by Compiled by International Assistance Mission (IAM)
When this book crossed my desk, my first notion was to regard the title as an oxymoron. But that description would do the compilers an injustice.
InterLit Foundation, U.P.O. Box 879, University Town, Peshawar, Pakistan, 2004, 377 pages, $30.00. www.interlitfoundation.org
—Reviewed by Dave Broucek, EMQ book review editor.
When this book crossed my desk, my first notion was to regard the title as an oxymoron. But that description would do the compilers an injustice. This orientation manual for expatriate workers is upbeat even while delivering serious information—information that may be lifesaving.
The editor writes:
Most expatriates who have lived in Afghanistan for a significant length of time have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its people. Despite the challenges that come from living in a poor, war-torn country that is on a long road to recovery, the contributors to this manual will say that there is so much to enjoy about Afghanistan, its culture and its people, hence the title of this manual, Enjoy Afghanistan.
The manual is comprehensive but not exhaustive, or exhausting. Topics include culture and customs, the history of Afghanistan, beliefs and practices of Islam, security, health, food and kitchen management, coordination of NGO work and government structure, language learning principles and multi-cultural team dynamics. In each case, suggestions for further reading are given, including books the compilers label “must read.” As useful as this manual is, one would hope that prospective workers will heed the advice to avail themselves of the riches contained in the bibliographic recommendations.
Drawing from Afghan culture, the authors make prolific use of proverbs. One, though directed toward individuals, is an apt motto for the NGOs themselves: “A real friend is one who takes the hand of his friend in times of distress and helplessness.”
You can’t read the manual without developing high respect for the Afghan values of hospitality and honor. Nor can you read it and remain unmindful of the importance of security. For example, “EVERYONE working in Afghanistan should attend a mine awareness course.”
In my opinion, the book does a commendable job of utilizing valid cultural generalizations while avoiding stereotypes. Not infrequently, a descriptive section ends with the reminder, “there are no ‘carbon copy’ Afghans.”
IAM is a respected NGO with a history of serving the people of Afghanistan since the 1960s. While most of the 2,400 NGOs in Afghanistan are local in origin, there are more than three hundred international NGOs registered in the country. For members of the latter, this manual will be useful for pre-field orientation and as a handy reference guide. NGOs in other countries may want to take a look at this manual as a exemplar for developing their own handbooks.
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