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.

The Sounds of Kabul

07 Jun

After one week in Kabul, I can now tell the difference between:

A gunshot and construction work.

A RPG (rocket propelled grenade) and a speeding car that is missing certain crucial parts.

Tanks and garbage trucks.

After one week in Kabul, I have also come to know:

The call to prayer, projected through a scratchy bullhorn, and originating in the mosque located 100 meters from my building.

Beginning at 9:30 every night, the nonstop barking of packs of dogs roaming the city–though we have yet to see a dog in Kabul during daylight hours (we have, however, frequently seen men walking goats on leashes).

The techno Arabian versions of songs by Ricky Martin, Spice Girls, and Celine Dion’s “My heart will go on.”

Ted, our fighting Afghan bird, constantly clucking away in our living room.

A dust storm, usually at dusk, quickly building up and covering the city.

The whistle of Kabul authorities enforcing our nightly curfew.

The constant symphony of car horns, each one of them playing its own melody (rather similar to the various ringtones of cell phones).

Jets and helicopters tearing through the sky almost daily.

The never-ending stream of male voices, haggling in the market place next door.

Always being called “Madame” or “sir” (despite being a woman).

The English sayings most frequently employed by Afghans when they speak to us on the street: “No problem, no problem,” (shaking head “no”) “Very good sir,” “Okay (again, shaking head ‘no’),” “Thank you, my friend,” “Price: done.”

Children laughing as they leave a school in Pachmun Valley, on the edge of Kabul.

After months of preparation, hardly any of these sounds were wholly unexpected. However, only the last one truly moved me. In fact, I was mesmerized by it and made my driver stop so that I could observe from the car. It was mid-day, just after the morning session had ended, when we came upon the school: a half a dozen UNICEF tents, clustered together, by the main road. One group of children, both girls and boys, giggled and chattered as they gathered at a water pump to drink and wash.

Watching them and listening to their voices, my thoughts quickly turned to my future work at Oruj. These children were most likely no different from the ones who attend the schools in Trilli, Noor Khel, Godah, and Fatima Zahra—the four schools with which Oruj works. I wondered how much students like these—and the girls of Oruj’s schools—could benefit from a real school building, proper supplies, and the open support of the community in which they lived and were being educated? How much of a difference would “luxuries” like those make in the lives and futures of these children? A great deal of difference, I believe. As Oruj’s objectives and actions are the manifestation of this belief, I feel rather honored to participate in its endeavors.

Posted By Alison Long (Afghanistan)

Posted Jun 7th, 2006


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