We were five - myself, my husband Walter Blass, and our three children: Kathryn, ten,
Christopher, sixteen months younger, and Gregory, almost six. Walter had been appointed
Peace Corps country director for a rapidly expanding program of two hundred volunteers -
mainly teachers, nurses and vaccinators-in Afghanistan's major towns and some provincial
villages. In the villages, life had changed little if at all since the fifteenth century.
Threshing in the Bamiyan Valley
My story is a timeless one. For ages women have been packing up their children along
with pots, pans and other essentials - and following in the wake of their men's dreams.
Although I knew no wife and mother in 1965 suburban New Jersey who organized to move her
family so far afield, we were all excited about experiencing life in a country so remote
that few people could even locate it on a map. At the time, most people thought that we
were headed for somewhere in Africa!
A Street In Kabul
While in Afghanistan, I made it a priority to write frequent and voluminous letters to my
folks back home. It was exciting to share what I considered to be my extraordinary good
fortune at being able to experience life in such an ancient and vastly different culture.
I felt then as now that once we become modernized, something gets lost along the way.
At first living the adventure was just one exotic day after another. But by the end of a
year, things like camel caravans passing the house became commonplace. As I felt more at
home in Afghanistan, gradually the tone of my letters changed. I began marveling at the
resourcefulness of the people and questioning what we were really doing there.
There were several categories of letters. First were the woman-to-woman ones that I wrote to my best friend and neighbor on our short dead-end street in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Phyllis had moved down from Nova Scotia, Canada. She had a daughter
Kathryn's age and likewise two younger boys. As a "State of Mainer," or as we sometimes call ourselves, a "Mainiac," I shared with Phyllis an earthy humor about love and marriage.