Friday, January 30, 2009

Why I'm still in Afghanistan...

I'm horribly out of shape. I pull all-nighters building wireless antennas, but every once in a while I remember why being out here working on this project is so important and so satisfying. I'm rather torn about having to leave here in a week, but there's a whole lot of nasty weather and a race partner that miss me, so I'll come back this time for real, I promise. Anyway...

Flying solo today out to Bagrami (Brandon and Said-Jalal went out yesterday and nearly linked, but has a peculiar technical issue they couldn't figure out on the fly), I had a golden opportunity to discuss some of the problems that face these boundary places with the people who live there every day. (Thanks to Nekibulah and most of his family, many of whom are teachers or otherwise associated with the local school).

"In Afghanistan, we have very little learning," he says. "Both teachers and students must work outside of school to get money, so it is difficult to focus on our studies."

In places like Bagrami, access to computers and the internet can be life-changing. Nekibulah's brother, for instance, is interested in medicine but has absolutely no access to any information on the subject. A simple google search for "health" had him excited in no time at all, and I was glad to watch the attending group devour a page on women's health (including sexual health) without even batting an eyelash. In contrast to his brother, Nekibulah was more interested in information about Afghanistan and Islam. The tension between traditional cultural values / religious beliefs and the desire for the opportunities of western (for lack of a better term) society is palpable in these moments of discovery. "Are there Muslims in America?" "When you have a guest in your house would you have tea together?" were questions asked with a note of apprehensiveness as if my response might deepen the inner conflict between old and new. On some level I can understand. Living peacefully in a close-knit community amidst beautiful fields cris-crossed by winding irrigation channels and dotted with wispy trees with a background of incredible mountain views sounds pretty darn good. One can only hope that Wikipedia will convince these new users the west isn't all bad before they find the porn.

(This post is excerpted from my other blog. If you want to read the long version, go HERE.)

All the photos HERE.

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