Bridging divides

We are in Maine. After a 3 hour drive it felt as if we were deep into Maine but when you look at the map we barely made a dent into this gigantic state.

We came to visit F. and his American homestay parents. He is on Christmas break from his college in New Mexico. About a year ago we said goodbye to him at SOLA in Kabul before he headed out to a high school in Maine. That is how it all started. Now he is one and a half year shy of his International Baccalaureate.

His American mom has become like a another volunteer SOLA teacher, except that she does it from Maine. Twice a day she is on video skype with SOLA, and helps F, F’s cousin, to get her English up enough to get into college in the US and follows her cousin’s footsteps.

We talked with her for about half an hour on video skype, the first time I had seen her since I left last September. What progress we noted in her English!

She is in the middle of her college application, a very challenging task for someone who never learned how to write essays in her Afghan schools. Her ‘mom’ stayed up long after we had gone to bed to help her improve her essays.

The education at SOLA, which is to help them get into schools in the US or elsewhere in the western world is incompatible with traditional Afghan education. The SOLA boys and girls have learned to ask questions and be critical thinkers, not a quality Afghan teachers like.

Several of the SOLA girls find themselves in a no (wo)man’s land where they are not up to snuff for American school but with too much snuff for Afghan schools. Not unlike many other places in the world, the kids who are pulling themselves out of the mediocre mass to create a better and different future for themselves find themselves kicked back into place. I can only hope it makes them more resilient – on top of a resiliency that everyone in Afghanistan has already developed.

We watched F’s video about building a tennis court for the girls at a Kabul school. It is a wonderful example of having a vision and then creating it. He did this is less than two months. The whole process from A to Z is shown in the video though the work of mobilizing the resources is not shown; he raised about 2000 dollars and managed a workforce part volunteer part hired. He’s the kind of person you would want on your team!

We also watched a slide show of the Christmas party, including tree and ornaments and gifts, that was organized by and for the people that either run SOLA and its household or benefit from its existence.

Seeing the laughter and smiles, watching them unwrapping gifts and decorating themselves with the bows and ribbons, seeing them enjoy the special meal made for a Christmas present all by itself.

They overcame the hesitance that usually accompanies the celebration of days that are holy in another religion. The girls learned that Christmas preceded Christianity by a long time and that good Moslems can celebrate being together and give gifts to one another just for the sake of being grateful and appreciative. Much like good Christians can celebrate the specialness and gratefulness that Eid is all about.

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