Author: Eloise Hanner
The following review was contributed by: Paul Lappen & CLICK TO VIEW Paul Lappen's Reviews
It was the year 1971. The author, a recent college
graduate from Idaho, and her fiance (soon to be her
husband) decide to join the Peace Corps. They aren't
qualified to do much except teach English, so they
applied for somewhere in the South Pacific, and had to
wait several months for an opening. After a weekend of
more intense interviews in Chicago, they finally get
their assignment. They both have to look on a map to
find Afghanistan, a landlocked country in southwest
Asia. This book consists of weekly letters sent home
about their experiences.
After an interminable plane flight, and many shots,
they reach Kabul. It is a colorful, yet noisy, sort of
place. They find a house (all of which are behind high
adobe walls) through the local Peace Corps office.
They are given the usual rules when traveling to the
Third World. Don't drink the water (it will be
provided by the Embassy). Don't eat anything from the
stalls in the local bazaar; in fact, don't eat
anything that can't be peeled or hasn't been
thoroughly cooked. Despite this, they still suffer
from nearly weekly bouts of diarrhea. The plan for the
Hanners is to undergo a three-month crash course in
Farsi (the local language) and get used to Kabul
before starting their assignment. The author's
assignment is to teach English to employees of the
Creature comforts in Kabul are few and far between.
Heat in the Hanner's house comes from a couple of wood
stoves. Light comes from a couple of bare light bulbs.
Their mud roof leaks constantly, and during the
summer, it grows wheat. Refrigeration is unknown, so
Dad Ali, their cook/handyman/jack of all trades, makes
daily food trips to the bazaar. The Kabul bazaar is a
place where practically anything can be made or found,
including a moneychanger who accepts American checks.
Being a Peace Corps volunteer is not for everyone.
Several people leave before their time is up.
These letters chronicle the good and bad of living in
Afghanistan. On one side there is the incredible
generosity of the Afghan people. They have little or
nothing, and think nothing of sharing. On the other
side is dealing with daily life in Kabul. There are
also those people who let the author know, clearly and
succinctly, if they feel she is not appropriately
dressed in public.
This is a gem of a book and a very easy read. To get
an idea of life in Afghanistan before the Soviets and
before the Taliban, start right here. It's highly