Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Going to Afghanistan

Day 29 of 31 at TWT

"I wanna go to Afghanistan again sometime!" Rainbow Girl bounces in her booster seat. 

It takes me a second. Has she heard us talking about Afghanistan and figured out that it's a place? Then it hits me. "Ohhh! You want to go visit the /family/ from Afghanistan again sometime?!"

"YEAH! And RUN AROUND!" She leans toward me, lifts her chin and scrunches her face into her biggest smile.

I grin, remembering watching her and Sweetie frolic with the Afghan kids in their apartment when we first visited over a month ago. In their typical fashion, Sweetie put her hand over her heart and said "Salam" as I'd taught her, then immediately started trying to engage her 6 year old counterpart in a mutually unintelligible conversation about the pictures they'd drawn for each other, while Rainbow Girl initially wanted to stay in my lap. (It didn't help that her 3 year old counterpart kept toddling into the other room and shyly peering around the corner, even more uncertain of new things and people than Rainbow sometimes is!) Knowing how much Rainbow loves helping Husband cook, I'd tried to get her interested in watching the mom craft handmade bolani in the kitchen. We peeked as she formed soft dough balls and tossed them like pizza dough, then folded a potato filling into them.

One of the teens grabbed a couple of toys from the closet for the little ones and Rainbow scrambled off my lap. Soon, there was so much running and giggling it seemed like there were 10 young kids instead of 5, delighting in the universal language of play, dancing, and laughter even though they couldn't say any words each other might understand. Uncharacteristically, Rainbow even let the oldest teen girl pick her up and hug her! Between a smattering of English words, gestures, photos on our phones, and Google Translate, the teens and adults all talked about how cute they were, which kids gravitate towards mom or dad, and what we like to do.

By the time we were saying "tascha kor" ('thank you') and miming that the girls needed to get to sleep, both Rainbow and Sweetie were already asking when we could play with them again. 

I'll never forget the way their 6 year old squealed when she caught sight of the playground equipment the first time we took them to a park. "YAY!!!!" she screeched from my backseat, and they all ran around again, climbing and sliding together, both 6 year olds ending up with arms around each other on the walk back to the cars. (The family does not have a car yet, so as registered refugee volunteers, a colleague and I drove everyone from their family who wanted to go to the park, while Husband drove our girls to meet us there.)

Sweetie playing with the Afghan girl who's her age

When I told Sweetie that the kids were finally able to enroll in school after finishing all their medical checks, she noted, "But won't that be so hard for them? They don't know English!" She's met some of my students before when I've taken her to school events, but she'd never really spent quality time interacting with newcomer kids until we met this Afghan family.

"That's why I teach English to students who speak other languages!" I smiled proudly. "They'll have a teacher like me to help them! In fact, some of my friends are their teachers!"

Just a few months ago, I was reading about refugees and wondering what I could do to help (especially now that I teach in a part of our district that doesn't really receive them). Now, thanks the opportunity to be part of the district's welcome team in conjunction with our local refugee resettlement agency, my family has gained a whole family of new friends. It's an experience I highly recommend! 

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