My dad worked door-to-door selling soda and seltzer. My husband’s father owns a compound comprised of numerous two-story European-style houses where the various families sleep with patios, expensive Afghan wool carpeting, indoor gardens, and verandas. Because of my foreign stomach, the foods — kebabs, rice dishes, yogurts, nuts — are baked with Crisco instead of ghee, an evil-smelling, rancid, clarified butter that is loved by locals but wreaks havoc on a non-native’s stomach.
I am only 20, and I am now a member of this household, which consists of one patriarch, three wives, 21 children (who range in age from infancy to their 30s), two grandchildren, at least one son-in-law, one daughter-in-law and an unknown number of servants and relatives. The smell of ghee alone can make you throw up if you’re unused to it. He speaks Dari (even though I cannot) and leaves me with the other women. And I will spend every morning and afternoon that follows alone with my mother-in-law and female relatives. Secretly I stow away canned goods that I indulge on in the brief moments that I’m left alone.
I thought I'd just write about some minor things, conversations I've had in the last couple of days, which I find very interesting and will certainly forget to write about if I don't now.
Last time I wrote I was headed off to my first bastion of Western culture in Afghanistan.
He told me about his girlfriend, who he thought he recognized by her gait, but was mistaken.
It is quite commonplace in tribal societies around the world, and is a way to strengthen political alliances and build family wealth.Abdul-Kareem is the son of one of the founders of the modern banking system in Afghanistan. Then, when I express my desire to travel, he asks me to marry him. I did not know that this would be our final destination. I learn that my real mother-in-law, Abdul-Kareem’s biological mother, is only my father-in-law’s first wife. But before the caravan of black Mercedes-Benzes can leave, an airport official demands that I turn over my American passport. It will soon be returned to me, so I reluctantly relinquish it. That means — I would soon learn — that I would not be able to leave Afghanistan at will.He wears designer sunglasses and bespoke suits and when he visits New York City, he stays at the Plaza. I am Jewish, raised in an Orthodox home in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the daughter of Polish immigrants. Instead, we stay up all night discussing film, opera and theater. “There is no other way for us to travel together in the Muslim world,” he says. I am now subject to the laws and custom of Afghanistan, and as an Afghan woman, that means hardly any rights at all. Our arrival is celebrated with a feast of unending and delicious dishes.I came as a young Jewish bride of the son of one of the country’s wealthiest men. I am only 18 when my prince — a dark, older, handsome, westernized foreigner who had traveled abroad from his native home in Afghanistan — bedazzles me. We marry in a civil ceremony in Poughkeepsie with no family present.I was held in a type of captivity — but it’s not as if I had been kidnapped. We meet at Bard College, where he is studying economics and politics and I am studying literature on scholarship. For our honeymoon, we travel around Europe with a plan to stop off in Kabul to meet his family. I am too shocked to speak, too shocked to question what these three women might mean for my future. The family is warm and inviting — I try to forget about my husband’s glaring omission. Both the official and my husband assure me that this is a mere formality.The bride and groom's families greet and escort the guests to their tables.