A Short Walk in the Afghan Countryside

On their way to a park built in the shadow of Bamiyan’s Buddhas, two Americans encounter remnants of war and signs of promise

Mud-brick homes dot the hillside along the road from Bamyan City to the Bamyan Family Park. (Kristin Ohlson)

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As it turned out, I had grossly miscalculated the distance to the Bamiyan Family Park. Later, we figured out that we had only walked about eight miles, but it felt like 50 with the sun beating down and radiating off those rocky cliffs. We rested in whatever shade we could find and hoped to find the stone walls of the park around every curve. Finally, we passed yet another field where a family was planting potatoes. The matriarch strode over with a big smile and shook our hands and asked us to tea. She was so extraordinarily friendly that I wondered if she was remembering the distant 1960s, when hippies camped along the river in the Bamiyan Valley and the sight of ambling, unarmed korregi was a pretty decent indicator of stability. I saw the gleam of her kettle against the fence and was about to follow her back through the furrows. Why continue to decline this most Afghan of gifts, hospitality and generosity even when she and her family had so little to give?

But just then, our friends drove up and carried us back to the park. We had our tea and some lunch on the terrace above the playground. Boisterous men in their 20s had taken over the swings and the slides and the jiggly wooden bridge between two elevated platforms, and they were vying to see who could make the other lose his balance. Soon, a musician began singing Hazara ballads near the park’s main fountain and the men left. From nowhere, it seemed, women in jewel-colored scarves and their children arrived to claim the playground.

Kristin Ohlson is the co-author of The Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil. Her trip to Afghanistan is funded by a Creative Workforce Fellowship from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.

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