Afghanistan is a mountainous country and Bamiyan province is one of the highest elevations so people here face harsh winter conditions. Roads are blocked in heavy snow and health facilities become inaccessible. This brings added risk to pregnancy and childbirth. Pneumonia is a major threat to children in the winter.
But men and women work together to overcome the problems of winter. Men are busy with snow shoveling and women cook hot meals to welcome them home. They ration spring and summer wood to provide fuel and food through the long season, often lasting six months.
Women work hard to keep their livestock healthy in the winter. In the morning they mix wheat flour and hot water for nursing animals that need extra nutrition in the cold.
Winter here is also very beautiful. Game rabbits sprint across blue and white vistas.
Winter brings opportunities to relax. Men take time to play with their children in the snow, sometimes more than fifty centimeters high. Women spin sheep’s wool into yarn and make socks, gloves, and dress material. Children learn the Holy Quran at the village mosque or from the local mullah.
During the long winter nights family members gather to read poems and tell stories while drinking tea and snacking on walnuts and dried berries.
My grandparents share memories of their youth. My grandpa told me how when he was young, Afghanistan suffered through a famine and for two days he walked, carrying fifty kilograms of wheat on his back, from one city to another. Hearing this story, I thought of my grandpa as a champion. One of my favorite old stories is about a Mongol girl and Arab boy who fall in love and get married after conquering their differences. I also like some of the Persian folktales.
This winter in Bamiyan has been beautiful. Last week the snow was sixty centimeters in the mountains and people are enjoying the winter.
Photo by Michael Foley.