Saturday, July 8, 2006

Kabul 7/8/06

Salam Alekom

Since my last e-mail I have grown and learned so much. Proof lies in that my beard is an inch longer.

The teachers at the circus are amazing. Every morning I wake up and great all the men with smiles and kisses on the cheek. Interactions with women are more reserved, a greeting is interment if I shake their hands. I have seen less than 10 unveiled women’s faces and I have seen thousands of people.

Eye contact is such an important part of the Afghan culture. People really take the time to look at each other and check in on one another. Afghans have the most brilliant eyes, alive and excited.

I have been working with the children almost every day now for two and a half weeks. I have learned a few things. The first is that Afghanistan is a culture of change.

The children have spent a long time juggling, a number of my lessons teach them juggling that is counterintuitive to their muscle memory.

A good example is the concept of teaching a juggler to spin a juggling pin in the opposite direction. Normally it takes a juggler a few days to months to wrap their minds around this reverse movement, these children have learned reverse concepts in hours.

The children grab on to counter intuitive concepts exceptionally well, they have the ability to let go.

Here is an excerpt from my travel journal.


I woke up, drank half a box of grapefruit juice from Russia, put nutella on my Nan and ran out the door to the circus bus. Today I am not going to get sick. We all crowd on the bus, today is a performance day!

Just as we get ready to head out a merchant pushes his cart filled with candy, soda, and pictures of movie stars from India on over to the bus. In the movie star pictures the women are not wearing a head scarf, very scandalous. Some of the children escape to get some sugar however most can’t afford it. The bus pulls away in a cloud of blue-green diesel smoke. We are off, headed north. Many of the main roads have been paved in asphalt; the tertiary roads however are a roller coaster of pot-holes. After driving for about an hour we make a left turn onto an unmarked street (99.9 percent of streets are unmarked). The bus takes up the entire road. Running down the middle is an open sewer. The bus come within inches of mud built walls that that reach 15 ft in the air and support thatched roofs. We arrive at the school and start to unload. The children at the school are so excited, this may be the only school assembly for the entire year. The kids unload the props, sets, etc. from the bus. The sound system in ingenious, it runs off of DC car batter power.

The school consists of Unicef tents and a few smaller buildings. School happens in the summer, boys and girls do not go to school at the same time. In many instances the boys will go to one school and the girls will go to another. In this instance the school is scheduled so that sometimes it teaches boys and in other parts of the day girls attends class.

The performance begins- I am using my video camera wedged in against a post and Renee is taking photos. The laugher is contagious; from time to time my chuckles vibrate the camera. The music consists of Mauari on the Tabala, and Shashir on the harmonium. The performance consists of singing, comedy skits, juggling, unicycle, and acrobatics. The children range in age, I believe from 8 until 14. Slapstick comedy is what really gets the audience excited; Afghanistan is a place of physical prowess and people who are very proud of who they are and what they do. Just recently Body Building has become the rage here in Kabul. Its very weird- y
ou see signs of Arnold Swertseneger all pumped up.

The performance comes to an end a
nd everything gets packed up with in minutes. The school presents the performers with plastic flowers, pastries, and chi. They don’t have much and it’s really a kind. We pile on the bus and back down the little alley. All of a sudden two of the wheels drop 3 ft and fall into the open sewer. The bus almost flips over. Instantly we jump to the high side of the bus and climb out the door. The entire community starts to push the bus; shit literally is flying through the air as the tires spin. The bus pulls out of the ditch, the axel is not bent. We climb back in and head back to the circus. Its not event noon, my journal goes one for about 4 more pages and it is over 50 pages long…

Every day here in Kabul is something to write about. Moments contrast each other. The human
spirit soars and falls. I will try and write another e-mail before I travel back home in 4 days. The internet often times can only be happen if a generator is fired up, the connection speed is very slow. Thank you once again for helping me have this incredible experience. With Love, Laughter, and Kindness from Kabul- Ben


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