In a way, I’m sort of glad this was the first country to start out with. It’s a difficult country to start with because there are a lot of ill-feelings between the United States and Afghanistan in recent history. I mean, we invaded their country and have been at war for several years now. So, how do you talk about a country that we’re at war with to young children in an objective light? First we’ll start with where it is.
First of all, it’s landlocked. That means that there are no borders that touch an ocean or a part of an ocean. It’s capital is Kabul, in the eastern part of the country. The country itself is located in Asia and slightly smaller than the size of Texas. The country is divided into 34 provinces. However, most of the country is rugged and mountainous, with only about 12% of the land can be farmed. One of the largest landforms are the Hindu Kush mountains which run from the north to the south. Unfortunately because of this, Afghanis are prone to earthquakes and droughts. But on a good note, one of the highest peaks in the Hindu Kush, Mt. Noshaq, has just recently re-opened to climbers after being closed for security purposes. I suppose that’s good if you're a climber. I, however, will be staying down here. It’s not that I’m afraid of heights; I just hate cold weather. (And although I’m sure it has an original meaning, I first saw it as “No Shaq.” And I’m pretty sure that’s what everyone said when Shaquille O’Neill announced he wanted to be a rapper.)
Their national emblem is a lion, as well as the Marco Polo sheep, and the eagle is the national bird. The tulip is the national flower (which surprised me it wasn’t the poppy.) The crescent moon and star is also seen as a nation symbol since Islam is so important to the everyday lives of Afghans.
Kabul is the largest city with around 3.8 million people. That’s a little more than the city of Los Angeles, CA. Afghanis speak Persian (or Dari) and Pashto. There are a number of other minor languages that are related to Persian and other tribal languages spoken, but most people are bilingual. The vast majority of the people are Sunni Muslim, around eighty percent, and another nineteen percent are Shia Muslim.
Here’s the sad part: Only a little over two percent of the population is over 65 years old. That makes the median age 18 years old, and the average life expectancy at birth to be a mere 45 years old. Boys will spend an average of four more years in school compared with girls. There is a huge need for doctors and hospitals in this country. There’s also a need for clean water and sanitation, which is probably the reason the life expectancy is only 45.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, and most of the heroin used throughout Europe is derived from Afghan opium. Afghanistan is also at the reins of the Taliban (and other insurgent groups) and human rights violations, as well as being watched as a transit for human trafficking and child labor. But that’s probably not the type of thing that’ll get mentioned to the kids. Not until they’re old enough to find this blog and read it for themselves. My guess is sooner than later.
Next up, something more pleasant: Holidays and Celebrations
Wikipedia articles: “Afghanistan,” “US cities by population,” “National Emblem”
National Geographic: http://ngadventure.typepad.com/blog/afghanistan/