Sign up

Wanna get 2 free yoga practices, special offers + insider news?

Zen Peacekeeper.







Things that make me smile

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 by Marianne Elliott

Follow me on


Oy, this blog has been pretty serious lately. I like to come here and work through some of the complicated and heavy stuff I have on my mind. If there were more folks about in person to talk things through with that might be different, but as it is I appreciate the thoughtful comments and new connections I make here.

But I'd hate to give the impression that humanitarian/human rights work in the field is all doom and gloom and personal sacrifice. Oh no. There is a reason why we do this, why we stay here. There are moments when you really feel that you've made a positive difference and that can lift your spirits and keep you going for weeks.

At a day-to-day level, though, what really helps you survive and thrive here are all the little things that make you smile. Here are some things that made me smile today (and a few things that didn't make me smile at the time but do now that I'm looking back on them):

– sneaking a bottle of wine past the police check at the airport and feeling like a teenager sneaking booze into a rugby match again (yes – I know one reader in particular found my drinking to be an offense to my host country, but since all my Afghan colleagues ask me to buy them alcohol and tell me that they estimate only 20% of Afghan's are teetotal, I'm taking that offense with a grain of salt – plus I am very discrete – I learned that when I was a teenager).

– having the female security guard who searched my bag pull out a box of tampons and ask me what they were, then not having enough Dari to explain without some charade-style demonstrations (this one didn't make me smile at the time but now I can see the funny side).

– arriving back to Cheghcharan to a really warm welcome from my colleagues, it's a real privilege to work with people who appreciate your efforts and even your simple presence so much.

– meeting with the Governor, the Chief of Police, the Head of the Department of Economy, the Head of the Department of Rural Recovery and Development and knowing that their "Welcome Back" was genuine and that they have been taking action on some of the issues we discussed before I went to Herat.

– getting an informal performance assessment by phone and discovering after a year of flailing about and never knowing whether I was doing this job right that in fact my work is seen to be of excellent quality – I really never knew that before and boy did that make me smile (of course the ulterior motive to get me to extend my contract may have played a part, but I'm going to take this pat on the back anyway).

– discovering that my Amazon parcels have arrived at the army base in my absence and knowing that in 30 minutes I can go there and collect my loot (including new yoga DVDs, the BBC Planet Earth TV series, The Princess Bride movie and lots of lovely books)

– getting an email from a friend who was here in Ghor with me in May and who starts studying at Columbia in NYC today who told me about going for a run in Central Park, the sense of freedom was so well-described that I got a little taste of it by email.

– being back in Ghor and knowing that this means I can probably go out for a walk (got to check with security first because unfortunately there are new security incidents every day and rules can change fast).


Get my latest articles delivered to your inbox (+ get 2 free yoga practices)

7 Responses to "Things that make me smile"

  1. Wow- what a list! The little story about the female security guard- priceless!
    And I love getting my package from that always makes me smile.
    I am so glad that you have these moments in your life, Frida- they are so important for one’s sanity. You do so much good work… oh, and congratulations on the excellent evaluation! Woo hoo!
    Now, did you go for that walk?

  2. Louisa Dow says:

    I found your blog through
    The tampon thing happened to me once, going into a concert in Chile. The (femal) security guard was very suspicious of the little white package she found in my pocket… I was very embarrassed at the time (had to explain what is was in broken Spanish) but looking back, I think it’s hilarious 🙂

  3. cath says:

    what an excellent list!!
    i looove the princess bride!! the charaded tampon demonstration gave me a good laugh… don’t know whether i would have enjoyed the story quite so much had it been me doing the charades though… hmmm
    keep smiling!!

  4. megg says:

    how much do I love that your Amazon parcels included the Princess Bride – heh heh heh. I KNEW I liked you!!
    I would have been mortified by the tampons thing… but funny to read!!
    have a wonderful wonderful, HAPPY day!!!
    and come here next!

  5. cath says:

    thankyou for your words of encouragement, and lovely comments. they are greatly appreciated – always!

  6. Mélanie says:

    So great to read how many things make you smile . You have to smile each day!!!

  7. Jack says:

    That was interesting. Thanks.

Follow me on