It started with a Morris Gleitzman book and ended with a Skype call to a retired Air Force Corporal. Morris’ book, Boy Overboard, really made us think about the lives we lead in Australia compared with the lives of the book’s main characters, Jamal and Bibi.
The book is fiction yet it is based on interviews Morris has conducted with people who have experience of Afghanistan. Therefore, some parts are very close to what it is like to live in Afghanistan as a kid. We were surprised to read that Jamal and Bibi were playing near landmines and that Bibi wasn’t allowed outside by herself. It was also strange to read that the Government had pulled the ribbon out of cassette tapes and thrown it up on to power poles. Reading that Jamal and Bibi’s house got blown up because their Mum had been running a school in it was so different to how we get to go to school.
All of this made us want to find out more about Afghanistan. We did some research online at school but we also wished that we could talk to someone.
Our wish came true yesterday when we Skyped with Richard to find out information about Afghanistan. Richard worked in the air-force as an Avionics Technician on the Hercules Aircraft for seven years. He was deployed to the Middle East for the first time in 2007 and then again in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
We asked Richard LOTS of questions and got LOTS of information. We’ve summarised what we found out…
In Boy Overboard, Jamal and Bibi were always playing soccer. We found out that Afghani people not only play soccer, but they like flying kites as well. We learnt that the temperature can reach 40 – 50 degrees! It can get as high as 60 degrees in an un-air-conditioned aeroplane. We thought 40 degrees was hot! It also snows in Afghanistan in winter. The terrain is very rocky, hilly, dry and dusty. Jamal played soccer in the desert but there was no mention of snow in the book. It must have been set in summer time. We wonder if they have a wet season or not?
We liked seeing the pictures, especially the helicopter and planes. A Hercules can carry 128 passengers or 92 troops. Sometimes it carried animals. Can you imagine the smell after animals had been in the plane for two hours on a hot day?
It was surprising to find out what their currency looks like. It was also interesting to learn that Richard used American dollars when he was there.
He has earned four really cool badges. He has an Iraq Campaign medal, an Afghanistan Campaign medal, Australian Defence medal and a Return from Active Service medal. He also showed us his badges…. the Bob the Builder one amused us most!
Boy Overboard didn’t talk about food in Afghanistan much. We found out that Richard ate mostly on the base. One base even set up its own McDonald’s!
Jamal and Bibi didn’t have any pets. But, other people in Afghanistan do. There are lots of goats, chickens, dogs, donkeys and camels. If you have a donkey you are fairly rich. It’s like us driving a Rolls Royce!
You can read the full transcript of our call below. Click on the bottom right hand corner to make it full screen.
We really enjoyed our chat with Richard and are very happy that he gave up his time to talk to us. Thanks Richard!