I have a side gig. I am teaching Afghan refugees English. It is a meaningful service opportunity that is feeding my spirit.
This week I planned a field trip with them.
These women are family members of former New York Times employees. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan last August, the NYT got their people out on one of the last flights out of Kabul.
Since coming to Houston, the only outside food they have eaten is Afghan and Persian food, so I decided to take them out to eat and do some clothes shopping.
The day before the trip, I was stunned to find out that one husband told his wife that she couldn't attend. He allegedly said that she should stay home with her kids and that America is not good for women.
This prompted a side conversation with another woman in which I asked about the matter. She told me, “My husband is different. He says that I must go and go and go and go.”
Imagine my surprise when all the women showed up for the field trip! Yay women!
So, we went to eat halal Pakistani food. The women were happy. Even though I explained the buffet concept, most women didn’t go back for seconds and acted as if they didn’t want to impose. Maybe if they go back with their families, they won’t be so shy.
One woman had her husband drive her to the field trip. He came inside the restaurant briefly and looked at the buffet longingly then left. Later, I found out that he was sitting in the hot car outside. Suddenly, my brain clicked and I knew that he needed to come in and eat. He came in and sat at another table and had his meal. I felt good about that decision.
After the food, we went shopping at some ethnic clothing shops next door. While some women found the clothes not up to their quality “standards”, others bought several items. We shopped until finally they told me no more clothes shopping.
Then I took them around the corner to a small Indian grocery store. They weren’t that impressed with the store, some women were carrying heavy, sleeping children in their arms, and all seemed a bit drained from the Houston heat.
Again my brain clicked and I knew it was time for ice cream and cold water. So, we made our last stop of the day. The women were happy and refreshed.
Having her ice cream, one woman leaned in and told me that her husband is a very, very good man. She needed me to know this, and it was a lovely note to end the day on. I am starting to realize that a “good” or “bad” Afghan man is judged by whether they empower their women or not. Empowerment looks like access to education, freedom of movement, some help with childcare and housework, and overall support to better themselves.
With the Taliban in the news everyday now for disallowing women’s education, asking women to fully cover their faces in public, and asking media personalities on TV to now cover their faces, there is no better time to be teaching these women English, how to take an Uber, and getting them out and about in their new country.
Contrary to what some may say, I believe America is generally good for women…though we still have a ways to go.