Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Firebrand Named ______: Jalalabad Update 1

Michael writes from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where the ensemble is working with the Nangarhar Provincial Theatre. 

Greetings from exciting Jalalabad.  We have only been here two and a half days, and it is total sensory overload.  Firstly, let me assure you we are safe, secure and in very good hands.  Jalalabad itself is a fairly green city... almost tropical, at least as far as Afghanistan is concerned.  Warm, lots of flowers, palm trees even.  We are staying in a "government" hotel - not exactly sure what that means, but, from the looks of it, it means they don't pay their staff enough to really keep the rooms nice.  However, there are a couple of acres of beautiful gardens out front, with lots of early morning chirping birds.  

Jalalabad is in Nangahar Provence and the people tribally Pashtun--  yeah, the Taliban are Pashtun, but
they're not here in force.  The amount of civil society work going on here is impressive.  The theatre company we are here to work with, Nangahar Theatre, are already well known and supported in the city and surrounding rural communities because of their work through the NGO's.   We came here with a list of people we should talk to -- but haven't even gotten to it because so many others have appeared to meet us... a revolving door of amazing and eccentric characters foreign and local, with wild stories and contrasting points of view.

Before we came down here we were pretty much told that, given the very conservative nature of the community it would be impossible to find any women to work with.  HA!  They didn't know about a firebrand named (um... name withheld until we're sure it's safe), a 19 year old recommended by an embassy connection who gathered together 14 high school and college age women who all seem pretty willing.   We had a meeting yesterday and our first day of workshops this morning, and while most of them are a bit reserved and had no idea what we'd be hitting them with, by the end of the 3rd hour they were loosening up and pretty game. 

We're still working out internet logistics.  As we get into the workshops we'll be pretty busy.  I'll certainly write when I can.  Going into our first workshop with the guys now...

Onward and upward,
Michael and Joanna

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