california teen returns home to afghanistan
When Haider Akbar\'s father agreed to take office in the new Afghan government, he was still in high school.
He spent three summers there with a tape recorder.
His audio diary in Afghanistan was broadcast on American Life radio.
These audio diaries are now the foundation of a new book called back to Afghanistan.
Hyder Akbar, currently a student at Yale University
Created his story with Susan Burton.
Renee Montagne and Hyder Akbar talked about his summer experience in Afghanistan.
Read an excerpt from the August 2003 return to Afghanistan: prologucabo International Airport, which looks like it\'s going to fall off the airport.
You will notice this when you drive close to the terminal.
Flying through the air, this method inspires less confidence: you fly over the rugged mountains and will only reach a venue full of aircraft parts.
You go straight into this dump.
Leading to a U-shaped taxi
Forming the runway, you can see the debris scattered on the grass: the debris on the plane is broken, a huge wing, a crashed helicopter.
Rationally, you know these were shot down or blown up.
But the scene is so surreal, you want to know who put these things here?
It doesn\'t look like something human beings can do.
Instead, you imagine a huge monster stomping on the runway, picking up everything on the path, crushing the plane and throwing them on the ground like garbage.
You will soon realize that this is a different airport.
* My dad and I drove a white Ford Ranger pickup to Kabul International Airport today.
Afghanistan is dirty in summer;
This place is always dusty.
But you can\'t always see from the pictures: In the video I showed others in California, the air looks fresh and clean.
I don\'t understand where the dust went and how it disappeared.
When you are here, it must not be ignored: the country has been on the verge of collapse since the end of the powder.
However, the dust in Afghanistan may take years to settle, and at the same time, the country\'s roads will be characterized by its presence ---
There are checkpoints like this in front.
We met five or six people standing with guns.
There are hundreds of yards from here to the airport;
Usually you will see some people walking.
Most of the people who have the ability to leave Kabul can afford to get a taxi to the front of the terminal, so anyone walking might not really leave the city ---
Just meet someone here or on their way to work.
There is a big circle at the end of the road and you may see a fountain.
Instead, a Soviet fighter was mounted on a pole and looked like it was about to take off.
This monument does not seem appropriate, it is left over from the era of pain.
I don\'t know why it\'s still here.
There is almost nothing left in Kabul and it seems that a lot of effort is needed to protect this.
You can see that someone wants to push it down but decides not to because at least it still exists.
When so many things are erased, it\'s hard to know what to save.
* I have been in Afghanistan since June--
My father Fazel Akbar said most of the time was in Kunar province, where the governor was.
Like almost everyone working in Afghanistan, he is not familiar with his work.
At this time two years ago, he stood behind the counter on his hip.
He opened a beer shop in Oakland.
In September 11, everything changed when the Taliban fell.
My father sold the store and went to Afghanistan.
When I graduated from high school, I joined him in May 2002.
This is the first time I been to Afghanistan-
By the time I was born, the Soviet war had begun in December 1984 and my parents had left the country.
My father last summer. -
He was the spokesman for President Hamid Karzai. -
I live together in the explosion room. Hotel Kabul.
Now we sleep on a rope bed on the balcony of Governor Kunar\'s residence.
This is my second summer vacation in Afghanistan.
That\'s what I like to tell people: I\'m on vacation in Afghanistan.
My father had some meetings with Karzai and others in Kabul this week, after spending so much time in Kunar-
A remote tribal region with insufficient power and sufficient rocket launch.
My point of view is crooked.
I found myself thinking, Kabul is too tight, man.
For example, we drive on paved roads.
The road outside the capital is too bad. -
In a place that does not exist-that the 150-
It takes eight hours a mile from the governor\'s residence to Kabul.
It takes two to three days for California. -
The time is also very long, but at least it has a more reasonable correspondence with the map.
I\'m not sure, but I think my high school friend Rahman might be arriving with his family this afternoon.
Now we are close to the terminal and I get off the bus and start looking around hoping that Rahman will show up.
As usual, there is a group of people in front-
As many as a few hundred people gathered to meet the arriving flight-
Because the guard won\'t let anyone in.
The Afghan guards never seem to have uniform for them.
Mainly they are really, really loose.
Almost all the guards carry AK-47s.
They seem to be under a lot of pressure to give contradictory orders to cars-Park here! --
No, stop here! --and at people --Stay here! --
No, don\'t stay here! --
No, you can\'t come in!
They were nervous and excited.
It\'s not like the kind of atmosphere you feel at an American airport: a girlfriend waiting for her boyfriend to show up, shaking her car keys casually;
A wife read the magazine and scanned her husband from time to time.
The whole family is here, the people they want to meet may be other family members, they have been for several years, maybe not seen for decades.
The woman of Burkas sat on the ground and looked dirty and hot.
You know someone in a while. -
An aunt, a cousin, a sister-
I will walk out of the gate of the terminal building, dressed in beautiful clothes, looking fresh and clean.
I \'ve been imagining what it will look like when they greet each other, a person who manages to get out and a person who stays.
