Alison Long (Afghanistan)

Alison Long (Omid, Afghanistan): In 2000, Alison earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Princeton. She spent a year in rural Vietnam teaching English. Alison returned to the U.S. and taught at a small school in New Jersey before relocating to DC. At the time of her fellowship, Alison was pursuing her master’s at School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC, in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs, with a concentration in women's rights and gender issues. While at American University, Alison interned at Disabled Persons International (DPI) and served as a research assistant for human rights professor Julie Mertus. Alison is also the 2006 recipient of the School of International Service's Brady Tyson Award for Excellence in the Area of Human Rights.

One Week Until Departure

20 May

I leave in exactly one week for Kabul, Afghanistan. I’m so very excited, but also anxious, to spend three months working for Oruj Learning Center, a small, indigenous NGO that promotes girls’ education. I have lived and worked abroad before, but never in an Islamic state. I’ve read a great deal about the country, the people, and the organization for which I’ll be working. I’ve also spoken to several people who are currently living in Kabul. However, I feel like nothing will prepare me fully for what I will experience this summer.

While most of my friends and family support my choice to work in Afghanistan, they are very much concerned for my safety. The reactions I received when I announced I was going to work in Kabul this summer ranged from “That’s so amazing, I can’t wait to hear all about it!” to “Don’t Go!”

Friends’ and strangers’ advice has been limiteless. I’ve been told to cover up, dress modestly; make cautious and careful decisions; don’t travel to or from work the same way everyday; before I get in a vehicle I should always look under the car; do not ever use the one ATM in Kabul; since I have to take all my funds in cash, I should carry the money on different parts of my body; I should not walk through the city by myself; if I were to travel between provinces, never drive– try to find a flight; don’t advertise that I’m American. That final piece of advice seems obvious, but all the more important since 5 American workers were killed on Jalalabad Road on 21 May.

Oh, and my favorite piece of advice that I’ve received: Be advised, you will be flying through Iran and into southwestern Afghanistan… Look out the window for any “red corkscrews” coming towards the aircraft. Joking aside, it’s all a little overwhelming.

It is somewhat comforting that I do not have to go through this journey alone: I will be traveling and living with Erica Isaac, who will be working at the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN) on violence against women, and Carrie Hasselback, who interned at AWN last year.

We have secured a place to live and, hopefully, a woman to tutor us in Farsi during our time there. Since we’ll be arriving in Kabul at 9:30am, we’ll be able to shop for beds, clothing, and other necessities that very same day.

I am certain we will be exhausted when we land– after traveling for almost two days–but I look forward to reconciling my preconceived notions of Afghanistan with its reality.

In general, I feel prepared for my trip, as all my paperwork in order, my suitcases packed, and training underway. The only difficult task I have yet to perform is saying goodbye to my family and friends.

Posted By Alison Long (Afghanistan)

Posted May 20th, 2006

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