05 Mar

Chapter 6: Childhood’s lessons and adventures

Earlier, I posted Chapter 1-5 of my new series of blogs, which will collectively form an online book. Below, I have attached Chapter 6.

Chapter 6: Childhood’s lessons and adventures

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Since this is primarily a fictional story, please do not take everything I write too seriously.

…”You’ve had a fascinating youth and childhood,” remarked Elara. “I must confess, I never anticipated this aspect of you because during our college years, you never broached these experiences you’ve faced.” She stopped and looked out for a while. “Considering everything you’ve faced, from childhood to adulthood, what are the most significant lessons you’ve learned that you’re willing to impart to the world?”

“Well, there are numerous experiences I have faced,” I said. “I will, however, make an attempt to summarize those that have had a significant influence on me. One of the most moving and teaching experiences of my life involved the relationship between finances and health”.

“You see, sometimes my uncle would accompany me to visit my parents, typically for urgent matters,” I continued.

”One such occasion was when my mother fell gravely ill. It stands as one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Despite the urgency, no amount of medical intervention seemed capable of saving her. Tragically, her condition deteriorated rapidly, culminating in a deep sleep induced by severe blood loss. I was only around seven years old at the time.

Amidst the gravity of my mother’s critical illness, my uncle and father made the heartfelt decision to bring me closer to my mother, ensuring I could be by her side during such trying times. There I sat, beside my mother, enveloped by a sense of helplessness and despair. Despite the opulent surroundings of our home, filled with luxuries and expensive possessions, none of it could alter the cruel reality unfolding before us. In that poignant moment, the stark realization dawned upon me that no amount of wealth or material abundance could salvage what truly mattered – the precious bond between a mother and her child, now slipping away despite our deepest wishes and desires.

Despite the involvement of the best doctors and the administration of the most expensive medicines available, my mother’s health continued to deteriorate. She was losing more and more blood, and it seemed like nothing was helping. It was a devastating message delivered by the doctor in a solemn moment to us. The faint glimmer of hope we clung to was shattered as the doctor conveyed the grim prognosis—the likelihood of my mother’s recovery was slim, and we needed to prepare ourselves to bid her farewell as conventional treatments failed to yield the desired results.
Amidst the somber atmosphere, the doctor proposed a drastic solution that would irrevocably alter the trajectory of our lives—the removal of my mother’s womb, a decision that carried the weight of sacrificing her ability to bear children in exchange for a chance at survival. With tears welling in his eyes, my father, in a voice heavy with emotion, uttered the words that would echo in my memory forever: “Yes, do whatever it takes to save her life,” my father said to the doctor.

As we made our way out of the room, my father gently guided me, his somber demeanor betraying the gravity of the situation. It was a moment fraught with the profound realization that this might be the last time I laid eyes on my mother. At that tender age, I grappled with the harsh truth that no earthly force could reverse the impending loss of my beloved mother. And so, with a child’s innocence and faith, I turned to prayer, beseeching the divine to intervene and grant my mother a reprieve from the grips of mortality.

That same fateful night, we hurried to the hospital, the urgency of the situation propelling us forward. As we traversed the dimly lit corridors, a palpable sense of tension hung in the air, enveloping us in an eerie silence. Each glance exchanged between us spoke volumes, conveying the weight of our shared apprehension.

Following the operation, the atmosphere remained heavy with uncertainty, the doctor’s cautious words lingering like a haunting echo in the sterile surroundings. Time seemed to stretch on endlessly, each moment fraught with a blend of anxiety and desperate hope that clung to us like a suffocating shroud.

Approaching us with solemnity etched upon his features, the doctor’s demeanor mirrored the gravity of the situation. In measured tones, he relayed the need for patience as we braced ourselves for the impending verdict, the weight of his words hanging heavily in the air like a foreboding cloud.

Thankfully, our prayers were answered, and the surgery proved successful. Afterward, the bleeding stopped, and she began to heal. My mother’s recovery was a testament to the power of faith and resilience in the face of adversity”.

”It’s unfortunate to hear,” Elara interrupted. ”How is your mother doing now?”

”She’s doing well, and my parents are living nearby now in the Netherlands, thank God” I replied. “Of course, the war and everything she went through, including a major operation, have left their marks, and she never fully recovered. But she’s doing well now, and having my parents close by is what matters most,” I said gratefully.

