I believe in tea.
I know it sounds funny but it’s true. I do, I believe in tea.
Green tea, black tea, herbal tea, sweet tea or un, cold or hot, it doesn’t matter. I believe in all of it. I believe in tea’s ability to connect cultures over time and distance. I believe in tea, in serving it in hospitality and drinking it as an acknowledgment of shared friendship.
I grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a place where sweet tea is part of the culture. But I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, where hot tea is also part of the culture. So, growing up as an Afghan refugee in the Deep South, tea permeated my life.
When I returned to Afghanistan in 2003, I wasn’t quite prepared. It was the first time since leaving at the age of two in 1979. We flew in to a decrepit airport, which had parts of planes strewn along the sides of the runway. I cried as we landed, out of fear or anticipation, maybe both. I was overwhelmed by the physical destruction that thirty years of war had on the capital, the ruined, bombed-out buildings, smiling street children and the strolling men with machine guns.
When I arrived to the family apartment, I sat on my bed and stared off into space. I was unable to unpack my bags or go to the living room to see family friends who had last seen me when I was a fat two-year old.
Then, someone brought me hot tea, fragrant with cardamom, in a glass mug similar to what we had in Georgia. And immediately I was comforted. I walked out in the living room and started to rebuild the connections with old family and friends. I told them about my family, the last 23 years away and they told me about their lives. I spent the next 6 months in Kabul, drinking tea with old friends and new friends. Crying over the horrors of war and laughing over the shared experiences that connect us all.
I’ve been back and forth for the past 5 years. And whether I come home to the U.S. or come home to Afghanistan, I look forward to tea.
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