Saturday, May 11, 2013

I wish you could...

I wish you could taste warm naan on a cool spring evening. When you are walking home from work and the guys at your favorite naan shop call out to you to say hi, because you had a thirty-second conversation the first time you bought naan there and now they think you are best friends. When you see that the shop has your favorite type of naan, the thick kind with an almost-hollow center and little spices baked in the top. You buy one for only ten Afs and you can't picture anywhere in the States where you can buy bread like this for only 20 cents. When you take your naan and wave goodbye to your shopkeeper friend, heading down the street with the naan warming your hand. You tear off a piece and let it melt in your mouth, and it's a little piece of God's gift to man.

I wish you could watch as graceful hands swoop and swirl across the page, making strokes that mean words that you can't understand. You try to puzzle them out, try to force yourself to concentrate on possible meanings, but you are mesmerized by the way the pen dances from right to left, right to left. Loops and lines, dots and dashes. It feels like a Morse code that you haven't yet been taught, but you are content to watch magic be made.

I wish you could hear the cacophony of a Kabul street as the officer workers and fruit vendors and traffic police start their day. You hear the vendors hawking their wares- bedrang! Bedrang! Yak kilo da rupya! (Cucumbers, cucumbers, 10 Afghanis per kilo!)- from the back of a cart pulled by a tired donkey, and the ice cream man pushing his cart down the street as his horn blares the thousandth rendition of Happy Birthday. Big police trucks go past honking, armed guards sitting in their bed, and Indian music floats out the windows of little white Corollas decorated with flowers and on their way to pick up a bride and groom. Little red motorcarts, with carpets draped over over the backs to make miniature taxis, splutter their way to movement, and gangs of schoolboys in matching blue uniforms push down the street in a clump, their rapid Dari interrupted by farts and whistles and laughter- boy noises that are the same in any language. You see blue burqas with bright purple pants sticking out below and hinting at the person beneath the veil, hear the swish swish of colorful chadars bustling down the street, admire the music made by the stomping feet of a two-year-old with bright white shoes. It's a smorgasbord of sounds and colors, a world that seems straight out of Aladdin but is real, daily life.

I wish you could sit in the circle with us in the grass at the family park. When the sun has set and the stars are twinkling, but the bright lights around you twinkle more forcefully, decorating practically every stationary surface within the park. You sit on a blanket and eat a picnic with your host family for the week, as little children run around with delighted screams and the Ferris wheel across the park whirs to life. It feels like a Fourth of July celebration from childhood, like you are back with your family as you eat and laugh and chatter with one another. Families here are just like families from home, who just want the peace to sit in the grass and eat buloni and ride the mini amusement park rides.

I wish you could walk down a Kabul street with us and see the kids playing with sticks and rocks and bits of dirty rope. They play jump rope with a muddy piece of twine strung across the unpaved road, tied to a dumpster on one side and held in someone's grimy hand on the other. But the dirt and the mud and the grime matters so little to them, for their grins are a mile wide and their delighted shouts echo off down the street. They grin wider when they see you coming, for you've become fast friends in the months you've been walking past during playtime, and they scamper over to say hi. They hold out their grimy hands to shake yours, and you bend down to give them the customary air kisses- one, two, three. They grin even wider; there is nothing quite so cool as being kissed by a foreigner.

I wish you could be here to experience all of this with me.

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