* A Different Afghan Winter Photo Essay Series

Green

Permaculture: Being Vulnerable with one another and with the Earth’s Feelings

Bamiyan Peace Park: Even the Stones will Speak

Equal

Genderless Bikes in Afghanistan

Afghan Street Kid Mehdi’s Disappearing Dream

Another hard reality about Afghan duvets

Nonviolent

Relationships can heal ‘terrorism’

Ending the war inside and outside us

For Omid, Mursal, Mehdi, and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, this winter in Afghanistan was different from the usual.

“This is the Afghan story, that I’ve been a breadwinner since I was very little,” 19 year old Omid said with perceptible angst. It is a usual story for young Afghans to have prematurely lost one or two parents, and to have to pick themselves up again and again to face the world. “I’ve taken up different kinds of ‘jobs for the poor’ ( ‘gharibi kardum’).”

“But, it still doesn’t quite work out,” Omid looked down in pensive thought. I could only imagine how Omid had tried twice to smuggle himself to Europe, once running away from threatening gunshots.

Omid Loads Duvets

“I’ve found a flicker of hope this winter, helping with the duvet project, and then learning about the climate, sun, water, soil and food through the permaculture design course.”

15 year old Mehdi had signed up for the course too.

I wish he had stayed throughout the course with Nisar, another street kid, and 42 other Afghan youth. Mehdi told me shyly, “Teacher, I thought someone else had taken my place in the course.” My guess was that his father needed him to find some extra income for the family. It was to make ends meet that Mehdi had to stop schooling last year. Isn’t this especially hard for an industrious, considerate kid who dreams of being a doctor?

Mursal is 13 or 14, and after two years in the Borderfree Street Kids School, she has discovered the activist within her, recently learning to ride the bicycle with the Borderfree Afghan Cycling Club. One day, she approached me and other volunteer teachers, saying, “I want to organize support for street vendors who are hit by the police with their batons.” My soul lit up, recognizing the struggle against such injustices which sparked the Tunisian revolution and ensuing Arab Spring.

Witnessing the energy of these never-say-die stalwarts who are too young to be shouldering responsibilities which adults have shirked, I feel like I’m at the edge of a cliff.

All over the world, we’re grasping this reality: the political, military and economic elite are bringing ‘The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist’s doomsday’s clock of earth and humanity’ to three ‘minutes to midnight’.

That’s why more and more people are autonomously building another world. Like Omid, Mehdi, Mursal and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, they are saying, “#Enough! is #Enough!”

I’ve tried to tell these stories through *six photo essays. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did in putting them together.

They depict the #Enough! GENeration I’m privileged to be working with, tender human beings who wish to nurture Green, Equal and Nonviolent relationships.

They are sick and tired of war, and want to abolish it. They represent the fragile, better sides of our human nature. They are the 99%.

It excites me that they could change everything even if their group ceases to be, because they try to work with ‘root meanings’ and not ‘superficial terms’, and because they’re suggesting a way, and not a thing or a person that can be eliminated or imprisoned.

These green, equal and nonviolent relationships can change our politics, economy, environment and our understanding of safe and secure spaces. They have been changing me by laughing, crying, worrying, healing and shivering with me.

Their love is carrying me through the whole range of emotions which point me to a better world, to who I really am, a human, a fellow human being.

 

Another hard reality about Afghan duvets

“Ali, Abid, Omid, Zarghuna, Zohra, Barat…. be kind to us,

give us some duvets…” ranted the many Afghan women,

again and again,

I saw your kindness as you carefully weighed the duvet material,

spoke softly to each lady,

and handed out the duvets for free.

You try to explain the realities,

while the crowds cope with their reality: desperation,

and the women scramble for their children to keep warm.

So, you remain strong when you’re out there,

though sometimes, like the mothers, you’re crumbling inside.

You organize the best you can,

and maintain survey lists and duvet cards diligently.

When you look through the surface to their felt needs,

you wish for them to be loved,

and happy,

for you know they have iron-clad barriers to overcome,

and phantom pains to carry,

both the men and the women,

all having loved ones,

endlessly harsh hours,

and untenable predicaments.

In your duvet team, stresses mount,

tempers simmer,

because your energies are spirally called upon,

the burdens accumulative.

But then, in the quiet intervals,

you listen

to each

and you empathize from your personal experiences.

You hear their war-stricken stories,

and you tell them yours.

In the merciless face of a militarized, predatory economy,

you try to offer a measure of comfort and service.

Still, each of you are only human and you get overwhelmed.

You tell me you may need psychiatric care afterwards,

and that you struggle with what you see.

The people’s requests pile on, such that at day’s end,

your heavy head is in need of some relief and a massage.

You reach deeply into yourself,

as each person tells you, “What I really need is a long term job.”

Another hard reality about Afghan duvets

01 Ali and Abid and the duvet seamstresses

“Ali, Abid, Omid, Zarghuna, Zohra, Barat…. be kind to us,

give us some duvets…” ranted the many Afghan women,

again and again,

02 Ali weighing the duvet material with Mehdi

I saw your kindness as you carefully weighed the duvet material,

03 Abid attending to each lady

spoke softly to each lady,

04 Omid handing out duvets

and handed out the duvets for free.

05 Ali and Abid explaining

You try to explain the realities,

06 the expectant crowds

while the crowds cope with their reality: desperation,

07 women carrying their duvets home

and the women scramble for their children to keep warm.

08 service demands  strength

So, you remain strong when you’re out there,

09 patient but crumbling

though sometimes, like the mothers, you’re crumbling inside.

10 distributing duvets from a hired truck

You organize the best you can,

11 Ali checking for a duvet card at a distribution

and maintain survey lists and duvet cards diligently.

12 looking through the synthetic wool

When you look through the surface to their felt needs,

13 a duvet cover

you wish for them to be loved,

14 a girl is happy to receive duvets

and happy,

15 much to overcome

for you know they have iron-clad barriers to overcome,

16 war brings much disability

and phantom pains to carry,

17 men and women

both the men and the women,

18 every one has a loved one

all having loved ones,

19 the harsh hours

endlessly harsh hours,

20 unbearable stories

and untenable predicaments.

21 a stressful moment

In your duvet team, stresses mount,

22 managing frustrations

tempers simmer,

23 channeling energies

because your energies are spirally called upon,

24 one too many

the burdens accumulative.

25 observations remind us

But then, in the quiet intervals,

26 listening

you listen

27 one by one

to each

28 empathizing

and you empathize from your personal experiences.

29 hearing their stories

You hear their war-stricken stories,

30 sharing your  stories with them

and you tell them yours.

31 limited resources need to be shared

In the merciless face of a militarized, predatory economy,

32 serving the duvet seamstresses tea

you try to offer a measure of comfort and service.

33 overwhelmed

Still, each of you are only human and you get overwhelmed.

34 managing secondary trauma

You tell me you may need psychiatric care afterwards,

35 seeing the extent of need

and that you struggle with what you see.

36 shouldering the weight

The people’s requests pile on, such that at day’s end,

37 among the people

your heavy head is in need of some relief and a massage.

38 reaching within for resilience

You reach deeply into yourself,

39 needing regular employement

as each person tells you, “What I really need is a long term job.”

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