in the dirt

March 29, 2012

I almost didn’t believe it, finding myself digging in the dirt this morning. But yes–here on this compound, here in this city, that is exactly what I was doing, thanks to the delightful discovery that others had begun a bit of a garden behind our house. It was just about the most perfect way I can imagine to begin the weekend now that Spring has begun to show its cheery face. And in a land where I sometimes feel like dust and dirt block any beauty that might try to show its face, it is a blessed twist to find that same dirt becoming beautiful in its own right; all it takes is the right touch, I suppose . . . like that of one of my beautiful housemates :-)


March 28, 2012

Yesterday was the last day of that basketball tournament. Maybe it was because we had chilly rain rather than the previous day’s sunshine, but for whatever reason I found myself watching the players’ feet more than I had in previous days. I was impressed with their fancy footwork, and surprised by it, considering the fact that this is the first year for women’s basketball at our school–kudos to Coach, I guess! Anyhow, here’s a shot of those fancy feet . . . not that I would ever take pictures of feet :-)


March 24, 2012

Just your usual, everyday, after-school basketball tournament. The same sort as one would expect in any other high school, in any other country. Except that in this particular country, on this particular day, the tournament was nothing to let pass by lightly. It was held exclusively for the young women of our school; and I felt proud to be a part of a school that would provide such opportunities to these beautiful young women.
This particular shot is just another photographic capture of just another swoosh, by just another basketball-playing young woman . . . except that this particular young woman happens to be playing with her head covered. And you know, the ladies seem to make do pretty well: I guess they have to.

stepping up to the plate

March 22, 2012

I continue to be surprised at the new enjoyments I have here: the things that I would probably never have discovered in my “normal,” independent life. I am accustomed to relying on my own ingenuity, and on my own creativity. But here I cannot do that. The most important asset we have is each other. And in this tight community, I am learning that sometimes, no matter how good my idea or plan may seem to be, it is better to go along with another plan for the sake of harmony. Obviously this does not apply in cases of right or wrong, moral or immoral. But on smaller sticking points that don’t matter quite so much, there is often much to be said for working with each other rather than just getting something done in the most efficient way. At least, this is what life this year has taught me, with the security restrictions of this country and the community issues of this compound.
That said, I never know what will become important here that I might have never expected to matter in my past life. Team sports, for instance:nI generally avoid them, knowing better than to embarrass myself by my general lack of sporty skill. Running, swimming, climbing, dance . . . sure. But team sports? Lord, no!
Yet here I find myself joining in on “March Madness” bracket fun, laughing with others at my not-happenin’ prediction.
And upon the rare occasion of a co-ed sporting event, I leap at the chance. Gimp-foot and all, trying to prove that I can do my own running no matter how tap dance-bruised my foot may be. Ok, so maybe this weekend was nothing more glamorous, so far as sporting events go, than a Wiffle Ball game in which rules were “lightly” enforced, to say the least. But we all joined in, young and old, fit and not-so-fit, laughing all the while.

for what it’s worth

March 17, 2012

All in all, it was a day that swayed heavily in the direction of madness. For one, my usual 7th graders were so impressive today as to earn abrupt class halting, in favour of 20 minutes of silent “I will not disrespect my teacher” sentence writing.
And when I wasn’t with my usual students, I was subbing for yet another new grade level for me: Grade 1. They were about as good as one can expect 25 6-year-olds to behave when they have had a series of subs in and a classroom teacher fighting typhoid fever.
But the madness ended with brightness—bittersweet brightness, but brightness all the same. This super-teacher of theirs had arranged for parents to come in and speak with the children about their different jobs, for a Career Unit. Two businessmen spoke and then one housekeeper. I had spoken beforehand with the class, preparing them to be on their most respectful behaviour, so I was on the whole proud of their eager responses and intelligent questions. One, however, brought tears to my eyes. The question was simple enough, pertaining to why she had chosen to work here [she is actually employed by our school]. With the help of a translator, she gave an incredibly up-front reply. She said, simply, that she chose to work here, instead of for a more lucrative employer, because she wanted her daughter to have the chance to do more with her life than she herself had been able to do.
Wow. Once again, one of those moments when you think Yes, this is why I am here . . .

joy, simply

March 14, 2012

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” I read that quote today, by Karl Barth, and it struck me, strangely. At first I didn’t think about it, reading it as the sort of quote that doesn’t usually feel very meaningful to me. But it stuck in my head, and I realized that it was more meaningful than I had at first realized.
Because today I was struggling with joy. Finding it “simple,” perhaps, but far from easy. The strangest thing for me was that I actually was enjoying my work. Enjoying it, yet resisting the Joy of it.
Why? Because I was fearing the future.
Fearing next week, when I will lose the classes I have been able to teach this week. When I will lose the ownership I’ve been able to take this week, and the ways I’ve been able to make use my years of training, studies, and experience.
So realizing that this fear was holding me back from fully enjoying the present, I repented. Forgive me, Father, for my lack of gratitude. Forgive me for the independence that makes me hold so tightly to my illusions of control that I cannot simply accept the gift of the present. Forgive me for too much anxiety and too little joy.
After realizing this about my day, I walked outside to watch the children enjoying their recess. Enjoying it. And I chose to enjoy that moment as well. I took a lesson from the laughing little ones, and I took pleasure in the beauty of it: the beauty of the artfully contrasting colors. The beauty of the hard-working teachers supervising. The beauty of the thawing snow, signifying Spring-to-come. The beauty of the moment, in the midst of all the uncertainties, fears, and complications of life in this place as in any.

