The alarm woke me one day in Kabul and my armored car with flanking guards transported me to the airport. I made it thru the 5 security checks and was almost the first to board the plane to Dubai from whence I would fly to DC.
As the plane continued to board I became aware of a kerfuffle regarding the seat to my immediate left. It had been assigned to an Afghan man traveling with his family – in all likelihood -- to Mecca via Dubai.
He was aghast at the thought of sitting next to me, the un-shrouded western woman. All boarding stopped while the family rearranged itself so that I had two female seat-mates in my row. They were, perhaps the man’s wife and his mother, or the man’s sister and their mother…..I have no idea. I did note that they were leaning left with trepidation in evidence.
On Afghan Air neither snacks nor water are free. So when the steward came down the aisle, I asked him if he spoke Farsi or Dari. Unfortunately, he did not, but, when he learned what my mission was he very nicely found me a translator among the other passengers. This new character in the unfolding play asked me what I would like him to convey. I quietly explained that I wished to offer my seat-mates the refreshments of their liking…anything….water, cookies, tea. I watched him make the offer in their common language.
Both women turned to me with warm smiles and the younger woman next to me grabbed my hand and did not let it go until the plane landed in Dubai. I will never, ever, forget that connection.