Afghans, if nothing else, are family oriented. Most of their lives and assets go toward the tasks of raising and educating their children.
I told the story of one young man, in the post https://hotmilkforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/i-love-babies/ that I had the distinct honor to visit at his birth, and watched him grow to be a young toddler, but I have another story about a similarly aged youngster, who has proven to be quite the loveable and interesting young man.
I met this youngster while visiting my good friend, Aziz Royesh, at Marefat School in Dasht-e Barchi, under what were to me, very unusual circumstances. It was the first trip for friend Rachel to Marefat, and after a tour of the facility and meeting with several students, we stopped at Aziz’s house for a delicious lunch of bean soup and na’an (Afghan bread).
While sitting around eating and speaking with Aziz, we heard an unusual noise, coming from somewhere within the room. I remember noting that “my that sounds odd” but the conversation went on as before, and since Aziz wasn’t worried about it, I ignored it. I could tell that Rachel’s interest was piqued, but she went along.
Again, we heard the noise, and it was familiar, and we looked at each other quizzically, but Aziz continued to speak as before. Finally, the noise erupted into a lusty cry of an infant, and Rachel’s face went through a rapid spectrum of changes, and someone came quickly into the room, and went to the cabinet against the wall. Unbeknownst to us, the “cabinet” was a very cleverly built rocking baby bed, covered by a blanket. And throughout our meal, the baby slept, un-noticed by us.
Friend Nawab, sitting in front of the stealth sleeping baby “cabinet”
With the passage of time, this baby grew into a toddler. And we had more occasions to visit Marefat and sit and eat a meal with Aziz and his family and guests. On one such visit, there were many people present, and the people split up into groups to converse. Now, I can understand Dari more or less but for whatever reason have not been able to develop the skill required to speak it. So I mostly sit and listen, and watch to see what people do and for their body language. It’s almost like losing a sense; you develop a good skill for detecting what is going on through watching those cues.
Well, as people broke up into groups, this young man noticed I was just sitting and listening to a group surrounding an important politician who had come that day. So this toddler came up to me, and proceeded to talk to me about various things important to him. An essay on hard to understand toddler speak which was understandable only to him, I am afraid. But he was definitely mimicking the other people in the groups, talking about the government. The more the young man talked to me, the more animated and ‘’worked up’’ he became. Finally, he said some things rather angrily and stormed from the room.
A moment later, one of the security detail for the visiting politician came in with his rifle, and knelt down between Aziz and myself and explained that the little fellow had walked out into the courtyard, and demanded that he, the policeman, go in and arrest the man who refused to talk to him! We all chuckled good naturedly, and after asking the youngster some more questions, it was off to bed for him, and time to leave for me.
Teacher Appreciation Day Marefat School
The last time I met this young man, it was at a special event held at the school. A teacher’s recognition day was held, and as I sat in my place, watching the children sing songs, read poems and present gifts to the teachers to show their appreciation for their efforts at Marefat school, this youngster showed up with a female relative of about the same age. These two immediately claimed my lap as the most prestigious place to sit for the duration of the program. They occasionally looked up at me and held on to my shirt with their chubby hands. Do you know what I learned that day? Children can reach out to hold on to your shirt, and go right through and grab onto your heart.
I would like to go back there, very much, to see how this young boy grows. And how this young girl lives her life. During the time this happened, I was routinely very challenged at work with some difficult personalities, and each time I went there, and interacted with these children, I came back just a little more sane.