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Sinking In

October 30, 2008

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Paul Souders/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Paul Souders/Mercy Corps

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this: in a few short days, I will be standing in the airport in Kabul ready to embark on a three week odyssey through Afghanistan and Pakistan. I will be visiting our programs throughout both regions - visiting towns that have heretofore only been made aware to me through discussions at work and the news: Quetta, Islamabad, Kunduz, Takhar.

I don't think it has really sunk in completely. Part of me is still expecting the rug to get pulled out from under my feet and a giggling voice letting me know, "You're staying right where you are, buddy!"

Some of this is to do with the fact that I've not set foot outside North American borders in almost 20 years. The rest is simply because this whole adventure happened so quickly.

A month and a half ago, I was chatting with some fellow writers on staff, and I made a passing mention about wanting to visit Afghanistan. Not two weeks later, I had the approval of our field staff, a passport in hand and plane tickets booked.

Now that the day of my departure draws closer, the magnitude of this trip is finally sinking in. As I'm often reminded by my friends and family, there are few people in the U.S. who get an opportunity like this, an opportunity to visit two countries in Central Asia at a time when they are getting mentioned almost daily in the news.

The most exciting aspect of this trip is that I am going to be able to sit down with Afghans and Pakistanis and talk. The focus, of course, will be on what Mercy Corps and our programs have done to impact their lives, but I also want to get a fuller picture of simply how they live day-to-day, how they get by with fighting going on all around them.

And as disappointed as I am to be away from home for what could be a historic Election Day, considering the talk in the debates and stump speeches about what to do with Afghanistan, I'm especially interested to see how Afghans will react to the election of a new President. What fears and hopes will they have about the policies of a new administration?

I will be commenting on all of this and more here on this blog. I invite you to follow me on this journey. I look forward to being able to share my story and the stories of the people that I meet.