I can now identify (again) with Vasco Pyjama, whose blog I read every now and again. I met her in Afghanistan, then she went off to Indonesia, then Sudan and then back to home in Canberra. She then went through what I am now (again) going through: that weird kind of loss of identity and purpose that returning aid workers feel. We were part of something big, sometimes a life and death thing, always a dirty and dusty thing, in a place so horrible and wonderful that most people only read about in the news.
And then we come home. From being a major player in the Afghanistan aid scene, I am just another fella in Perth. The residual dust in my khaki pants means nothing to anyone here (except my kids, who smell my clothes, and say ‘That smell is Kabul!’). The stories I have to tell are too strange for most people, and the languages I speak no use here. There are no emergencies to manage, no Government staff I have to sweettalk, no convoys to run me off the road. Buying a toothbrush, getting money from the bank, having a shower are all remarkably easy, and the peace and quiet and beauty are lovely and all quite nauseating.
And there are decisions to be made. I have to work out what to do. For the meantime, I am part-time working at a kind of NGO, a coalition of goodhearted folks who set themselves up a few years ago to help asylum seekers, in the face of some of the most h0stile and intransigent Government policy ever enacted towards victims of persecution and violence. This NGO helps out refugees; we locate them homes, give them loans, link them up with volunteers and altruistic doctors, find them schools for their kids and English classes. It is good work. But it is not where my heart it. Every night as we say prayers with the kids, I tell God to direct our paths, I remind him that we are willing to go back to Afghanistan.Or anywhere else.
We are not in a hurry. I don’t have anything to prove, and I am bone-tired, so I can enjoy the rest for a bit longer. But spare me, God, from staying here in this soft and comfortable place.