My skirt was too short by a few inches, exposing my ankles.
I pulled it down as far as I could; the elastic waist now hugged the top of my thighs.
At second morning prayer, I pleaded with both Jesus and Allah not to let my skirt slide from my thighs onto the ground in the middle of Kabul.
I had to buy a new, appropriate-length skirt.
Chicken Street was the answer to my prayer. But before I could find it, an Afghani woman found me.
“Your skirt is short,” she informed me in beautifully lilting Dari, pointing an accusatory finger at my offensive hem.
“Yes, I know.” I answered in far less beautiful Dari. “Where is Chicken Street?”
She put her hand over her mouth, and giggled.
I chalked her amusement up to my foreign accent, and smiled back at her. “I’m a foreigner. Can you help me?” I asked.
“Of course you are foreign!” she guffawed. “You are not natural.”
That’s always nice to hear. I love being laughed at before being told I’m a cultural freak.
“But you are good anyway,” she added. Without smiling.
I witheld my smile as well. I had already been advised by a new Afghani friend about my “bad habit” of smiling at strangers.
“Come!” She motioned me to follow her, and I did. Down the street, and into her home.
Just inside the front door. she shimmied out of her skirt. One of them. She wore another underneath.
“Two skirts?” I asked.
“I wear two skirts,” she answered matter-of-factly, holding the one she had taken off toward me. “Put it on.”
I did. It fit, and fell well beneath my ankles, thankfully. I smiled gratefully at her, again forgetting the smiling-at-strangers rule.
“Give me yours!” she ordered, pointing to my offending skirt, which I had let drop to my ankles.
“You want my skirt?” I asked, bewildered.
She raised her eyebrows, held out her hand.
I scooped up my skirt from the ground, and handed it to her. “Why do you want it?” I asked. “It’s too short.”
And, for the first time, she smiled at me.
“Souvenir,” she beamed.
It was then, for the first time on my first trip to Afghanistan, that I laughed out loud. Just put my head back, and let it rip.
Because, as I had yanked her skirt up over my hips, I had been thinking, “I hope she lets me keep it. What a great souvenir!”
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