The guards harassed anxious families and pushed them from one area to another, and as tensions escalated I realized they didn\'t know what they were doing.
The new Afghan police force urgently needs training.
Some of these people may be barely used to being in big cities.
My father told the story of a taxi through Kabul.
Traffic was as bad as ever, and a policeman was trying to control the situation;
But he said, Usha, Usha, that\'s what you yell at a cow when you try to slow down.
This is not your order for a car or a human being;
This is an agricultural term. (Imagine an old-
The time cowboy tried to make the merged car on the Los Angeles highway, and he bid with a shout-out voice. )
Many people in charge of restoring order in Kabul are completely unprepared for their responsibility.
But after twenty
During the three-year war, few qualified personnel remained in Afghanistan.
I was worried that I wouldn\'t see Rahman when he came out, so I asked my dad if he could help me get into the terminal.
We looked around and saw an official we met last summer.
He had a beard then, but now he shaved it off.
The officer told me that he could get me in and I followed him behind the building.
We\'re right next to the runway, but it\'s not like other airports, where you\'ll hear the rumble of planes pushing back from the terminal or feel like they explode into the air every once in a while.
It\'s almost silent here.
I noticed a series of unusual luxury cars, a couple of Land Cruisers, maybe three Mercedes-Benz cars.
A small group of people were walking across the tarmac towards the plane. \"Who\'s the VIP?
\"I asked the officials. He looks over. \"Oh, him?
He said casually, \"That\'s the national murderer . \"
I know he\'s joking. -
Perform on the phrase \"national hero.
\"The national hero is Ahmed Shah Masood, the commander of the Northern League, who was assassinated a few days before the 9/11 incident, presumably a pre-emptive strike by al-Qaida.
Osama bin Laden and his deputies want to weaken Afghanistan\'s only opposition.
Before possible retaliatory strikes after a suicide hijacking in the United States, Taliban military forces.
Again, the official said, \"the national murderer, you know ---Ismail Khan.
Ismail Khan is the best in Afghanistan-known warlords.
Some Western journalists may write this sentence in a different way: describe Khan as \"notorious\" and cite his recent hateful human rights record. (
Khan\'s men reportedly gave electric shocks to dissidents and tested women for virgins. )
But his atrocities are not particularly famous among warlords.
For some time after the Soviet withdrawal, he was even considered a hero: He withdrew from the civil war that consumed many of his peers, and he maintained relatively peaceful conditions in his province, Herat.
Later, he escaped from Taliban prison and sought asylum in Iran.
He is now considered Iranian in Afghanistan.
Today, his stubborn refusal to share his collected income with the central government of Kabul has made him a major obstacle to reconstruction in this and other respects. (
Many government employees-
Including the front end of the police in charge of the Interior Ministry. -
No payment has been made in recent months. )
So I may be wrong, but I interpret this \"national murderer\" remark as an assessment of Khan\'s barbarism, rather than a measure of the threat to him and other warlords, A gesture of national unity
After a quarter
The turmoil of the century, the desire for stability, and the possibility that people like Ismail Khan might destroy the opportunities of others, inspired a strong anger.
* The officer and I moved on until we got to the back of the baggage belt.
I was surprised to see it work ---
The last time I came, they threw all the bags in a pile.
Some people are unloading a suitcase.
Except for almost no small bags, this is the same kind of luggage you can see anywhere.
It\'s interesting: When Americans talk about the upcoming trip, they never mention weight limits, but it\'s always the first thing the Afghans have put forward. (
In international flights, it is usually 70 pounds per bag. )
No matter where you go, there are many relatives and many things to take away. I have never traveled. even in China, weight restriction is not a problem: squat down, move 2 pounds from one suitcase to another while checking-
In, fill overflow to a carryon bag.
You won\'t have a break to come back either: at the end of the trip, you have your own gift for everyone on the other side, and you \'ve met all sorts of requirements ---
Give it to my mom, dried fruit, some spices.
The officer glanced at me, looked around, looked at the belt, and looked around.
\"Sit on this belt and it will take you in,\" he said . \".
\"No way,\" I refused.
\"What if they say something?
I don\'t want to bother you.
\"No, no, no,\" he said.
\"It\'s okay, it\'s okay.
I will be standing here before you go.
I watched you get off the bus.
\"That\'s all right,\" I said.
The belt is an ordinary black rubber that is recycled.
It enters and exits the terminal through the holes in the wall in front of us.
These holes look 3 feet high.
When I put myself on my belt, all I can think of is that I hit my head;
I will be very embarrassed.
I crouched, tuck headed, pulled my knees down, and went away.
A short drive--
A few seconds. -
I saw some faces before I entered the hall and people were staring at the hole I was going to come out.
Everyone leaned in and was eager to get their bag, but the passenger jumped out as soon as I showed up.
I straightened my waist, a silly little guy, about 18 years old, and started pointing. \"Oh my God! \" he says. \"Look at that!
\"I\'m wearing ordinary Afghan clothes ---
This is a kameez partoog, a long pajamas top and loose pants.
