Last week we followed former Boisean Geoff Jutzy through the shellshocked streets of Afghanistan, where he lived and worked from November 2002 to June 2005. The landscape and people remain scarred by war, but Jutzy witnessed firsthand how strength and beauty can grow from ruin. Despite massive destruction to their homes and cities and continuing social, cultural and political instability, the Afghan people shop for groceries, play games, go to school and have babies like ordinary people everywhere. Jutzy was able to know them as co-workers, neighbors and friends, and he hopes other people will come to understand that life in Afghanistan is not all about war.
November 6, 2002
Salaam Aleykum! (Hello) Today is the start of Ramadan, a month long Muslim holy festival. During Ramadan, no eating or drinking of any kind is allowed during daylight hours-even water! I have decided to participate. I have never even been on a diet, let alone fasted for any specific reason, so this should be interesting. When the sun goes down it's OK to eat, and from what I'm told, you find a lot of people feasting at this time. People also get up before the crack of dawn, before the Imam makes his call, to eat a rather large breakfast. This morning, 4 a.m. came early. I did get up, and I did eat a pretty healthy breakfast of cornflakes (two bowls); two vegetable patties made of rice, egg, flour and a little ketchup; a slice of bread with peanut butter and two glasses of water. After breakfast I sat down at my computer to write this note and wait for the Imam's call. The Imam is the Muslim version of a priest or minister in our world. There are many mosques around town, and they each have a tower with a loudspeaker in them. Every morning at about 4:45 a.m., the Imam gets on his loudspeaker and sings a somber call to worship. As I have been writing, the Imam has come and gone with his morning song, and our fast has begun.
Having been in Kabul only a few hours, Jutzy immersed himself in the culture. He was fascinated by a people so regimented by faith-waking up to the Imam's call and going to sleep under curfew laws imposed by a Muslim government; praying and fasting on a schedule; rejecting the impure goods and commercial influences of "infidel" nations like the U.S. He wanted his experience to be as authentic as possible, and much to his delight, many of the Afghans Jutzy met welcomed him into their daily activities, travels and discussions.
July 11, 2003
We started climbing into Salang Pass, and I noticed something remarkable. This place looks familiar-just like the road to McCall from Boise before you hit the tree line! Good old highway 55! I couldn't stop taking pictures because I knew I would have a hard time relating the resemblance. Salang is one of those places most of us don't even think about being in Afghanistan. Rushing rivers banked with bright green patches of grass and underbrush; mulberry (toot) and Blackberry (shaw toot) trees line the banks and steep hills surrounding us; any wide patch in the road is occupied by kids selling freshly picked goods under the shade of homemade stands. Some of the stands are quite ornate and built to accommodate the customers as they enjoy a river view with a nice plate of toot and a Pepsi or Fanta.
Jutzy was intrigued and sometimes puzzled by the Afghan way of life, especially in the marketplace. When his friend Ayub argued fiercely with a merchant over the price of an item, Jutzy expressed concern. Ayub replied, "Don't worry, we're just talking." A group of so-called "little urchin girls" would run through the stalls selling newspapers, books and matches, and Jutzy always bought something, receiving generous giggles in return. Edibles ranged from five-gallon jars of spaghetti sauce to surplus military "Meals-Ready-to-Eat" (MREs) so Jutzy's diet was an interesting mix. More and more, he realized how good people have it in the states. Products live up to their guarantees, things cost what they cost and the average shopper is not in danger of being bombed while picking up detergent.
March 18, 2005
My brother, John Jutzy, came to visit and work here at Loma Linda Center last July. He stayed six months, and over those months became quite close with Wakil. On any given day you could find them out in the garden or doing chores around the compound together, laughing, smiling, making hand gestures and the like. You see, Wakil doesn't speak but a few words of English, and John is equally talented with Dari. Nonetheless, there was a bond between the two (maybe it was John's beard, maybe the fact that they can both put away many kilos of food in one sitting) and each will remember the other for the rest of their lives.
Wakil's second son and fourteenth child was born on March 18, and he named him John Mohammad in honor of Jutzy's brother. The marriage of two such divergent historical and religious names, infamous prophets nonetheless, was an accident, but it weaves a powerful metaphor about the humanity we share, even in our irreconcilable differences. Jutzy saw countless examples of this in Afghanistan, one in particular that changed the way he feels about being American. A helicopter squad out of Utah began sponsoring Afghan villages, bringing them extra supplies, helping them build schools and even flying a sick boy stateside for heart surgery. No one told them to do it, and the people they helped believe that Americans came to Afghanistan as ambassadors of peace. Perhaps some did, and perhaps many of those serving in Iraq have the same intentions. Now thousands of miles from the dusty ground and colorful people of Kabul, Geoff Jutzy certainly hopes so.
To read more of Geoff Jutzy's adventures, visit www.geoffghanistan.com.