Afghanistan: out of sight but never out of mind (30 May 2016)


As I sit here, my first half-term on my route into teaching firmly behind me, in the comfort of a warm home, with family and friends a short drive away at best, a phone call away at worst, I cannot believe that it is now over 10 years ago that I headed out to Afghanistan, in October of 2005. So much has happened, so much time has passed, and yet some of the memories, the sounds, smells, moments, feelings of those days are as fresh and alive within me as they were then.

Afghanistan got under my skin in a way few other places did. I still cannot read books, watch news reports or look at my photos without a mixture of longing, joy and sadness, bitter-sweet emotions which I can barely put into words even today. While life will undoubtedly get busy again after half-term and even before ( not least because I want to start working my way through some of the items on my reading list for my PGCE next year) , I do want to try and carve out some time in the coming weeks and months to try and piece together memories and bring them to life. It somehow seems selfish to keep in my heart all that was special, precious and amazing about my two years out there; and those days out there are not only part of my memory but perhaps a snapshot of an era in Afghanistan which may well be over: Afghanistan was unsafe even when I was out there from 2005 to  2007, but some of the field trips we conducted back then would be unthinkable now.  Aid workers are now even more confined to their offices and living compounds than ever before. War, violence, civilian casualities and oppression are as rife as ever.

And yet I want to believe that the strong spirit of Afghanistan and its people will never be broken; that despite the many civilian casualities in this brutal war, the poverty and the impact of climate change, the intrinsic beauty of this Central Asian country and its people will weather the storms. I want to continue nourishing hope that one day, Afghan children will grow up not knowing war and insecurity; that  Afghan men and women will be able to remain in their country instead of embarking on arduous journeys to Europe; that one day tourists will be able to swim in the crystal clear lakes in the Central Highlands, hike in the mountains between Kabul and Jalalabad without fear of mines, visit the beautiful blue mosque and carpet shops in Mazar with a sense of deep peace,  go to school without fear of the Taliban and fly their kites with hearts full of hope about their future.

In the meantime, all I can do is to share my experiences of this beautiful country….the good, the bad, the frightening; pay my respect to those people with whom I lived and worked, and give their situation a voice. I will refrain from publishing too many photos as I am worried it could put people at risk………and just hope that my diary entries will somehow bring the country and its people to life.