This memoir takes the reader on a journey through Afghanistan, meeting the women with whom Mary Smith worked and provides a remarkable insight into their lives. Share in the day-to-day lives of women like Sharifa and Marzia: the dramas, the tears and the laughter.
As well as the opportunity to get to know the women, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni allows the reader through some of the most stunning and dramatic landscapes in the world And if you want to know why the chickens were drunk and the macaroni burnt – you’ll have to buy the book!
Excerpt: this is from chapter seven when the trainee health volunteers request a family planning lesson.
Before we started on lessons about healthy pregnancies and deliveries, the students requested a class on family planning. It was the contraceptive pill they most wanted to hear about.
‘Is it true,’ asked Kulsom, ‘that if a woman takes the family planning goli for a while then has another baby she won’t have any milk?’ Someone else wanted to know if forgetting the pill meant the woman would have twins. Others were concerned that they might be left infertile if they took the pill for too long.
This worried Kulsom, who said, ‘It’s not that I don’t want any more babies but I’m tired – I’d just like to have a rest before the next one.’ As she had had four babies in six years it was not surprising she was tired.
Nickbacht, a mother of seven commented, ‘It used to be that babies came every two years. Now, it is often every year. It is harder for the younger ones now.’ Her explanation for the increased birth rate caused laughter but general agreement from the others. ‘It’s since the war started and so many men went to join the mujahideen,’ she said. ‘They don’t have sex while they are on duty so when they come home they want it all the time until they go away again. If they come home once a year, then once a year their wives become pregnant.
‘If there is ever peace again and the men are at home all the time it will go back to every two years. When you can eat sugar whenever you want, you stop wanting it so much.’
There was much giggling and hiding of faces in chaddars when I asked the women to tell me what they knew about how babies are conceived. A few ribald remarks were made amidst increased giggles, making me explain hastily that I did not want a description of the physical act. While it was clear that the “how-to” aspect of procreation was undoubtedly understood, there was little knowledge of the process of conception.
There was some confused murmuring about male and female eggs and someone declared that a woman could not become pregnant unless she was sexually satisfied.
Nickbacht, the wool spinner, snorted. ‘If that was true, how come there are so many children running around.’ This smart rejoinder provoking much laughter from the women made Iqbal blush furiously.
Poor Iqbal often had cause to blush as the women teased him unmercifully, telling him that as an unmarried man he wouldn’t know about these things yet. When condoms were handed round during a birth spacing class, the women promptly blew them up like balloons, laughing and making jokes that he refused to translate for me.
On one occasion he was so embarrassed he left the room, leaving me to demonstrate – with an inadequate vocabulary and the help of a broom handle – that a condom cannot be fitted correctly if it has been stretched to its full extent and snapped like a rubber band.
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Bio: Mary Smith lives in beautiful south west Scotland where she grew up. She worked in Pakistan and Afghanistan for ten years, where she established a mother and child care programme providing skills and knowledge to women health volunteers. Her memoir, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women, is about her work in Afghanistan which also provides the setting for her novel No More Mulberries.
She has one full length poetry collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day, published by Indigo Dreams and has written two local history books Dumfries Through Time and Castle Douglas Through Time and is working on Secret Dumfries to be published in 2018.
She is currently working on turning her blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish, into a book about caring for her dad through his dementia. And planning to write a more interesting bio!
You can find Mary here:
Amazon Page US: http://amzn.to/2ecvjbP
Amazon Page UK: http://amzn.to/2de1Soi