My first month in Kabul and Dan decides that it is time to go for a hiking trip to Istalif. I was excited that we went up in his jeep because once we got to the villages, Dan stopped the jeep and invited us all to ride on the roof. Now this was extra special, as getting to breathe the clean air outside Kabul was very rare! So off we rode rumbling and tumbling through the little villages with children laughing and pointing as they skipped along beside the strange sight of foreigners having such a view of their dusty road. And Dan just trusted we could stay on; there was no slowing just because we were on the roof, or just because there were potholes and bumps. We did thankfully.
That was only the beginning though. At the beginning of our hike, Dan quickly hikes on past the rest of our group, wishing us a good day (bad knees and all) and leaving us in the hands of others who had previously hiked there. But as the day progresses with no sign of Dan again, we start to get a little nervous, until whistling up the trail, it’s Dan coming back, with stories of the country people he met and the men who shared their tea with him. It meant we were walking back in the dark. I was thrilled. It was my only opportunity while I was in Afghanistan when I got to enjoy the countryside along the peaceful brook, among the bright stars and breathe deeply in the cool, fresh air. This was a rare treasure in our lives of limited freedom, especially in the stale heat of the summer. We got into a little trouble for that. But Dan always understood the risks or lack of them, and I would trust no one else to that same level of cultural wisdom.
Dan made everything an adventure. He never tried to avoid difficulty and challenges. I think because this added to the excitement and made a good story later.
Another adventure I had with Dan was driving home with him and his wife from CURE Hospital. We had been there delivering cookies for the end of Ramadan or something, and the Afghan staff was thrilled to see Dan come down the hall to pick us up. He always had kind, joking words for all.
Leaving the hospital, Dan decided it would be good to take a detour home and that meant the opposite way of home. So our first stop was Darulaman Palace. I had been there often, but only to the lower street for a picture stop. But Dan drives past the garden of land mines and right up beside the building to give us a personal view of the tragic violence that had destroyed one of Afghanistan’s most pristine buildings. It had a gorgeous view of the city too, and you can see Dan in the background capturing the beauty that many of us (me included) often missed from Kabul, a city of more than dust.
Then back into the jeep and through the back streets with Dan telling stories of war that had happened on the barren streets, talking about the people who lived in the neighbourhoods, and his adventures that he spoke about with such a matter of fact way regarding the drama, that one wondered if he was being completely truthful. I often suspected that some parts have been exaggerated, but his wife, whom I always trusted with the truth, would shock me with the same stories.
The reason so many people turned to Dan for advice regarding the country, was because he truly knew the people. I could look down the streets and see dokhans (shops) and shopkeepers, but Dan would see what happens behind the back curtain. He knew what daily life was like for these people and what their struggles were because he was always talking to them and listening. Time and time again in his lively stories of the people he had met, he would call these men “Brothers,” and you knew he meant it. His love for the country and enthusiasm to find new ways in serving the people, or doing something new and exciting, was evident every time you talked to him. He always had some story to share about what he had seen and done. His excitement was contagious, and it helped feed and encourage so many people, not least me.
Dan always showed true devotion and agape love for the Afghan people.
Much love to the Terry family,
This post is part of CURE International's day of tribute for a friend and colleague of CURE International, Dan Terry. If you'd like to leave a comment on this or any other reflection posted today, you can use the comment fields below. (Please note that posts will be moderated by CURE International staff).
You can follow the reflections posted throughout today - Friday, August 13, 2010 - at the following URL: http://blog.cure.org/tag/dan-terry/