Monday, January 17, 2011

The Kite Runner

“As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the mind without culture can never produce good fruit.” Seneca (Roman philosopher)
Note: The beginning of this blog post was posted on Facebook in a note.

As I finished reading The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini) I found myself with tears in my eyes. At first I simply thought the tears were caused by the story line about Amir finding "a way to be good again." as touching as the story is, I realized that the tears transcended the story... I was also tears eyed for the lack of understanding and knowledge many Americans have in regards to Afghan culture. In all the years of war, violence and bloodshed, Afghanistan remained a country which many Americans wouldn't be able to locate on a map. Until 9/11... To this day Afghanistan continues to be plagued by further violence. Reports list statistics "...65 killed in bomb blast..." or " soldiers killed on patrol..." But what of the people? What of their culture? Nothing much is publicized about their culture. Having read both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns I feel that i understand a small amount of the culture that has been troubled by wars and violence for such a long time. And so it is to begin understanding this culture that caused the tears to come to my eyes.

Having thought about this same issue in regards to the culture I interact with every day, I must say that it saddens me further that there is another beautiful, rich, wonderfully creative culture that many people do not know much about. In fact, Somali culture is rather similar to Afghan culture in that articles are written about the wars and violence in the countries - for example, "Roadside bomb kills 17 Afghan " or "Mogadishu bomb blast kills 6 soldiers".
Yet hardly any positive news are worthy of being aired on CNN or other networks in the U.S.

Having lived with the Somali culture for the last year and a half (with another year of living with them forthcoming) I realize how blessed I have been to have had an opportunity to learn from these wonderful people - to see how they live, work, and entertain themselves.

At first, it can be a strange setting to someone who is used to 'western culture' coming to this land where:
  • children play with boxes with plastic bottle-tops as the wheels pulling these 'cars' around with a piece of string.
  • children play football (read soccer) with plastic bags that have been wrapped up tightly into a spherical shape and tied with twine.
  • children are taught to memorize and regurgitate information through all of their schooling.
  • time does not equal money; and thus there is no hurry to get from point A to point B.
  • people equate foreigner (especially American or European) to money/funds/etc. [read American = $$].
After living in this culture for a while though, many of these things you realize are just part of life. I have grown in many ways since I left the US over 2 years ago. One of the things that I have realized is that children do not need to have fancy toys to have a good time. Yes, of course children do need stimulation to grow and develop and to that end fancy toys might help, but are not a necessity. Heck, just playing football with a 'resident' foreigner seems to cheer them up quite a bit.

At any rate, getting back to the point of this blog post...
The Kite Runner (and A Thousand Splendid Suns, also written by Khaled Hosseini) got me thinking about Afghan culture as they were thoroughly immersed with cultural details as part of the story lines.
In a similar fashion, I feel that I, myself, are in a current story line that has not yet reached the ending - only in this case, the culture is Somali instead of Afghan.

Both of the books have specific endings to their stories.

My story is yet to end, but I do know this.

The ending to my story, I am rather certain, will not be a sad one.
For if nothing else, I can say that I have been truly blessed for having had the opportunity to live with and learn from this wonderful culture.