Continuing, I added, ”Reflecting on that pivotal moment in my life evokes a myriad of emotions within me. It serves as a poignant reminder of life’s fragility and the profound lessons learned through hardship. As I share this tale with others, tears often well up in my eyes, not only for the pain endured but also for the invaluable wisdom gained. This experience also marked my first encounter with the limitations of wealth and money when it comes to matters of health and happiness. It taught me that no amount of riches could guarantee my mother’s well-being; no check could be written to purchase her healing. It was a humbling reminder that, in the face of adversity, the currency of love, faith, and perseverance often outweighs the wealth of material possessions”.

“Yes, it’s true,” said Elara. “Unfortunately, so many people around the world think that money is everything, while it’s just a piece of paper. They don’t understand that our time with our beloved ones, faith, helping each other, and sharing knowledge are the most valuable things in life.”

“Indeed, Elara. It’s unfortunate that many don’t understand these things yet, perhaps because they haven’t faced much adversity themselves,” I continued. “I’ll share more experiences about wealth and money later on. But let’s return to my childhood memories and journey first.”

”Another significant event is related to Afghanistan, my hometown”, I continued. ”My other recounted vivid memory from my childhood is when I turned eight years old. It was an eye-opening journey to Herat, my parents’ hometown, to visit my ailing grandparents, particularly because my grandmother who was not feeling well. However, this trip served as a stark awakening for me. Little did I know that this trip would serve as my initiation into the harsh realities of life in Afghanistan”.

I paused, my gaze distant. ”As we traversed the streets of Herat, my heart sank witnessing the cruelty inflicted upon its inhabitants. The oppressive grip of the Taliban manifested in the brutal treatment of women, who faced violent retribution for the slightest deviation from their strict dress code. I recoiled in horror as I witnessed a woman being subjected to merciless beatings with heavy metal equipment simply for failing to conceal her face beneath the suffocating veil of a burka.

But it wasn’t just the plight of women that shook me to the core. The pervasive poverty and desperation drove some to commit acts of theft, only to face swift and merciless justice meted out on the unforgiving streets. It was a stark contrast to the opulence and abundance I had seen elsewhere, prompting me to question the cruel divide that plagued our world.

One of the most haunting recollections etched into my memory is the sight of three thieves being hanged in broad daylight, their lifeless bodies swaying in the unforgiving wind as a crowd of onlookers stood by, their faces a mix of curiosity and indifference. The scene remains vivid in my mind, each detail etched with stark clarity—the harsh glare of the sun casting shadows across the dusty square, the creaking of the gallows as they swung ominously, and the solemn silence that enveloped the air, broken only by the occasional murmur of the gathered crowd.

As I reflect on this disturbing memory, it feels surreal, almost as if it were a nightmare conjured from the depths of my subconscious. Yet, tragically, it was a brutal reality that many Afghan people were forced to confront. In a society where justice was often swift and merciless, such scenes were not uncommon, serving as a grim reminder of the harsh consequences that awaited those who dared to transgress the law”.

I leaned closer, my voice softer. ”In the midst of such strong stark inequality, I found myself grappling with profound questions that transcended my young mind. I started to wonder how it is even possible that the world is so different. Why did such disparities exist? Why is it that in this corner of the world, in Afghanistan, it feels like I came to some horror movie where time went back, since no TV or music was allowed and often electricity was also not available? And in another corner of the world, the biggest buildings and cruise ships and wealth are available. How could it be that in one corner of the world, people lived in the lap of luxury, while in another, they suffered in abject poverty and oppression? Why is the world divided so? What is the causation of all of it? Why do women have no value in this corner of the world, while in others, they are treated as equal to men? What forces shaped this cruel dichotomy, and what could be done to bridge the gaping chasm that separated us?

These questions gnawed at my conscience, igniting a spark of curiosity and empathy within me. It was a pivotal moment of awakening, one that would shape my perspective and fuel my determination to seek answers and strive for a world where every individual, regardless of their circumstances, was treated with dignity and respect’’.

I halted our conversation and suggested, “Let’s take a momentary pause.” We stepped away to grab some coffee before returning to our seats.

