Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, Monday

Sometimes we get the opportunity to see things as they really are. To understand a little bit more about places and the people who live there.

Monday was such a day. I had the priveledge of helping the American School host a group of kids from Kabul, Afghanistan. The only thing I knew about Afghanistan is what I saw on the news - and not much of it good. War, poverty, the Taliban hiding about. Not a very happy place.

So it was with great pleasure that I got to meet the extraordinary kids from the MMCC... and to learn how truly ordinary they are. In explanation, MMCC stands for Mobile Mini Circus for Children, which is an international NGO. In Afghanistan, there are a lot of kids who have been left without homes or families because of war. They seldom smile, let alone laugh. A majority of the towns there don't have schools or even teachers, so the kids we hosted travel around to these areas and try educate other children by acting, singing, doing magic shows and acrobatics - and most importantly, giving them something to smile about. This way, they're able teach the importance of peace, diversity, and women's rights and to educate about health issues such as malaria prevention.

The MMCC kids gave a special performance for the kids at the ASIJ elementary school. In their fancy costumes, they looked different than the other kids. Their beautiful language sounded different than the many other languages we might hear in the ASIJ community. But when they were done performing and they changed into their "regular" clothes, the differences fell away. They played, just like everyone else. The boys played soccer (pheonominally, I might add) and the girls played in the gym, shooting baskets or practicing volleyball serves. Outside, they especially liked the swings and the slides. Just like all the other kids. For all their ethnic and cultural differences, these kids were... kids.

Now, this is nothing new to me. We have about seventeen different nationalities represented at this school at a given time. But it drove home a point. We are all the same. We want the same things. We want to have fun, to be loved, to be happy. That doesn't change according to ethnic group or nationality or culture.

For example, as one of the parent volunteers, I helped serve a vegetarian lunch to the MMCC guests. Guess what foods were the favorites? Potato chips and Pepsi! Also, the girls in particular really attached to the volunteers, touching our faces and telling us we were 'cute' or 'beautiful.' (They had learned a little Japanese in preparation for this trip and used the Japanese word for cute, but tried to explain beautiful.) Believe me, I was sincere when I would touch their faces in return and tell them they were beautiful, too. They liked to hold our hands and hug us and call us 'mom,' which was particularly poignant since many of them have no family of their own. They needed that physical contact. Just like any other kid.

That night, I turned on the TV and watched the latest on CNN about a car bombing in Kabul, and my eyes filled with tears. I can no longer see Kabul as some obscure, far away place populated by nameless, faceless people. It is the home of my new friends - Abida, Roona, Mishina, Samira, and little Ansar. This is what they have waiting for them when they return to their country. It breaks my heart.

To my new friends and to all kids wherever you are, from every nationality, ethnicity, culture or religion, may you find peace and joy and all the love you deserve.