Dinner and Dancing

By Mary Bova, Relocation Intern

It is so hard to believe that my time at The International Center is nearly over. Each and every moment here has been enriching and rewarding. Yesterday I had the opportunity to accompany the Women of Justice Delegation. This has been the crowing jewel of all of my experiences here and that is saying a lot because I have had countless beautiful experiences here.
Our day began with a visit to the women’s prison. We were a group of five females most of them attorneys from Jordan, Afghanistan, Russia and South Sudan, one very courages man from India, an English language officer and myself. I was amazed and in awe to be among this distinguished delegation. Each had endured and overcome so much to be where they were. Fila* from Afghanistan was an attorney; her family went against other family and friends to send their daughters to school. They were even forced to move to Pakistan for a time in order to continue their daughter’s education. I found it difficult to move across town a few years ago. I cannot imagine having to leave my country so that my children could be educated. Fila shared that even today parents are afraid to send their girls to school because of security threats. I asked her what they were afraid of and she replied that the Taliban was still making it very difficult for girls to be educated. They would even poison the water at the schools leaving families afraid to send their daughters to school. Bahadur, the lone man from India, shared with me the pressure of defending women’s rights in a male dominated society. He endured much persecution and ridicule when as a passport officer he would hold the passports of husbands until they worked out their issues with their wives. He said that change is slow but they are making progress. Ironically the women of the group were relentless in giving him a hard time with just about everything but the patient Bahadur endured their constant banter because he knew in his heart he was working toward something far bigger.
Our next stop was the Peace Learning Center. We walked in and there were large paintings of warriors for peace. The walls were graced with likenesses of Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and others. Our Peace Center leader asked me to join the workshop. I was truly honored and felt completely unworthy of the privilege. We sat nestled among the faces of the courageous freedom fighters on the walls. I could not help thinking that the inspiring group I sat among would be the freedom fighters of the future. One day the world would be honoring them for their selfless acts of courage promoting a better life for people everywhere. Just when I though I could not be any prouder to be among such greatness our Peace Learning Center leader told me that this beautiful program originated at the inner church center, an organization that my grandfather had an integral part in starting. I cannot begin to describe how meaningful and inspiring this time was to me.
We were driving back to the hotel and these lovely ladies invited me to come back the following evening for a special dinner. I accepted their invitation. I went to their hotel room and they had prepared a feast. They had all worked together and made a beautiful presentation of food with very little resources. We ate like royalty and shared stories of our lives, funny ones and sad ones; we danced the night away learning each other’s dances. Aminah taught us belly dance. I shared Salsa and Meringue; Fila showed us a special dance from India and also one from Aghanistan. We laughed and we cried, but through it all we came together as women for justice and women for unity. Leaving me with a deeper understanding of how small our world is. I am so deeply grateful for my time at The International Center. I feel I have been given so much more than I could possibly give back. It has been a tremendous honor to be a part of this organization. I will carry memories of my time here in my heart always.

*All names used in this blog are fictitous although their stories are true.