wintery mix

March 11, 2012

So much for those signs of spring. Today we enjoyed a full day of what I believe I remember being called a “wintery mix” in weather forecasts back when I was around TV news. It started at sunrise with what sounded like drizzle. But as soon as it was light enough to see outside, there was a heavy falling of large, cotton-like snowflakes. Midday these turned smaller, icier . . . and more dreary somehow. The next time I went outside, I gasped and, as the elementary P.E. class laughed at me, I pointed and exclaimed that the hail looked like styrofoam. Because it did! I laughed at it, but the truth was that I sympathized completely with a coworker when she asked how it was outside and said she was “so done with winter!”
Yes, we are done with winter. So in the midst of a “wintery mix,” we would rather escape to a dance studio. Tonight a group of us women went to that little room that makes us forget the city we live in. On a day like today there are plenty of reasons to want to forget that fact, I’m afraid.
So we danced. Some more gracefully than others. I am definitely one of the “others,” there being a very good reason I opted for the less coordination-required variety of sports. But I do love to dance. So I put on those tap shoes and I gave it my best effort, grinning happily as I stumbled over my two left feet.
I tried to get a good shot of the hail this afternoon but was too rushed to work on it that well. This is at least a glimpse . . .

money and love

March 9, 2012

Am I unfeeling? Or just jaded? Perhaps a bit of both . . . but for whatever reason, I was less than convinced by the toothless lady who dashed out of the store as we passes. Lured by the sight of several foreigners, she began shouting “Money! Money! Money!” And then, after we seemed unready to respond as she intended, she became more specific, telling us even the amount she expected us to give. I was unfamiliar with the word she spoke in Dari, but another man we passed kindly translated for her, interjecting that we were to give “Five dollars.” A small enough amount to ask for, but enough to have her following us for 3 more blocks, waiting outside as we went into the shops. She even displayed an expanded English repertoire, alternating “Money!” with “I love you!” I commented to my companions that somehow I suspected there must be a more convincing way to express one’s love for another.
Thinking about it a bit further, it did strike me as odd, considering the fact that there is indeed very little affection felt towards someone like me by most we would pass in the streets of this city. And you know, when it comes down to it, I don’t think giving money would help. Not really.
What is needed, then? That is such a complex and interwoven issue that I wouldn’t begin to know how to answer it. I am unfit to try.
But I can work with the children. I can teach my lessons. I can manage a library . . . And I am glad to do what I can.
In Funday School this morning we did some songs with the children before teaching. One had a chorus about J being the “King of the Jews.” As we finished, one little one shot up his hand. “Excuse me,” he began, “but I think that he is the king of everything.”
So very true. And I am so very thankful that He is!
This photo is one of the newly-constructed basketball court at our school. I was fascinated by how quickly it came together. Watching the men running rows of rock-filled wheelbarrows, and arranging the stones by hand before pouring concrete was quite impressive. And yesterday this was the look of it, while today it is a completed project! It seemed fitting to display this since just yesterday our girls actually won a basketball championship game, making them 3rd in the country . . . with covered heads not hindering their ability to shoot, and score :-)

dancing wings

March 5, 2012

As we met for an early morning Focus meeting, a coworker spoke of her recent exhaustion. And she commented on how, in the midst of the weariness, events like that we attended last night remind us of “why we are here.” I couldn’t agree more. It was a celebration of beauty, and of womanhood. And here in this land, such a celebration is particularly meaningful. It was so beautiful to see the young women I get to work with as they vocalized their hearts through poetry, and expressed them through dance. To hear a young Afghan woman speak the words, “I am from a place where keeping my guard up is a must . . . ” and to hear another say that “I am from the bird with broken wings” . . . it was heartbreaking on one level. But then to see these same young women dancing freely, and using those same “broken wings” in graceful leaps and swirls . . . Yes, it was indeed a reminder of why we are here.


March 2, 2012

So I had intended to take my camera to the completed play backdrop. Having shown you an in-progress version, I figured a visual of the newly-completed might be appreciated. But en route, I was distracted by this sight. I’ve never seen icicles clinging quite like this to the branches of a tree, and can only assume it is due to the way the snow melts, and water falls, so quickly here when the sun is shining. This photo then seemed fitting for this season, in which we are all beginning to feel the hope of a not-too-distant springtime . . .