Wednesday, January 02, 2008






It was not even dawn, yet, when the 747 slowly taxied on a moonless and silent runway.
There was an eerie silence in the chilly air.
I had gone to Afghanistan as a Peace Corps volunteer to teach English at Kabul University.
My students were young men and women.
They were reserved, serious and polite.
The young men sat on one side of the room, and the young women on the other side.
I used one textbook.
I think it was called Modern English.
It was mostly conversational drills that required me to model words and phrases, and then students repeated what I said.
They seemed satisfied with my "instruction".
There were no tests (unlike my present role here in Texas where I am more of a tester than a teacher).
The campus had no running water and no electricity.
When it got really cold, a small metal container had a small and fairly useless fire burning inside it.
I wore layered clothing under my coat.
My fingers still got cold inside my down-filled leather gloves.

Kabul was a lively city.
There was an abundant variety of fruit and vegetables.
Tons of raisins.
Lots of melons.
Very little beef or chicken.
Gazillions of gallons of tea, tea, tea.
I was almost completely weaned from drinking coffee.
The tea was delicious and clean-tasting.
In the summer, snow was brought down from the Hindu Kush to make ice-cream.

Two of my most memorable moments were when I took bus rides to Jalalabad and Bamian.
I went to Bamian on a weekend excursion.
I went to Jalalabad as part of my duties as a Peace Corps teacher to observe a school and its teaching outside of Kabul.
Here is information about Jalalabad and Bamian:

Jalālābād (Pashto/Persian: جلال آباد) is a city in eastern Afghanistan. Located at the junction of the Kabul and KunarNangarhar province. It is linked by approximately 90 miles (140 km) of highway with the city of Kabul to the west and about the same distance with Peshawar in Pakistan to the east. Jalalabad is the largest city of east Afghanistan as well as its social and business center.


Bamian (bumyän') [key], town (1984 est. pop. 52,000), capital of Bamian prov., N central Afghanistan, on the Kunduz River. The population is predominantly Hazara. It was long a major caravan center on the route across the Hindu Kush between India and central Asia. By the 7th cent. the town was a center of Buddhism; the Chinese pilgrims Fa Hsien and Hsüan-tsang traveled through the town. Bamian was invaded by the Saffarids in 871. A Muslim fortress town from the 9th to the 12th cent., Bamian was sacked by Jenghiz Khan in 1221 and never regained its former prominence.

The Bamian valley is lined with cave dwellings cut out of the cliffs by Buddhist monks. Particularly interesting were two great figures (one 175 ft/53 m high, the other 120 ft/37 m) carved from rock and finished in fine plaster. The statues were destroyed, however, in 2001 by the Taliban, which considered them idolatrous. The area also has grottoes decorated with wall paintings in Greco-Buddhist styles.

I wrote about these two experiences on my blog called Afghanistan Journey.
A fellow volunteer, Michael Giotis, photographed me while I stood below the giant Buddha.
Here is a poem that I wrote about my visit to Bamian:

Girl With a Scythe

To the people of Afghanistan

Echoes of Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, and Alexander
Were found in turquoise, opal, and
amethyst dreams

Young vagabonds slept on Persian rugs
Beneath heaven's pastures far below tall
Buddhas on
Bamian's plains.

While bright on Earth green grass grew under
falling rain

Above the sky lit up dark echoed man's
last refrain:

We hail the rains to bring us
back to life

We hail the rains to remove this mortal
rule of knife

But thunder shouted and sirens cried
People hurried
They fought and died.
Echoes of Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, and Alexander
Were found in turquoise, opal, and
amethyst dreams

Young vagabonds slept on Persian rugs
Beneath heaven's pastures
Far below tall
Buddhas on
Bamian's plains


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