry, clean the kitchen, iron my clothes, do some reading for my summer course, and painfully draw out bingo cards for the kids tomorrow!  Right now we are experiencing a violent sandstorm!  Because of the heat, we usually keep all the windows and doors open, but the strong gusts of wind slammed everything shut in unison with a loud rumble.  I am proud to say that I have experienced a sandstorm at one point in my lifetime. =)

As I promised, I will post some pictures from the soccer game yesterday.  The girls played fantastic!  They played their hearts out and battled some fierce competition.  Despite losing 5-0, I believe this was great practice.  A common Afghani idiom is that losers will make the new winners of the future.  It is expected that the girls of the Afghan National Team to win–they are of course representing our country.  Maybe an unfair advantage was that the team had girls that were around the ages of 18-20 and the AFCECO girls team were all around 14-15.  In any case, I am very proud of the girls and they will only perform better in the future.

Coincidently, yesterday morning CNN released a report on the Afghan Girl’s National Team and the struggles they face in having a consistent location for practice, pressures from their families to quit, and continuous death threats from many Afghan extremists.  It is unfortunate that these girls are being ostracized and are facing disapproval.  It seems as though with every step forward, there are two steps back.

Here is the article: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-08/world/afghanistan.womens.soccer_1_afghans-death-threats-nato/2?_s=PM:WORLD

In addition to these troubles, AFCECO has also been facing some disapproval and the American University is planning on constructing buildings on top of their current soccer field.  This means that they too will have no where to practice and play.  I am crossing my fingers and hoping that the university will accommodate these girls.  Playing soccer gives these girls a sense of empowerment and freedom without their chardas weighing them down.

It seems as though all the news I have been posting is depressing and I always feel I should end on a positive note.  Today, I will discuss my bathroom experience at the soccer field.  I have been told many times to empty my bladder before entering the field because there are no restrooms.  But I can not stop drinking water because it is so bloody hot here!  So my efforts of squeezing my legs together and doing the peepee dance failed and I had to do my business in this awful contraption.  It kind of reminds me of the scene in Slumdog Millionaire when the little boy is going to the bathroom in this elevated wooden hut and jumps into a large pile of feces in an effort to get the very famous celebrity’s autograph.  I’d illustrate the dome, but I think this picture will do much more justice.

I was thrilled that I remember to bring toilet paper. =D

Time to finish the rest of those bingo cards. Goodnight.

Busy Bee

Hello folks,

I hope you are all doing well.  I am doing fantastic despite my very busy schedule! I finally got into the routine of things with my scheduling, classes, and curriculum.  In addition to teaching English, I hope to teach basic computer skills, health, hygiene, music, geography, and art to the kids. I have grown quite fond of everyone here and am starting to build close bonds with the little children.  My heart fills with excitement every time the driver pulls into the driveway of the orphanages.  The children anticipate my arrival and are eager to greet me with affectionate hugs and kisses.  They fight to hold my hand and plant me with some wet kisses!

Here are a few pictures of my classroom, me interacting with the children, and the orphanages!

Slowly but surely I am beginning to learn the kids’ past, their present, and their future endeavors.  And I must admit, I am honored to be apart of their lives.  They have gone through more than any individual can imagine and have the brains of a mature adult.  One lesson I learned quickly is to appreciate life.  These children have either seen their mother or father die, their sister raped, trapped in a spiral of dysfunctional family affairs, and left with no food to eat at the time of their discovery.  They are not the only suffers–everyone I have been conversing with has been affected somehow by the civil war and through the presence of foreign troops.  They endure pain because of these events while I selfishly complain about breaking a nail, having too much homework, or losing a shoe.  We are so consumed with the little in things in life that we overlook our health, prosperity, and tight kinship.  Next time think twice before complaining about petty things and remember that there are people out there in this world who are in a far worse situation than you are.

