In a Handshake

They say that you can tell a lot from a person by their handshake. Here in Afghanistan handshakes aren’t culturally traditional. People customarily put their hand to their chest and give a slight bow. This is particularly between men.

Women don’t traditional shake hands at all. They are pretty much ignored when it comes to introductions and greetings. If you visit and Afghan home you will likely not meet the women of the house at all. They will be in the kitchen as food magically appears through the family room door.

The thing is, I wonder about how this might change over time. Nowadays most people shake hands in a western business setting. I’ve never had my hand refused for a handshake, but it is culturally best for me to wait for an offered hand first.

Next door we have a gaggle of children, literally about nine all packed together in age – from about 4 to 9. Their favorite pass time these days is to come greet us on our walk to or from work, with a hand extended stiff as an arrow, along with a greeting of Salaam. They do this without hesitation, and with giggle of glee – two things that are scarce in Afghanistan.

I wonder what these children’s lives will become. If they will ever know a country without war, daresay equity, justice, and general well-being. It’s honestly hard to say.

Apparently Margaret Thatcher is on her way to Afghanistan to take action, and “stop this pussyfooting around.” Even if the West ever manages to really “defeat” the Taliban, the country has so much further to go towards any decent standard of living.

Of course it is about water, shelter, food, education, and the economy, but it is grounded in the culture. Today the people and the government go to great strides to outlaw Indian soap operas, lipstick, and jeans, but they fail to do anything about widespread rape of children and lives of isolation and ignorance for most women.

Afghanistan has a long ways to go until those children with their brave handshakes see the lives they deserve.


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