The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

HOW THEY PLAY |

January 28, 2013

Name: The Afghan Battle Fox
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Clyde, Ohio
Milblog: Afghan Battle Fox's Blog
Email: lambmommy@gmail.com

“Wow! A Playstation!”

“Cool! This is the game I wanted!”

“An XBox!”

These phrases were heard from many American children over this past holiday as they excitedly unwrapped their gifts. Tearing through colorfully printed paper, children’s faces lit up and their eyes grew big at the sight of the high-dollar electronic games and game systems that they had hoped to receive.

None of the children I met in Afghanistan had toys of this extravagance; no PlayStations, XBoxes, Call of Duty games or anything electronic, for that matter. Those Afghan children had toys that were much simpler: a homemade kite, a ball, or a doll. Kites were made of sticks and thin seed bags or plastic and dolls were hand-sewn with no plastic body parts or fancy accessories.

A young Afghan boy plays with his kite near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, March 2012.

Many knew how to play dominoes or chess but their game pieces were not made of molded plastic like the ones used by American children. Theirs were made of carved stones and were hand-painted. They didn’t come in pressed cardboard boxes with brand names and trademarks; the Afghans made their own boxes of thin wood, or kept the pieces in felt bags.

Hand-crafted Afghan dominoes.

They had pride in ownership of their toys and were careful to keep track of their belongings, unlike some of their American counterparts. They did not assume that, if they lost or broke their toys, a replacement would come easily nor did they ask for toys based on what the Joneses had.

Temperature was not a factor to these children. Wearing winter coats or sweaters and perhaps head coverings, they played outside in the cold winter with bare fingers, thin pants, and worn shoes. They did not wear snowsuits, gloves, or boots.

Afghan boys playing in a field near Mazar-e-Sharif, March 2012. The temperature was approximately 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius).

In the hot summer months with temperatures above 130° F (55° C) , they played outside in the heat with long pants and shirts on. They did not wear shorts nor were they ever shirtless. There were few trees for shade and there were no city or personally owned pools to cool them off.

The Afghan children did not have the luxury of heating or air conditioning. Unlike many American children, they did not lounge around their houses watching television or playing on game systems for hours on end. They did not stand with the refrigerator door open perusing its contents for a sweet snack or soda.

They were outside for hours. The same groups of children I passed while on convoy were the same groups of children I passed when I returned.

There was hardly ever a girl in the group, and boys of all ages played together. The older boys would sometimes pick at the younger ones, much like American boys do when they play.

Sometimes kicking the dirt or smacking rocks with a stick seemed to help to them pass the time. They climbed on top of their mud homes or empty buildings just for the fun of it.

An Afghan boy plays with a stick while atop an empty building near his home.

Like patches of flowers in an open field, the children, in their mix-matched outfits, mingled and talked. Occasionally, they chased each other in what I can only imagine was a game of tag.

From the early haze of morning until the last glimpse of daylight in the evening, the Afghan children played in the bare dirt hills near their homes. Their imagination and creativity, not electronics and technology, kept them entertained.

Comments

I remember a time when American children looked forward to going outside to play with their friends. We are failing our children and granchildren. Thank you for reminding us that less is definitely more.

So what are all the GIRLS doing while the boys are playing outside? just wondering.

I found your insights and observations of what life is like for the Afghan children amazing. My dad has always taught me to try and look at life through the eyes of others. Thank you for sharing your experience, and giving me a glimpse of their culture. I pray you stay safe and I thank you for your service.
Bryson

Wow, this really puts things into perspective for me. What Americans might think is boring, such as dominoes or just playing outside, is all that the Afghans have to make for a good time. And they seem to appreciate all that they are given and take nothing for granted! Fascinating stuff. Thanks so much for posting.

Wow! Seeing stories like this really makes you think about how it used to be here! It makes me wish that we can take all of those electronics away from kids these days. It would definitely help with the obesity issues we have in the United States today, and maybe we would have more kids that are interested in doing sports! Thank you very much for this story!

i really enjoyed reading your post and I know exactly what you are witnessing in Afghan. I myself was born in a different country and I went back and visited and the way people enjoy their time there is much different from here in the U.S. They dont have the stuff we have here and have to come up with something to do for fun. People need to realize how much the things in their lives are really worth.

Thank you for your post it was fascinating and eye opening. I realized that our country has a lot of privileges that we take advantage of. I now see that I need to cherish what I have way more. Thank you for you service you guys are amazing!

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