“I’ll now recount the final story for tonight that profoundly shaped my outlook on life. We’ll then pause our discussion and reconvene in two days, right here, at the same time and place,” I stated.

“That sounds good,” replied Elara.

I continued, “I remember the day our school announced an excursion to explore natural resources, a chance to delve into the workings of the natural world. As someone deeply fascinated by nature and the mysteries of the universe, I eagerly raised my hand, the first to enthusiastically volunteer for the adventure.

Excitedly, I rushed home to share the news with my uncle, eager to explore this thrilling journey. I handed him the letter outlining the details of the excursion, only to see his expression falter as he scanned the page. It was then that I realized the daunting cost: a staggering $1000 just for transportation to and from school and to the excursion place.

In those days, $1000 was an exorbitant sum, beyond the means of most families to afford.”

Despite the daunting cost, my uncle, being affluent, comforted me with a smile, “Of course, my child, you can go.”

I had eagerly imagined what awaited us in the weeks leading up to the trip. When the large bus arrived on the scheduled day, I felt thrilled with enthusiasm as we headed towards our destination—a hidden natural resource. Taking my seat on the bus, I was overcome with excitement at the prospect of starting this new journey.

As the hours passed by, I lost track of time, mesmerized by the ever-changing landscape unfolding beyond the bus windows. We traversed rugged mountains, caught glimpses of vibrant birdlife, ventured through dense forests, and marveled at cascading waterfalls. Though I cannot recall the exact duration of our journey, it felt like we were journeying through the heart of the wilderness for at least eight hours, each moment filled with awe and wonder.

The winding road led us through a picturesque landscape, illuminated by the warm glow of the sun on that balmy day, with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Celsius – a gentle heralding of the impending spring. After hours of winding through the countryside, we finally arrived at our destination.

Our bus came to a halt atop a mountain, where we were greeted by a formidable woman in her fifties. She exuded an air of authority, clad in a thick coat with short hair framing her face. With a warm yet commanding presence, she addressed us, beckoning, “Come, children, it’s time to witness sights you’ve never seen before.”

Her words carried a sense of both excitement and solemnity as she continued, cautioning us about the journey ahead. “Be prepared,” she warned, “for the place we’re headed will require a eight-hour trek. Here are bottles of water and snacks to sustain you along the way, ensuring you don’t succumb to exhaustion. However, be forewarned – the path is dark and descends deep underground. If you feel unable to endure the warmth, speak up now. You can remain with us, alongside my colleagues at the restaurant. We’ll spend the night here and return home tomorrow. But for now, take these provisions in the plastic bag provided.”

Her instructions left us both apprehensive and intrigued, as we contemplated the adventure awaiting us in the mysterious depths below.
In addition to the provisions of water and snacks, she handed each of us a set of clothing – a top and shorts – to change into after two hours of descending into the tunnel. Gesturing towards the imposing mountains flanking our path, she emphasized, “As we descend, the weather will grow increasingly hotter. After four hours of walking downwards, you’ll find the temperature inside the mountain to be unbearably hot. You can leave your clothes behind for our colleagues stationed at each touchpoint along the way.”

With her instructions clear and our preparations complete, she declared, “Now, let’s begin.” And with that, our journey into the depths of the mountain commenced, filled with anticipation and trepidation for the unknown that lay ahead.

As she approached each of us, methodically seeking permission to proceed, I observed some of the children beside me growing increasingly anxious, their reluctance palpable as they voiced their hesitations. However, in my case, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of excitement that bubbled within me, rendering me incapable of containing my anticipation. I eagerly affirmed my readiness to explore on the adventure that lay ahead.

Soon, another woman, named Alexa, considerably younger at around 25 years old, descended with a radiant smile adorning her features. Clad in shorts and a top, she exuded a sense of vitality and warmth that was contagious. “Come, children,” she beckoned to those who had agreed to journey into the depths alongside her.

Filled with a mixture of exhilaration and nervous energy, I eagerly followed her lead, my heart brimming with anticipation. With each step forward, I felt a surge of excitement coursing through me, eager to immerse myself in the mysteries awaiting us at the deepest reaches of the earth. And so, with a smile stretching across my face like never before, we started on our journey into the unknown depths below.