A common topic of discussion over downtime is about the famous “green zone” in Kabul, Afghanistan.  If you are not familiar with this–this area consists of restaurants, bars, and clubs built be Westerners. (Not the military green zone) You will never see an Afghan native navigating through this place.  Many of the occupants are workers of the large NGOs, other developmental organizations, and UN workers.  I was told that it was a completely different world with respect to its outer boundaries of the rugged terrain of Kabul.  I saw a few pictures on the internet and people collaborate themed parties, have massive amounts of alcohol, and enjoy an extravagant lifestyle.  Although these NGOs claim that their main incentive is to reconstruct Afghanistan, much of the money gets siphoned off to employees and other middle men and very little is left for the Afghani people.  Their luxurious lifestyles is in stark contrast to the begging children on the dirt roads, impoverished families, and helpless widows roaming the city just a few meters away.  I find this almost insulting that these people embrace laughter, continue to accept large sums of money, and live lavishly when they are fully aware that people are dying and suffering around them.  They are monsters and it makes me ashamed that our human population has evolved to be so relentless, indifferent, and self-absorbed.

A sad truth is that most NGOs have never in fact interacted with the Afghan people, stepped out of their green zone, or even met an Afghan native because they fear their security.  Effective developmental work must implement research, speak with Afghan people, and gain participatory feedback from the natives.  How is this possible when “green zoners” are trapped in this superficial world?  Their vision of Afghanistan is completely false and it sickens me that they are displaying these images and experiences to their audience, family, and friends.  In contrast, AFCECO, an Afghan NGO directly interacts with the orphaned children.  A combination of university students, volunteers, widows, and security guards all collectively work together to make their future dreams possible.

To end on a positive note, I am very excited to see the AFCECO girl’s soccer team play tomorrow.  They are having a scrimmage against the Afghan National Women’s team!  This is a very big moment for the girls and I hope to document all of it with photos!  They are all so excited and nervous at the same time.  Currently, my roommate and I are working on posters to cheer on the girls.  I need to practice some cheerleading moves!

Please tune in for photographs of the girl’s game!

Sweet dreams

Jom’e Mobarak (Happy Friday)

Good Afternoon!  It is our day off today.  On Fridays, Afghan people are off work, go to Mosque, and enjoy a beautiful day out for a picnic in Pacmon with their families and friends.

Yesterday was my first day of officially interacting with the orphaned children.  I watched with careful detail on how current teachers taught the little boys and girls and had a chance of playing a few games with them.  Once all the staff members left, I stayed behind and the kids were so eager to show me around their home.  They ferociously battled to hold my hand and sit next to me.  I sometimes forget how loving and innocent they are.  After lunch, the children took their nap for a couple of hours while I began brainstorming on structured curriculum for the classes that I will be teaching.  Ian was not kidding when he said he was not going to look over my shoulder after introducing me to the orphanages.  My schedule is set and I will be very busy! Here is a brief idea of what I will be doing for the next 6 weeks:

Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday: Teaching in Mehan Orphanage with the pre-teen girls and assisting the local physician at the clinic (10-4:30); Girl’s soccer practice or Tae Kwon Do (5-7)

Monday, Wednesday, Saturday: Teaching four classes in Sitara Orphanage with the little tikes (girls and boys) (8:30-7)

Friday: holidays

VOY, this will go by fast…

Yesterday was also the first day I met the adolescent girls from ages 15-19 before attending their soccer practice.  They were all so full of laughter, humor, and beauty.  They were geared up in their soccer uniforms and hair tied neatly back while singing Afghan pop music with the stereo.  This is such a remarkable thing in Afghanistan.  Women are severely oppressed and can not enjoy the freedoms and luxuries that men do.  To see them in their gear is heartwarming and hopeful because this takes Afghanistan a leap forward towards equality.  Here are a few photos of their practice.

This afternoon, AFCECO staff members and myself took the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful lunch at a restaurant in the city.  Although the streets are unpaved, dusty, and full of waste, many restaurants and homes are hidden behind massive gates.  This is where we ate lunch!  We also took the opportunity to take a cat nap on the pillows.  Might I add, the honeydew juice was AMAZING!  I felt as if I stuck a straw right into a juicy melon.

Before returning home, Andeisha was nice enough to take me to the top of TV mountain: a cluster of antennae of telecommunication equipment.  I took many photos that you all may enjoy.

Calling it day; I must work on writing out the rest of my curriculum for the remainder of the evening.  Have a great weekend!