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Life in Afghanistan Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Karis, Canada Dec 11, 2001
Human Rights , Culture   Opinions
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Right after the events of September 11th, one of our members (Jennifer Corriero) connected with a young Canadian (Adriana) who had recently returned back to Canada after being in Afghanistan for several months! After hearing a few perspectives on 'Life in Afghinistan', a meeting was set for an interview to take place. This article has been written in interview format for members to learn a bit more about what life is like in Afghanistan, and what Adriana did while she was there. She had so much to say, and this is a great article that everyone should read!

The Interview:

Why did you go to Afghanistan?

I was intrigued about that part of the world. I was feeling
adventurous and wanted to go somewhere exciting and exotic.
I wanted to be inspired, because I had heard that the Afghans
were passionate and dedicated people. They turned out to be full
of hope and optimism that gave everyone who worked with them a
fresh outlook on the challenges they faced. I went to Afghanistan
as part of the Centre for Human Settlements. I was the Project
Manager (it was Swiss funded). What I was supposed to do was
strengthen community-based organisations. I was inspired be a
colleague and felt it was really important for women to go even
though they would face a lot of repression.I had no idea what I was expecting from it. I didn't think there'd be many international workers there. I thought it was going to be an intense year of somewhat solitude and isolation. Emotionally, I was hoping there would be no drastic changes so that I could come out of it still knowing who I was. I also had some concerns about my security, with images that my parents kept on reminding me of; land mines in the streets and that you'd have to be ducking or fighting all the time, constantly. Many of my concerns were laid to rest when I got there.I had spent some time in Pakistan, wearing the traditional clothes (not my Canadian clothes). I had also learned some of the social conventions, which was useful. Luckily, I entered with a friend who had been to Afghanistan before. I remember I was so concerned about my (shalwar chamise.look up sp.), because the wind was blowing and my s.c. kept on flying upwards, and I thought "I'm so indecent", because you arrive and you have to go to the Taliban checkpoint. With all these rules, you didn't know how strict it was going to be. The landscape was unbelievable; it was all mud and brown. I think it really represented the part of Afghanistan I was in, the way it was so simple and so unbelievably startling and beautiful.
I went to have my interview with the Taliban Minister of Foreign Affairs, to explain why I was coming to the country, and what job I was going to do. I was really nervous about that, because it was a real interview with the Taliban. A young doctor came and gave me a briefing about what I should say.
They escorted me behind this curtain, and I sat there for about fifteen
minutes, thinking, "where's my interview". What was happening was my office administrator was being interviewed on my behalf, because he wouldn't talk to me as a woman. My interview consisted of the Taliban coming behind the curtains, taking my passport, looking at me, saying in basic English "You are Adriana?". That was my first interview with the Taliban, so it kind of seemed so surreal. Later on I had more face to face contact in interviews.I'd say that overall the Taliban treated me with respect. To the regular
Taliban officials that I met, I was a guest in their country. They also told me not to break rules, and when I did (which I did a few times), I'd plead that I didn't know what I was doing, and they'd slap my wrists and tell me not to do it again, although I could have gotten kicked out of the
country. The Afghan men were really open and sharing. I think they
appreciated the fact that I worked with their sisters, their mothers, their daughters. They liked having "internationals" that would listen to their views, because many didn't. The women loved me, because me and my organisation made then feel important. I was received very well and it was very hard to leave at the end.The main language of the area I was in is known as Dari or Farsi -- it's kind of like basic Persian. There's a different language in the south of Afghanistan that I wasn't really supposed to speak, which is Pashtu. I got there and I didn't know any Dari. I had this amazing 21-year-old translator. More of the men knew English, but with the women, I needed my translator. My accent was horrible, but I knew the key words. I knew the numbers and key words, so I could catch things my translator missed, or didn't relay.That's tough, I mean, there are a lot of personal experiences that are memorable.

One day I was having a horrible day, for various different reasons. I needed a break, I was trying to go to Kabul and they wouldn't let me leave the city. I was so depressed, because I hadn't left in about two and a half months and I needed a change of environment. I'd also been getting in "trouble" a lot lately, and I'd gotten my wrists slapped many times. I went to the main women's NGO just to sit and talk. And it was nice, because it was like going home and talking about my shitty day. I just talked about what a bad mood I was in. There, you take your shoes off when you enter a room, because it's disrespectful not to. When I went to leave, my shoes were gone. One of the girls, Nadia, said "Oh no, it didn't happen!", and I said, "What?". They told me about a beggar woman who steals shoes. You see I loved these shoes, and I was really distressed. It was really an elaborate inside joke they were all doing. They had a whole story, like 'The Case of the Missing Shoes', planned out. They had all these women coming up to me, saying, "oh, one day I had my shoes taken".

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sherani | Dec 8th, 2004
em an afghan..lisa's article is both good and humilaiting...humilaiting as the ppl from her world think of afghans as some different creatures..while the reality is that being an afghan is the most proud thing in this world...we are bestowed with...its this only thing that help us live and survive in very extreme situation.

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