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Lessons of Love in Afghanistan: A Lifelong Commitment to the Afghan People Paperback – March 14, 2014
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From the Author
This book offers views of middle class, Afghan family life rarely referenced in other books or news stories. My husband's fluency in Farsi and Dari allowed us to be "insiders" during our Peace Corps days. I developed enough proficiency in Dari to regain that status on my own during the past 12 years. I also interacted with Afghans from a wide range of social classes during my work and travel in 16 provinces of the country.
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Meanwhile, Griffin began studying Dari, the version of Persian that is spoken in northern Afghanistan, and she began adjusting to the realities of being a woman in a conservative Moslem nation. She learned how to dress, how to behave in the company of Afghan men, and, in short, how to limit her aspirations. She and her husband would remain in the country until mid-1969.
More than 30 years later, Griffin’s life had changed: She had raised a family, earned a Ph.D. in education, established a career as a college professor, and, sadly, lost her husband Michael, who died in 1999. She returned to Afghanistan in June of 2002 in her mid-‘50s, ostensibly for a summer sabbatical, which turned into a decade of service to her adopted home.
“On this trip to Afghanistan,” she writes, “I knew exactly what I was doing. I was coming back to where I’d started my life with Michael. . . I was returning on behalf of both of us to let the Afghan people know that we had not abandoned them, and to do what I could to help them rebuild after three decades of war.”
The impact of war was evident as soon as Griffin arrived in Kabul: “As the plane began its descent, the view of Kabul from the air showed me that the city had changed dramatically in thirty-four years. . . Instead of the clear blue winter sky that used to amaze me, I looked down through thick brown smog over a barren landscape between buildings damaged by rockets and gunfire. . . What I saw was an ugly, sprawling, traffic-clogged metropolis inhabited by over two million people.”
Working with international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) Griffin took on a variety of developmental projects that matched her own professional qualifications as an educator and administrator. She worked in education, developing training programs for English language instruction. She became involved in developing computer labs around the country, including one in Kandahar. She took on projects in higher education. And she pursued her interest in women’s literacy and health. “As I prepared to talk to the women, I thought, ‘I was made for this. This is why I am back here in Afghanistan!’”
Throughout her book, Griffin underplays the dangers inherent to her new role in Afghanistan. Although she occasionally describes requisite security strategies, she never admits to fear. Her obvious bravery is always understated. (The reality of the situation becomes clear when Griffin is trapped in the Kabul Serena Hotel during the January 2008 attack by the Taliban.)
“Lessons of Love in Afghanistan” is the compelling and beautiful story of a woman on a unique mission. “When people ask me why I keep returning to Afghanistan despite security concerns, I try to articulate my feeling that I have unfinished business in the country.”