And then… The world got very different. I joined the other women on the plane raising my scarf and positioning it cover all but my face before descending the stairs to the tarmac. The police requested that Jesse put the camera away so we did not film our entry into Afghanistan. Customs was quite easeful and soon we were in the parking lot being greeted by a tall smile named Said Agha. Said will be our driver while we are here. He is the brother of Khan who is the organizer of the NVC trainings. The drive from the airport to The Naween Guesthouse actualized our journey. Was it the sand and dirt that define the landscape of Kabul? Or was it the military presence? Or was it the family of three: a father with no eyes and a mother in a Burqa holding a solem toddler tapping on the glass of our vehicle? Or maybe it was the ease with which Said navigated through the chaotic traffic of cars, bicycles and people? Or the little girl running along side our van asking for something so she could eat? My small epiphany on this ride was that there is no way to judge this country. I found myself asking how could anyone comment about what Afghanistan is like or what the people here could possibly need without seeing it first hand. I am curious how anyone could comment with any certainty about the situation here by only having his or her information siphoned through CNN or NPR. Beginner’s Mind is the only thing that came immediately to me as a response to all I was taking in on our ride.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki
We are staying at the Naween Guesthouse which is a United Nations cleared for security Inn for Internationals. Our company includes Canadians and Brits. The buildings square design offers an inner sanctuary from Kabul where we took tea on the lawn. Said helped us go over our Dari Needs cards. He taught us to pronounce the needs list in Dari.
Meeting with Khan later in the evening inspired many ideas for the upcoming training and really grounded all of us into being here. We spoke on many subjects to become acquainted. Khan is a man working non-stop for peace in his country. He is involved with so many heart full projects that have such tangible result for the people he cares for deeply. After listening to his stories it is clear to me I want to support him in any way that we can. I wanted clarity so I asked, “How has it been since the American bombing?” His first reply was, “Which one?” He shared a brief history of his own. When the soviets invaded he and his family became refuges for 16 years in Pakistan. He shared that it was not only necessary for safety but was very helpful for his perspective. He also shared that recently, since 911, agencies have come in and set things up like cell phones and internet. He commented that these things have been helpful for connection and rebuilding. It was astounding to me to bare witness to a man speaking to his experience with such directness and hope when his experience includes a country that has been under the strict control of one regime to the next, be it Soviet, Taliban or US. His smile and henna dyed beard gave an immense presence to the conversation that exuded compassion, even at the end of his long day that included meeting with the Department of the Interior. And with all his optimism he remained ever realist and practical as he told us not to leave the Naween Guesthouse without someone he trusts and not to get in any car (definitely no taxi) with anyone other than Said. Jesse, Jiva and I left the company of Khan and Said to eat our dinner and continue our plans for the training. Khan gave us the cultural clarity we had sensed but wanted to hear firsthand. The people coming to this training want to know how to manage conflicts on a big scale: how can they end the feuding between tribes, how can they resolve the matters of housing, how can they resolve the violence that is implicit in a culture that equates revenge with honor?
Peace All Ways, Catherine