You may recall my previous rant about running (and how I don’t necessarily care for the activity.) Today, we performed a short physical training assessment (PT test.) It was nothing major, just some push-ups, some sit-ups and an extremely short timed run (one mile.)
I’m no spring chicken anymore. (I won’t tell you my age, but lets just say that I see nothing wrong with parachute pants, and if you know the phrase “Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats, HOOOOOOO”, then you’re in my age bracket.) Gone are the days when I could break my leg and another would grow back to take it’s place. Now-a-days, when I exercise, my body lets me know when it needs to slow down.
So, while being pressed to do as many push-ups as I could do in one minute, my body was letting me know that I’m getting older. A lil’ snap here, a lil’ pop there … my bones and muscles are still functioning, but not like they used to.
Still, I endured. I did well on the exercises, and finished the run in a good time.
After the run, we had a class on how interact with women in Afghanistan. (Cliff notes version: you don’t, unless you’re a woman.) I think there is a lot of fuss made about how the world is helping to liberate women and “free” them from their burkas (the head-to-toe coverings,) and teach them to read and vote. I don’t think people realize that for the safety of women in Afghanistan, most military people actually don’t interact with them. (This is out of concern for women who might be in danger for interacting with anyone other than their families.) We can’t talk to them, we can’t look at them, and we CERTAINLY can’t touch them for fear of upsetting the men (who we are trying to influence with our work.)
This is odd, because it has been said that our success in the ‘stan is based in part on how we bring women into society.
If you think about the challenges that exist in the ‘stan, like the opium trade, female abuse, the corruption, the lack of government, the border disputes between surrounding nations, the lack of basic medical care, the religious infighting, the lack of employment, the lack of education, the violence, and (well, you get the idea … ) If you think about all of these challenges, it might be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, or more appropriately, how one team building schools and water wells can really make a difference given the big scheme of things.
I’m not so naive that I believe that our team will change the world overnight. It’s probably safe to say that we’ll be in the ‘stan for a long time after I’m gone. But if people (women) in the ‘stan see that in spite of the problems there, people are still willing to TRY to travel there to help, maybe it incites one person to action that may not have had the idea to do so before. If we’re lucky, this will happen. If not, I’ll be content to be able to wiggle my fingers and toes when I come home.