This morning I awoke to the call to prayer at 3:45 am and a dusty stream of light filling my room. The birds were chirping as the mullah sang, "Allah u AKBAR," into the mosque's loudspeaker. I thought, "how does that mosque always have electricity for that loudspeaker when most buildings around here have no power at all?" As I sat up in bed on my final morning in Kabul, and yearned for the cool California coastal air, I realized that Afghanistan has changed me forever.
Leaving the country this time, I understand that over the past two years, I have grown and experienced life in a way that makes it impossible not to be deeply affected by the things I have experienced, the things I have seen, the people I have met, and the things that I now know.
Splitting time between my country, America, and my second home, Afghanistan, has constantly reminded me of the beauty and luck that life holds. I didn't choose to be American, yet I was born into the privileged life that is mine. I am eternally blessed to be an American, to be a free roaming, freethinking, wild spirit and to be able to choose my own life, my own path, my own love, and my own home. I am blessed to wake up each day to a stable, war-free, clean-aired, organically farmed, absolutely beautiful country where I can drive myself anywhere I choose. I was born into a culture that accepts I am an independent dreamer, a woman who has no limits. I can do and be anything that I want to because I am an American.
After living here, I know that I will never be the same.
I will never take for granted those that love me. During my first year here I was lucky enough to meet Chris, my love. I was not looking for him, but I met him among the dust and concrete of his military base; we were both lifting weights. He is my match; my dream partner and I will never forget how he changed his own life to be with me.
Throughout my time here, my father and Cheril, my mother, brother and Aubrey, sister, Julie, Kat and Matt, Steph and Mike, Donny, Anne, Colin, and countless others continued to stay in contact with me; they never let me forget that my home is in America, that my life in America was waiting for me to return, and that I had a network of amazing family and friends who I could always count on. I will always love each and every one of them for their dedication and support.
Though my body will never be the same, though I come away from my time here having a much weaker immune system due to the constant exposure to unclean water, food, and air, I have never felt spiritually stronger. Though I know that I may get sick more easily, and that it will take time for me to regain the total health that I enjoy in the states, I would never trade my experiences here for that which I have gained. In giving up a tad of physical health, I have gained the mental strength to always be honest and true to what I believe in. I am tougher and more determined to be the best person that I can be, to take advantage of all that I have access to because I know that there are people far less fortunate than I am that will NEVER be able to live the life that I do.
I will also never forget the amazing people that I have met here. My friends here have taught me that even though life may be hard, even though life may look hopeless and desolate, there are people, and places to love in Afghanistan, there is the hope for a better future. Even in the most dire circumstances, Yosuf, Hadi, Nasir and their families, Parwiz, Ehsan, Rabia and her family, all of my friends at Eggers, Steve and Tara, Noor, Aisha, Sohaila, Muzhgan, Mustafa, and Aziza and many others have shown me that making the most of life, and continuing to fight for what you believe in is important.
There are countless realizations I have had, countless lessons I have learned, but now I must catch my flight to Dubai. Today, I leave this place behind and move on knowing that I will never be the same.