Insights from my Second Trip to Afghanistan
A few years later I began to feel Afghanistan calling me to return. The groundwork I’d laid on my first trip, as well as deciding to stay for two and a half months, gave me deeper access than I’d experienced the first time.
Seeing things on the ground gave a much different perspective than observing from afar. For example, I arrived in Afghanistan with a discouraged mindset that I’d developed from focusing on political and military developments. But as I conducted my interviews and interacted with Afghan youth at SOLA (School of Leadership, Afghanistan), I saw that what made the news was only part of the picture. The youths’ determination to change their country for the better encouraged me and offered a different perspective.
It was the same when I began each of my projects. When I’d first get my idea, I was in the euphoria of seeing only possibilities and blind to the difficulties and potential dead ends ahead. When I was in the middle of dealing with the challenges that inevitably arose, it was hard to see beyond them, especially when the problems seemed insurmountable.
I believe that the euphoria phase is an important one; it can define our project’s vision and be a resource to return to when discouragement strikes. It’s also important to balance the vision with “reality checks”, knowing that each and even both together are incomplete assessments of a project’s chances of success.
Likewise, when I’m faced with discouraging “facts” about situations or my projects, I also keep in mind that they present an incomplete picture.