As we continued our journey, each step forward felt like a battle against time itself, the minutes blending into a haze of relentless walking. Despite the breathtaking beauty surrounding us, the arduousness of our descent began to take its toll.

After just one hour, the strain became too much for some of my classmates. Their resolve faltered, and they expressed their desire to turn back, bidding us farewell as they retraced their steps. Yet, fueled by an unyielding determination, I remained resolute in my commitment to press on towards our destination.

Every thirty minutes of our descent, we paused to rest and replenish our strength, taking sips of water to quench our thirst. Along the way, we encountered numerous stop stations where we could rest, indulge in nourishing food, and savor the refreshing embrace of ice-cold water. These pit stops also offered opportunities to cool off, with water points allowing us to splash our faces and alleviate the heat-induced sweat clinging to our skin.

After two hours of relentless walking, I reached a pivotal moment where the soaring temperatures demanded a change in attire. Thankfully, a locker and dressing room awaited, offering a reprieve from the stifling heat. With a sense of relief, I shed my warmer clothes, exchanging them for the cooler top and shorts provided. Leaving my discarded garments behind in the locker, I emerged feeling lighter and more prepared to face the challenges that lay ahead.

As I resumed my journey, fueled by a newfound determination, each subsequent station welcomed us with additional guides eager to share the rich history and lore of the mountain. Their narratives served as a captivating backdrop to our arduous trek, enriching our experience and deepening our connection to this extraordinary journey into the heart of the earth.

It was a surreal experience to discover that this mountain harbored such remarkable treasures deep within its core. The interior was adorned with an abundance of dazzling, glass-like stones that sparkled like precious jewels, casting an ethereal glow upon our surroundings. It felt as though I had stepped into the pages of a fairytale, descending into a mystical rabbit hole of wonder and enchantment.

The realization dawned upon me that this mountain was a rare gem among the earth’s vast landscapes, concealing within its depths a wealth of natural resources waiting to be unearthed. It was awe-inspiring to contemplate the existence of such hidden wonders concealed within the heart of the earth.

After four hours of traversing through the labyrinthine tunnels, we finally approached our destination, greeted by an intense heat that enveloped us like a sauna. Amidst the sweltering temperatures, I beheld a mesmerizing sight – a flowing river nestled deep within the mountain’s recesses. Scores of people reveled in the cool embrace of its waters, their laughter echoing off the cavern walls.

Legend had it that this mystical river was imbued with the power to heal a myriad of chronic skin ailments, its waters teeming with potent natural remedies. It was a testament to the remarkable potential hidden within the earth’s embrace, a sanctuary of healing and rejuvenation nestled within the confines of this ancient mountain.

I cautiously dipped my hand into the water, feeling its warmth enveloping my fingers. The guide explained that the heat was not artificial but rather a natural phenomenon fueled by the nearby volcano. It was a striking reminder of the raw power and beauty of nature, untouched by the hand of man. There was no electricity nearby to artificially heat the water; instead, it was the earth itself that provided this natural warmth.

As I marveled at this wonder of nature, a profound realization washed over me. Beneath the surface of our familiar world lies a vast and intricate network of hidden marvels, waiting to be discovered. It was a humbling reminder of the countless layers that make up our planet, each holding its own secrets and treasures.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were truly aware of the incredible wonders lying beneath our feet. How many were privy to the breathtaking beauty and abundant resources hidden deep within the earth’s embrace? How many people are actually aware of the secrets our world is offering, and ask themselves what life truly offers in terms of seeing, tasting, and experiencing? How many people stand silently still and appreciate the sheer joy of being here on Earth in the first place? It was a thought that lingered in my mind long after I had left the confines of that underground river, a reminder of the boundless mysteries that await those who dare to explore the depths of our planet.

I can say that this was one of my experiences with my life that I will never forget. It taught me how beautiful nature can be and how many secrets and astonishing things our planet Earth holds. After having some rest, I saw Alexa again, the blonde guide we had encountered earlier at the beginning of our excursion. She gently ushered us back to the surface, reminding us to take a break and rest after our long day of exploration.

With our belongings packed, we embarked on the journey back, a four-hour ascent through the labyrinthine tunnels. As we emerged from the depths, I noticed that darkness had already enveloped the outside world, indicating the lateness of the hour. It was nearing 8 PM, and exhaustion weighed heavily upon me.

