Friday, July 13, 2007

Culture and Customs of Afghanistan

A few posts back I committed to actually doing something to benefit the world. I haven’t yet figured out how to end the conflict in Darfur, but I have volunteered with an organization that matches native English teachers with Afghani women.

Twice a week, I spend half an hour talking with my Afghani pupil via the internet (Skype). My student is an English professor at an Afghani university, and after our first session together, I realized I know nothing about Afghanistan and the Afghani people.

My ignorance is rather surprising—and embarrassing—considering the U.S.’s presence in Afghanistan since 2001. I listen to NPR religiously, so names like Taliban, Kandahar, and Harmid Karzai are familiar to me. I’ve read The Kite Runner (a book a have mixed feelings about), started (but did not finish) The Bookseller of Kabul, and have Kabul Beauty School on my “to read” list.

But what do I actually know about Afghanistan?

Very little. For example, during our first conversation, my student talked about Dari and Pashto. Dari and Pashto?

I felt my ignorance and immediately turned to books for information. I was disturbed to discover my library has only one recently published book: Culture and Customs of Afghanistan.

After reading (okay, more like skimming) the book, I am far from an expert on Afghanistan. But I do know that Dari and Pashto are the country’s two official languages (and over 30 other languages are spoken there). I know that education for women—particularly higher education—is uncommon so my pupil is something of a phenomenon.

Backed with a bit more information, I felt more confident during our second meeting. As we spoke, though, I realized that despite the differences in our landscapes, governments, and religious beliefs, we also have a lot of similarities.

We are both driven in our educational goals, we both live in societies with certain expectations about women (and neither of us have met those expectations), and we both come from loving and supportive families.

I know it sounds like a platitude, but I am discovering that women really are the same worldwide.

4 comments:

The Aspirant said...

Thanks for telling me about your new adventure. Will had to tell me!! I'm the worst sister ever!

Blogger said...

I prefer to announce things on this blog--I want to force people to read it.

Wanna-Be Lit said...

Wow! I can't believe you are doing this! Way to go. How did you find out about this organization? And what is the purpose? I expect regular updates about your knowledge of Afghanistan and your Skype conversations.

Blogger said...

I heard about the organization months ago on an ESL teaching site--it's actually a women's rights organization. I suppose the idea is that fluency in English is empowering--and I agree. Hopefully, I'll be of some benefit to my student.