It's my last full day in Kabul. Hard to believe it's time to return home. Will I miss the 2.5 gallon shower? Will I miss sharing a bathroom with 10 people and bedroom with 4? Most likely not, but I will miss the people - the people on the trip and the people met during this strange journey.
I've kept alert. When we are out on the streets "waiting," it makes me nervous with the crowd it draws. I'm constantly looking around, being aware of my surroundings and what people are doing. Personal space does not exist here and I'm one who needs personal space.
Over the past few days, have met some incredible women. Last night, some of us went to the Kabul Beauty School. An American woman bright red hair, infectious laugh and heart of gold opened a salon and beauty school in August 2003. According to "Debbie," this is the only profession in Afghanistan where a woman can be in control. Each girl makes about $400 - $500 a month with tips and the husband never knows how much she makes. The woman controls how much money she gives to the husband.
I had a $20 hair wash and head massage - it made me feel human in a place where I've been taking showers with dirty water heated in a wood stove and poured over me in cupfuls. God, that shower in Dubai tomorrow night is going to feel great! Debbie has a great story and a book about the school and experience will be published next year by Random House.
Also met with the Minister of Women's Affairs. She had a 12 year old girl with her who has been in Kabul for 15 days. The Minister told us that while the US has secured the country from terrorism (for the most part), the homes have not been secured. Meaning, most men still abuse the women in the family. The young girl sat in her chair, arms crossed and shared her story. She was married at age 4 because her father was killed, mother remarried and step-father didn't want her. She was married to a 3 year old.
For the first year in her home, things were fine. Upon turning 5, her life was turned to hell. She was beaten, thrown off the roof (resulting in a broken arm), food-depraved and scalded with boiling water. She showed us her bald spot on her head and bumpy, pink scars on her back and arm. Watching her, she could have been any 12 year-old reciting a happy story, like a birthday or trip to the fair. But with the translation, we heard the reality and it brought tears to our eyes. She is now living in a NGO-run shelter in Kabul and will do so until 18.
There have been so many important women we've met. I only hope these women do not get discouraged and give up their quest for equality. By US standards, progress will be slow and we need to be patient and help when we can.