Fahim asks the schoolchildren to try and think
what it would be like to be in another country
where they did not know the language. Not to know
how things are done there, how to live from day to day,
to be speechless, at a loss, and utterly alone. That’s how
it was for him, when he first came here, the only
Afghan that he knew of, and things were strange
and he could not speak the tongue. He tells me this
on a fine spring day in the garden, the equinox, in fact,
a day of celebration when the garden gates are opened
to let in the sun, which seems pleased to be here,
softening the edge of the mid-March wind, and lending
a warm glow to people’s faces, as they stand, or talk,
or stroll, or sit with home-made soup beside the stalls,
while the garden blooms about them. Along the path
that winds about the lawn there’s a little “trail of tears”,
way-markers of the Passion, that well-walked tale
of suffering and redemption. A boy drops from the swing
and comes to stand beside us, a shy lad of about seven
who takes his father’s hand. Fahim smiles. It’s a good life
they have here now, he tells me, and he wants
to make it good for others too, those like him who made
that journey, to help them find their place, to speak
the tongue, and know how things are done. They meet
each week, a group of them, and he assures me
if I go there, I’ll be welcome. I say I will. Then we
shake hands, and he and his boy move off along the path
that makes for easy walking, past the newly-planted
olive tree whose leaves flash silver in the breezy light,
by the cake-stall and the flowerbeds,
and up towards and through the open gate.