I am delighted to feature Mary, a published writer, local historian, and fully-engaged blogger who resides in Scotland. Mary has lived and worked in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and her travels and experiences are fascinating to read about. She has special offers available on one of her her books from today, and I urge you to check it out.
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Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
And this is her unedited guest post.
I love blogging. I love the conversations and the connections it generates. My first blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish (https://marysmith57.wordpress.com), was about caring for my father when he had dementia in the last couple of years of his life. I started MarySmith’sPlace because I wanted to be able to post on non-dementia related topics – anything from walks in the Scottish countryside to the books I write, from local history to travel abroad.
In September last 2019 I came across old diaries, letters and a draft of a book I’d written about my first trip to work in Afghanistan way back in 1989. Reading them, I could feel again my excitement and wonder at almost everything and everyone I encountered and thought I’d share on my blog. Ever since then I have put up a post once a week on my Afghan Adventures.
I didn’t for one moment imagine where this would lead. I’ve said how much I love blogging’s conversations and connections and this series of posts has led to some astonishing connections – and re-connections. At first it was mainly regular followers who commented (favourably, I’m glad to say) and have continued to follow, comment and several reblog on a regular basis so I felt I was writing something people enjoyed reading.
One day I noticed a tweet saying they were reading Mary Smith’s blog about Afghanistan. I thanked the person, Atiq Lotan. The following week it happened again. This time after my thank you, Atiq Lotan commented on my blog saying, ‘Your writings will be a reliable source for young Hazaras in Jaghori and all over Hazaristan (Central Afghanistan) to better understand their past.’
Apart from making me feel rather old, I was incredibly touched and pleased by this comment for several reasons, not least because people I am writing about approve of what I’m writing. I’d have hated it if Hazara people were upset or angry with what I wrote. I also learned two things, which I subconsciously knew – Hazara Jat is actually Hazaristan (I won’t go into the politics here) and Jaghoray is Jaghori.
My visitor numbers soared although that didn’t translate into as many new followers. However, many of those visitors contacted me through Facebook either with friend requests or private messaging to say they had read my blog posts. One even said I lived forever in the hearts of Hazara people! Two brothers contacted me separately who are the sons of Gul Agha, the landlord from whom we rented our first clinic in Jaghori. One is in Germany, one in the UAE. I sent photos, including one of their father holding a baby – not either of them but their sister, who lives in London. One said he had spoken to his father who remembers me and said to pass on his hello.
My head still spins at the thought of someone in the UAE reading my blog, emailing me to say it is his father I write about, requesting any family photos I had and telling me he had spoken to his father back at home. When I write my posts, I feel like it was only last year I was living through the experiences I write about – but it was over thirty years ago. There were no mobile phones. No internet. Many of the Hazara people reading my blog were not even born then and now they live in a world in which there is instant communication.
Oh, an on the subject of communication. I wasn’t entirely sure if the emails asking for photos were genuine so I emailed my friend in Kabul. He comes from Jaghori. He asked another friend but he didn’t know so he called the person in charge of the Jaghori clinic who asked around and replied to say, yes, Gul Agha’s sons lived in Germany and UAE. In my day such a query would have taken weeks, if not months to get a reply.
Another friend request came from a young woman, whose name I didn’t recognise though I saw she was friends with another of my Afghan friends. I accepted and it turns out she is the daughter of one of the students in the mother and child care classes I taught in 1995/96. She wasn’t born then. She sent me photos of a group of students with me. So touched her mother had kept them and talked to her daughter about me.
See what I mean about loving the connections and conversations! This post is probably becoming too long already – though I could tell you about lots more people who have re-joined my life because of my blog – and I really ought to do a wee bit of the horrible self-promotion stuff.
If this post has piqued your interest in my blog you can find it at: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com I’d love to see you there. Also, I have written a memoir, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni, about my later time in Afghanistan in which you can meet my students and the women who became my friend.
In No More Mulberries we meet Scottish-born midwife, Miriam. She loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan, but she can’t ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son. When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. An old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going wrong.
From 14-18 May; only 99p – you can’t buy a coffee for so little, even if you were allowed to during lockdown.
Here are some ways to connect with Mary, and to see more of her writing.
She has also published a poetry collection.
Please visit her blogs, and treat yourself to a copy of her book to read during lockdown, for just 99p!