“I found myself in Afghanistan.” I said these words to my soul sister, Christiane, yesterday upon returning from Kabul a few days earlier. “Does that sound corny?” Inwardly cringing at the Pollyanna sound to the first statement.
Christiane smiled, wrapped her arms around me, and said, “It would if I hadn’t been reading your blogs while you were over there. It’s totally obvious you were home.”
Not that I was lost.
But for the first time I felt completely at ease in my own skin. I am someone that is reasonably confident, independent, and basically quite happy with myself and the people around me. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I am what I am, and as my friend Tony put it – “you just do what you do.” But there is always that feeling of holding back a part of who I really am for public consumption. Not wanting to be the one on stage (funny for someone who studied to become a professional dancer in an earlier life) or be the center of attention, yet reluctantly finding myself in that position more and more frequently. Feeling that I should ‘tone down’ a little my emotions, desires, goals, and expectations around others to put others at ease.
In Kabul, that all changed. I felt at ease, despite distinctly standing out in a crowd. I felt comfortable stepping into uncharted waters of first ever interviews taken with cabinet ministers. Doubt didn’t enter into the decision to jump on a buzkashi horse when the challenge was thrown down, despite being the only female around. I was just doing what I do. Often without thinking, just the natural rhythm of being true to one’s self.
Part of that came from that fear of looking Pollyanna-like, by truly admitting that by reading “Three Cups of Tea” and founding Mountain to Mountain that I’ve discovered what I want to be when I grow up. Afghanistan showed me that reality of possibilities being possible.
Tony saw this process in Kabul as he documented the trip through his camera and stated bluntly, “Shannon, you are the anti-Pollyanna.”
And he is right. There are no rose colored glasses when I look at Afghanistan, and truly feel at home. There is dirt and dust, squalor and poverty, gender inequality, corruption and crime. Quite the polarity shift from life in my quaint mountain ski town in the Rockies. Yet I see the magical quality in this small corner of the world. The crossroads of the silk road where diverse cultures and races intertwined. A land that has refused to be tamed by its multiple occupiers despite their best attempts to destroy the land and the culture. A people that refuse to give up and continue to fight for their children’s future and their country’s true potential.
So it was here, that I stepped up the plate and accepted that I will try to find my voice through writing (something never attempted before a few months ago). I will try to tell the stories I see in Kabul in hopes of inspiring others to see beyond the war and terrorism, and look instead to the amazing people working to change their own country’s path, the children that need schools, and the artists that thrive to keep Afghanistan’s culture alive.
It was also in Kabul that I accepted that I do, in fact, want to ‘save the world’. I want to do my small part and make a difference. I want to find projects, raise money, complete projects, affect lives, and then repeat. I want others to join me and share the burden and the joy.
photo by Di Zinno