On my head there is a Pakistani guy, a hat with a flat top rolled edge, just like the fluffy edge of the pizza crust.
I haven\'t had a haircut for a while. -
My side corner is a bit prominent. -
It\'s been a day or two since I shave, which means my shadow is getting bigger and bigger.
It\'s strange to realize that people are afraid of me.
You carry a certain image of yourself, and I never thought I would inspire fear.
But for a new guy, I think I\'m really scared.
They \'ve been staring at the wreckage at the airport, already on the edge, and then I\'m coming, ready to jump forward and launch whatever they\'re ready ---
Grenades, uprisings, terrorist attacks.
If I shout \"Allahu-
Akbar \"now, I think there will be a stampede at the door.
Instead, I jumped off my belt and started knitting in the lobby.
Soon, no one even gave me a second look.
This is the other side of it. -
For every frightened person, there is another person who doesn\'t care.
In the United States, the entire airport will be closed and you will be watching breaking news about security breaches, but here no one will even bother to report the incident.
After so many years of chaos, they hired their shoulders.
This is Afghanistan. what do you expect?
The lobby was hot, hotter than outside, and loud, and everyone was crowded in a gate-sized area of JFK airport.
Most travelers seem to be Afghans coming back from abroad, the rest are foreigners, and almost everyone in both groups is dressed in Western clothes.
I position myself so I can see the passengers arriving.
I hope Rahman will see him when he gets off the plane.
* I called my friend Matin in California a few days ago.
This is the first time I have spoken to him all summer.
Matin was playing video games at someone\'s house and he told me that Rahman had just gone to Afghanistan.
Rahman\'s sister is engaged, and our friends make fun of his parents who are actually preparing some crazy arranged marriage for him.
I told Matin that I will be back in California soon, a little more than a week.
Ma Ting said they were planning a hiking trip to Lake Tahoe and I should go together.
I think back to my summer, I was hiking through the border with my uncle to Pakistan, the terrain was so steep, I thought I would be behind, I joked, \"I don\'t think I want to do this when I come back from Afghanistan and climb more mountains.
\"But I hope I can come back in time to go with them.
* I watched the passengers line up and the guard opened the passport and checked the visa.
Two Americans are talking next to me.
They seem to be foreign journalists. -
Buttons and pants
Down jacket with rollup sleeves.
I noticed that every time Western countries
Looking at the people who came over, the two guys lowered their voices and calmed down their conversation.
But I was standing right above them and they were still talking loudly and obviously never thought I would understand.
It\'s almost a sneak peek: These people don\'t know that I\'m listening to every word they say.
Suddenly, they noticed me.
One of them said, \"it\'s like watching this person . \".
\"Now, this is a lamp --
Peeling Pashtun from the eastern region
Because he was wearing that hat, a Pakistani.
\"I turned to face them.
They are as tall as me, 51, we are on the level of the eyes.
\"Actually,\" I said, \"I\'m from Northern California.
They became completely silent.
They just looked at me in shock.
I wait for them to say something and I turn around when they don\'t say it.
They just keep quiet.
Now I feel very embarrassed. -
Do they think I\'m mad at them?
Or maybe I didn\'t make it clear that they thought I just told them in Pashtun.
But I\'m pretty sure they understand me.
My English is in addition to the beautiful accent of a California teenager. free.
Do you think there are more Afghans or more Americans?
I am often asked this question.
This is a fair question, and the simplest answer is, more Afghans.
My first summer here, I looked at it carefully in my mind ---
Identity is a powerful thing. -
But at this point it\'s more of a lowlevel backdrop.
When I arrived in Kabul on June, I took off my Ralph Lauren polo shirt and kha cloth and put on my kameez partoog.
I spent a summer in a remote place, sitting by the fire with a group of people with Pakistani food and long beard, the only strange thing is that I don\'t feel strange, when I thought of changing back to my kha cloth in a week from now and spending the fall in Concord, California, sitting with a bunch of friends on a big TV, I was not surprised either.
So I would rather answer this question like this: my identity is not interesting in itself;
This is the compelling point it gives me.
I may not fully understand the two worlds, but I understand them better than most.
Rahman and his family are the last five people on the plane.
I was waiting, waiting, and then I saw him, 15 feet metres away, waiting in line for his paperwork.
I stood there, standing there, and Rahman\'s eyes touched me about 20 times, and he noticed nothing.
Then he looked at me very hard. I nod my head --Yeah, it\'s me --
His face was surprised. -Oh my God.
He showed me to his family. -
My friend Haider is here. -
Then he finally finished and I was helping him out with his family.
As soon as they met, the woman at home began to cry, and I felt I should have left there.
I exchanged local phone numbers with Rahman, although things were very busy and we might not meet again until we got back to the US.
Then I said goodbye, I passed through the crowd, a lamp --
Pashtun people from the eastern region, dressed in pacol.
The American made it very clear: everything he said was right.
Excerpt from \"back to Afghanistan\", which was reprinted with permission from Bloomsbury\'s press.