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Salaam aleikum


A recent anecdote: I was dissolved in tears at the end of “The Kite Runner.” My friend Tessa and I were probably the last ones out of the theater in Denver.  Some folks were still milling around in the lobby as Tessa went to the bathroom.

First paperback edition book cover
The Kite Runner. First paperback edition book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man who had sat a couple of rows in front of me made eye contact a couple of times.  I was just trying to pull myself together. I felt so fragile and still  on the verge of tears. But this guy approached me and said, “Salaam aleikum.”

Wa aleikum salaam,” I replied, “Have you been there?”

He said he was seven years old when his father took the family to Kabul. His father worked for USAID as an engineer. He said he could tell I was affected deeply by the movie, and he sensed that I had a story.

He told me he had seen the kite contests in the winters.  I was so addled, I failed to get his name or give him mine. So we parted ways in the parking lot, and I doubt I’ll ever see him again. But it was comforting to meet him and to say good bye (ba aman I khoda) in Farsi.



Flag of Sweden

I wanted to defect



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I wanted to defect when it was time to come home.  But I’m really strong on agreements, and I agreed that I would come home.  (Laughter)  I’m still really strong on agreements but I was not ready to go.  I was not ready to go.  We all cried.  It was not something that we were ready to do.


Oh, my gosh, [those last days] were awful.  They were really awful.  We were running about getting a few pictures of things that I didn’t have.  Going to different friends and shaking hands or hugging and saying good-bye, and exchanging addresses.



English: The Ferris Wheel at Liseberg in Gothe...

English: The Ferris Wheel at Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden. Svenska: Pariserhjulet på Liseberg i Göteborg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



There was a dinner and everybody came to the airport.  The aunts, the uncles, the papa, the mama, the boyfriends of the girls.  And we just — it was really amazing, ’cause I was hanging out the train window and I didn’t want to let them go, and they disappeared, and it was awful.  It was awful.


But I came home and immediately got a lecture about the way I was dressed.  I wasn’t a wearing a bra.  I decided they weren’t necessary there.  I had a couple mini-skirts that were pretty doggone short, and when we stopped at the restaurant to have dinner when they picked me up, my dad swatted my rear end and said go put some pants on.


They found more self-confidence, both of them said.  I asked my mother about it when we were out to dinner a while ago, and I told her I was going to be cooperating with you on this, and she said “we saw a lot more self-confidence, and your dad learned to appreciate you.  He missed you –  a lot.”   So that was nice.

Flag of Finland

I heaved into the North Atlantic


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I kind of drank too much when I came back to the States.

They put us on a cruise ship from Helsinki to Copenhagen.  You leave out on a Friday and arrive at the dock Sunday morning.  So and it’s really kind of a party barge, and we didn’t have state rooms.

They have up on the upper deck retractable ceilings, and at night they would just pull those shut and you just kind of grab one of these wrestling mats and grab a blanket and a pillow.  I can remember that when you got American dollars, they’ll serve you.

So I thought I would try to have one of every kind of drink I could think of, and that didn’t sit too well.

I ended up heaving it all into the North Atlantic.

But oh boy, you know, the school of higher education.  That was a good trip.

I think one of the things about Finnish people is they’re a very private people. They really don’t share their views and their opinions and their emotions that readily.  You know the thing, too, is my Finnish mother, she cried when I left, and to this day I’ve got a picture there at the dock.  I thought that was probably the sweetest thing was somebody crying cause she was gonna miss me. She came to like me a lot, I guess.


Ken Young Leaving Finland

Ken Young Leaving Finland


I think I was ready to come home.

Yeah, I was ready to come home because, you know, it’s kind of like vacation.  I was ready to get back to my routine, because most of our lives we spend working and even as a kid we spent a fair amount of our time in our routine with our school and with our family, and to go over there and do that was awesome.  Two months was good.  I’m always amazed that kids can go over there on a full year’s program.

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