This was not a typical festive ‘first world’ outing, as its need and idea arose not from leisure, but from trauma.

Recently, Hadisa was broken after an ‘endless’ night of crouching nervously in the dark of her University dormitory, while bomb blasts and gunshots were ending precious lives only a hair’s breath away.

Nemat, in a safe space which softened Hadisa’s distress, remembered looking at a heavily-breathing comatose father in a bare Afghan government hospital ward with no monitoring devices. I was well aware of Nemat’s questions over his own undiagnosed lower limb weakness and limp, when he asked me in resigned desperation, “Do you think I should transfer him to another hospital?”

Ali, listening to and comforting Hadisa, had also just lost a loved one too, his older brother, Sultan. Sultan was killed by at least four bullets.

The Afghan Peace Volunteer community agreed unanimously, “Let’s go for a picnic, or let’s just be together for a day.”


Who can Habib trust, especially after his father was killed in a suicide bombing attack a few years ago?

“Active volunteers…Those we know well.”

“Where should we go?” No satisfactory answers – there are no ‘guarantees’ anymore. Decision on the picnic location kept changing, even till 10.00 p.m. the night before, “My uncle told me that there’s unrest between an Uzbek group linked to the Vice President and a Tajik group, over a re-burial. Can’t we change location?” Hadisa called Ali, who rang Abid, who rang a relative…

“Let’s decide tomorrow morning, just before we leave,” were their thoughts as they and the night retired.


Basir said early the next morning, “I just checked, and it seems alright to go.” His wife had initially decided against going, as they now have another new life to take care of, Barbud their son.

“Abid, didn’t we agree? Ask the driver to slow down,” Muqadisa demanded.

Whenever the other bus overtook us, for good-spirited relaxation, Muqadisa and Nida would cheer, “Zek, get up, dance, we can’t be the boring bus!” I noticed Hadisa was in ‘knots’ of laughter over the transient ‘roar’ from our bus.

Such were our fluctuating feelings throughout the day at Salang Pass, next to the its river which arises from the Hindu Kush mountains; the communty’s recovery presented exuberant imagery for each of our inner healing.

The river helped to heal us.

But most of all, we healed by being together.


Hadisa laughs along with others.


Nemat ( second from right ), enjoying the greenery


Ali taking a cool dip in the river


Habib extending a hand to Nawid


We heal by being together


See a short video of the river outing at An Afghan Outing and River Heals Us :

First published in Our Journey To Smile