One of Axel’s SOLA students, Farid, showed up at my house with a friend, Fatima who, like him, returned from a stay with an American family while attending high school. If placing young Afghans with American families and sending them to school for a while has the same results that I saw with these too, we should be sending thousands of them to the US (and, to avoid them skipping to Canada, guaranteeing them a re-entry visa if they return to Afghanistan first before returning to colleges or schools that gave them secured scholarships). What a great deal!

What I saw was a case study in young adult leadership – if we could multiply what these two are doing by a few thousands this country would be on its way back to normalcy soon.

Upon their return the two approached the principal of a girls high school from which one of them graduated, to ask permission for introducing tennis as a third option for girls who can now only choose basketball or volleyball as their school sport. Farid had taken up tennis at his high school in Maine and sees an opportunity. His coach assured him that the International Tennis Federation would be interested in getting Afghans hooked on this sport. His enthusiasm was contagious and I immediately launched an appeal on facebook for getting Afghans to Wimbledon by 2050.

The principal thought it a good idea, the Ministry of Education thought so too, its engineers approved the site, Farid pulled down the specs from the internet, lined up a contractor, negotiated the cost of a net and rackets/balls down from their foreigner prices with a local vendor. They are now waiting for the remaining 500 dollar to come in to purchase the building materials. Labor will be provided by their friends. I offered to help – bringing in 500 dollars should not be too difficult.

I marveled at their energy, vision and drive. We brainstormed about how to get a fence or netting around the court, a considerable expense – but wait, wouldn’t the military have some of that just sitting around? We racked out brains for connections with people in the military. Farid’s hairdresser in Maine has a daughter who is here in uniform – a start; and Fatima knows someone here who knows someone in the military – another start. If ever one doubted the importance of networking, we proved these doubts to be baseless. Although there are no results yet, the rush of energy about possibilities gave everyone hope and yet more energy. That’s the neat thing about vision.

In my Dari class I started in a third grade public school textbook. I feel sorry for the 9 year olds who have to learn this way. The first three lessons are all religious and with words that are more appropriate for 11th graders than 3rd graders, with pictures of the Kaba in Mecca, the Mosque in Medina, printed on cheap paper in stark black and white that allows for no nuances. The whole lesson doesn’t allow for nuances. The lessons have questions (what do you see in the picture) that leave nothing to the imagination and groupwork that basically ask kids to read back what they read in the text. The whole things sharply contrasting with Farid and Fatima’s approach to life and learning which is all about curiosity, experimentation and the pursuit of a vision.

I woke Tessa up to congratulate her on her 26th birthday and thought back to that joyous event all those years ago when Axel burned the croissants in the birth center’s oven that locked for cleaning and incinerated them, which brought the fire trucks out while I was laboring heavily.

I wanted to catch her before preparations for her customary birthday beach party are well on their way. Apparently it is a 10+ day in Manchester by the Sea, with high tide at 1 PM – add to that one’s best friends (called in among other things through facebook) and all should be a most joyous occasion. I tried not to be too sad to miss it but of course I am. I toasted my non alcohol beer to her continued health and happiness and, instead of croissants, baked myself a Lebanese thyme pizza (mana(q)ishe) that did not incinerate nor brought the fire trucks to my house. Some things do improve over time.

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