Despite the physical strain of walking for hours in intense heat, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. This adventure had pushed me beyond my limits, yet I emerged stronger and more resilient. It was a testament to the power of perseverance and determination, and I was grateful for the opportunity to have experienced such a remarkable journey.

The day after our return to our hometown, I wasted no time in recounting every detail of our extraordinary journey to my uncle, despite my lingering exhaustion. With a weary yet excited spirit, I poured out my experiences to him. His smile of pride warmed my heart as he expressed his own happiness at my perseverance and determination. “I’m glad you took on this adventure, Marya,” he said, his voice filled with genuine pride. “I’m also proud of you for not giving up, unlike some of your classmates.”

But then, in his typical insightful manner, he posed a question that caused me to pause and reflect. “Tell me, Marya” he inquired gently, “What did you learn from this experience yesterday?” His words prompted me to delve deeper into the lessons I had gleaned from my journey into the depths of the earth.

I reflected in silence for a moment before a smile spread across my face. “Well, uncle” I began, “I learned from this experience how I can be unstoppable, just like you!”

His eyes twinkled with pride at my words. “Yes, yes,” he replied, graciously accepting the compliment.

But my uncle, ever the wise mentor, gently reminded me of something more profound. “You did this all by yourself!” he emphasized. “Do you recognize the significance of that? You’ve seen and experienced things that I haven’t encountered in my entire life. What you did yesterday, few people on this earth will ever have the chance to experience firsthand. It’s not just knowledge from books or videos; it’s about truly immersing yourself, feeling and touching it.”

He continued, his words sinking in deeply, “I hope this experience leaves a lasting impression on you, a lesson that you’ll carry with you throughout your life. It’s about seizing opportunities, pushing boundaries, and never giving up. If you want to see and experience more, you have to be willing to go further than anyone else.”

With a gentle smile, he imparted invaluable wisdom. “There may come a time when your family doesn’t understand you, when your hometown doesn’t support you, and when no one believes in you until you have something to show for it. But remember, when you embark on something, do it for yourself, for the values you stand for. Never compromise your integrity for the allure of money, because wealth may come and go, but your dignity and self-respect will endure.”

His words resonated deeply within me, imprinting themselves upon my soul as invaluable lessons to guide me through life’s journey. With gratitude in my heart, I absorbed his wisdom, knowing that I carried with me the seeds of resilience, determination, and integrity that he had so generously shared.

It was on that day that it truly dawned on me. The experience of exploring that natural resource, despite the grueling eight-hour trek through temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius underground, was undeniably worth it. The sights and sensations I encountered were beyond anything I had ever read in books or seen in films. It was a moment of profound realization and clarity.

In that moment, amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of the underground world, I made a decision. It was a decision that would shape my future, setting me on a path guided by the lessons learned from that extraordinary adventure. It was a decision that resonated deep within me, echoing with the determination to pursue my dreams and embrace life’s adventures with unwavering courage and conviction’’.

“I didn’t know you were so into adventure,” Elara chuckled, breaking the moment of reflection.

“Well, there are many things you don’t know about me yet, despite our years of friendship,” I replied with a smile. “Let’s finish this evening and continue our talks in two days.”

“Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea,” replied Elara. “But before we end this evening, let’s capture this moment with a photo,” she suggested, pulling her camera out of her bag. We took a selfie to mark the beginning of our storytelling journey for the upcoming book.

With anticipation for our next encounter, Elara bid farewell with a warm hug and heartfelt goodbye, leaving me alone. As I watched her depart, my gaze wandered to the breathtaking view of the Erasmus Bridge and the beautiful panorama beyond. A sense of gratitude washed over me, a feeling that had never left me since 2016.

I reflected on the journey I had undertaken, both in life and in my adventures. Despite the challenges and hardships I had faced, I was grateful for the valuable lessons they had taught me and the person they had helped me become. Each obstacle had been an opportunity for growth, each adventure a chance to discover something new about myself and the world around me.

With a contented heart and a renewed sense of purpose, I left the office behind and made my way home, ready to embrace whatever adventures awaited me.

Click here for Chapter 7

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