A letter from Naghmeh (the translator for our trip)

Dear Catherine, Jesse, and Jiva,

Here is a letter I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. Some of these thoughts and phrases have been with me since Afghanistan. Others are offspring of hindsight; slowly forming in the womb of my soul as I took my time to fathom the true extends to which my experience with you has impacted on me. In essence, this letter is an attempt at acknowledging what each of you, in your uniqueness as a person, have meant to my experience.

Catherine, sister, from now on, among my associations with the word “inspiration”, there will be a mental picture of you. Seeing you in action was incredibly energizing. Your work breams with love, creativity, and vision; the combination is what enables one to see how simple folded papers can turn into rain of butterflies, animate everyone with a song, or know when to ask the question that will bring everything together. I translated the story of starting Temba with a lump in my throat, overwhelmed by the beauty of how we can actually become the change that we seek in the world. I sent a little statuette thingy with Jiva to give to you. It is the Lady Sun phoenix. Apart from being a modern take on national symbolism, for me it is an expression of femininity, power, and compassion, the qualities I saw in you. I’ll always remember your strength, your exuberance, your comment on freedom from fear in the despair circle, and off course your kitchen dance.

Jesse, you are an ancient soul. You bring a remarkable quality of presence and care to your surrounding. Your ability to be present for others and embrace their existence is truly impressive. I do appreciate how these qualities made it easy for me to connect to you, cutting vegetables, or talking about different things during breaks or just doing the practical preparations. I can hardly put into words how I felt when you recognized that my tears were tears of being overwhelmed with beauty and not tears of sadness. I will also always remember your comment on our incompleteness and the idea of repent in many religions. And off course, I have yet to see a more eloquent and effective presentation of the nonviolent communication process than your power point presentation (do you think I can have a copy of it?) Seeing the two of you together was also very pleasing for me. Whether it was talking about dying together, sending away the nasty smelling monsters of the bathroom, or looking into each other’s eyes reaching for each other, your relationship exuded many values of partnership in life and growth that.

Last but not least, Jiva, the love with which you look at the world and your passion for making it a better place has never ceased to impress me; this time I saw that passion having developed into a sense of vocation and it gave me the vicarious pleasure of a botanist seeing an exotic plant bloom. I can listen to you for hours with relish as you hit your not so rare moments of clarity, perfect head-heart coordination and I can talk to you for hours, feeling I have all the attention I need in the world. The novel I was reading in Afghanistan says that the real and only reason for friendship is ” to provide a mirror so that the other person can contemplate his image…” Well, I have to say I think there is more to friendship, but I definitely love the idea of the mirror. Thanks for the mirror you have been holding all this time. It has been with great assistance of your mirror that I’m beginning to learn how to translate my pseudo-intellectual babble into the messages they mean to convey. Your unconditional positive regard granted me the safety to look at things from other angles and the courage to face deep-rooted fears. You have been a significant influence in my soul-searching; I wish you all the best in yours.

I remember telling you about how rejuvenating and inspiring working with you all was for me. Now, I can tell you about how transformative that experience and what has followed been. It feels like I have gone through a soft revolution, a subtle metamorphosis. When it comes to facing the world, I have always had a certain amount of trepidation, like a bird that yearns to leave the nest but fears flying just the same. I still have that fear, but I am more confident now. I can feel the wings itching underneath my skin, ready to be spread, to take a chance at flying. I sense growth, and I owe this growth to sarcastically witty Hungarian ladies, to colleagues with fragile identities and bruised psyches, to loving Afghan grandfathers walking next to you on the streets of Kabul. I owe it to kind-hearted girls from up-town Tehran, to mysterious guys from the secret police, and off course to you and your voices. It was an honor to represent your voices, voices so stentorian yet so soothing. If you ever again needed a translator for any dead or alive language, give me a three month notice and I’ll be ready and if you ever felt like teaming up with an over-enthusiastic, crazy Iranian for any project, drop me a note, I’ll send in my application.

Peace, Naghmeh