I remember meeting Sakhi for the first time in Kabul in August 2005. He was wearing a clean, white pressed chef jacket, a big smile and carrying a collection of recipes in Dari and English.
“Hello, I am Sakhi.”
He spoke in English, placed one hand over his heart, and bowed slightly toward us in typical Afghan greeting. I smiled back at his open, friendly face. We liked him immediately.
We Need Help!
My boss at the International School of Kabul (ISK) had determined we needed someone to provide daily meals for our busy school staff. Purchasing, cleaning, and preparing meals in the random order of Kabul markets and ever-present microorganisms in raw foods would be time-consuming for our expatriate teachers. In order to keep them healthy and use time for instruction rather than housekeeping duties, we asked other international organizations for cook recommendations.
“We need someone who wants to be part of our ISK family, someone we can trust with our wellbeing,” we explained. As we interviewed Sakhi we learned about his years working with foreigners and training in food preparation. He expressed a strong interest in helping our school.
For the next 10 years, Sakhi supervised meals for the ISK staff six days each week, lunch and dinner. I met with him often in the early years discussing menus and food choices. He shared traditional Afghan meals weekly at our request and learned many Western dishes. As the school and staff grew, he often served 40-50 people in our campus dining room.
Sakhi had a great sense of humor as well as loyalty. He laughed often and encouraged us during campus lockdowns due to safety issues. Even when alerted by security forces to stay off the streets, he would somehow make it to ISK on his motorcycle. We felt better when Sakhi was present and caring for us.
One day when he showed me an unusually large acquisition of fresh celery, not common in the markets of Kabul, I asked him, “Sakhi, do you like celery?”
“No, I like salary!” he quipped right back with a giggle and big smile. What a guy!
Immigrant in Switzerland
After ISK closed in January 2015, Sakhi struggled to find a job to support his family. He and his oldest son made the decision to migrate to Europe with all the risks over land and water in early 2016. This was before the borders into the EU became closed to Afghans.
In May, my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Sakhi and his son in Basel, Switzerland where they are learning German and moving along the immigration process to begin a new life in a better place than present-day Afghanistan. Hopefully they will be able to settle permanently and bring his wife and other children to Switzerland from Kabul.
Sakhi is still smiling and laughing, even with the daily uncertainty that refugees face. We love this man so much and thank God for allowing our lives to cross…and cross again!