Photo: The gate of Ahmad Shah Baba Hospital in Kabul Afghanistan 2012 © MSF
Hospitality Lessons During a Mobile Clinic in Afghanistan
“You’re a brave man, coming here without arms,” the Malik told me halfway through lunch. I wondered why I would need any courage to eat some meat and bread, after all, the Malik—governmental leader of a town or community—had just finished a story to illustrate the concept of Pashtu hospitality.
During our briefing at a mobile clinic, he stopped us and invited us for tea to get to know each other a bit better. He hinted the tea could be taken in a tea shop next to the clinic, or at least this is how I interpreted his pointing of the chin towards to entry gate of the hospital. Two minutes later, however, we stepped into his car, and not into the tea shop, and sped away over the sandy road towards his house a few hundred meters away.
Carelessness from our side, you might wonder? On the contrary, in rural areas such as these, and at this moment in time, we feel more at ease. Receiving invitations to work in these communities is the best protection possible, as illustrated by the anecdote above. Afghan people judge you not only by what you do, but also by how you do it. Refusing the tea invitation would probably have been a mistake.