A fellow American student in my Russian classed asked me last week if I could help out in his wife’s English class by letting the students ask me questions. It was an innocent request; they apparently had trouble forming questions with the right intonation and word choice.
Oh yeah, it’s a class of Afghans.
“They’re looking forward to meeting you!”
Let’s throw out some preconceived notions about Afghanistan:
– Hatred toward Americans
– Religious extremism
– Abuse of women’s rights
– Overall backwardness and corruption across the country
Despite my best efforts to stay open-minded and aloof to a simple classroom activity, I had a sneaking worry that they would throw a curve ball at me, like, “So, do you support your country destroying my country?”
“Did you vote for George Bush?”
“Why does America hate Islam?”
Ouf. There was nothing of the sort. There was no need to nervously dance around the fact that I was an American; it turns out they were more interested in hearing about the wonders of married life and the various types of accents.
It turned out that they were just a bunch of giggly teenage girls. Farrell ended up joining the session and the girls were totally smitten to hear about how we met, what we liked about each other, what our favorite part of married life is (Farrell’s answer about not always wanting to cook dinner set off an earthquake of giggles) and our future plans for children. (There was definitely one girl who kept turning the questions to our relationship, sneaky sneaky!)
They had an assignment to write about their predictions for their mystery guest. One girl was so excited when I said I was born in Pennsylvania, which she guessed correctly. I wish I got to hear more of their predictions!
We told them about all of our traveling, I gushed about how much I love Iceland, and they asked if we’d ever want to visit Afghanistan.
Heck yes we would!
Farrell and I told them about what Americans think of Central Asia; how Kyrgyzstan is barely on their radar and how Afghanistan is just considered dangerous.
(In fact, I’m sure Mom and Mom-in-law are reading this thinking, “They’re trying to give me a heart attack! Why would they want to go to Afghanistan!”)
They were shocked. Americans think Afghanistan is dangerous? The whole thing? No way!
“There are lots of Americans in Kabul!”
“But Bamiyan is beautiful!”
“Some places are sooo normal, just like Bishkek!”
It’s just like the U.S. There are cities in Afghanistan where life goes on, without the images of war and sadness that the media bombards the U.S. with, just like there are cities in the U.S. that are full of crime and where I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around.
By the end of the session we were making plans to exchange English movies for Bollywood flicks, Farrell and I had joined in the constant fits of giggling, and we were all making jokes and smiling.
And who knows, maybe you’ll get some sweet pics from Afghanistan in the near future?