Faced With a Dilemma

Do I take the job in Afghanistan, based in Kabul with some travel to the regions, with a humanitarian organization I've always admired? I've been working for 20 years in broadcast journalism, including more recently as an international consultant training journalists and journalism educators in the Middle East and in several former Soviet bloc countries. This is undoubtedly agonizing-decision-making-time, as I have two teenage boys to consider, but they will be well looked after back home with their father.

I know the reaction of some is going to be hostile, but this is to be expected given my long-standing designated place within the wider family dynamic. I'm also well aware that I'm breaking the conservatively assigned "acceptable" roles of mothers as perceived by most in our society. All of this I have to deal with when we, as a family, make our decision.

I'm relying on professional contacts to link me with people who have recently lived and worked in Kabul. Some people are extremely kind with their time and advice. To these people I am extremely grateful, particularly professional women in their 40s who are child-free and unafraid to face life's challenges, and unflinchingly give back where they can.

Although I'm currently living in Bordeaux, France for a month undertaking a French language course, I'm spending hours on the Internet at night (when I should be doing French homework) researching Afghanistan. Since January there's been a marked increase in the number of Taliban related attacks in Kabul. This year it's definitely become harder for internationals to work in the country's capital. I keep waking at 4 a.m. mulling over the decision and then falling asleep at 6, then waking again at 7:45 a.m. to go to my French class. I'm tired and distracted while trying hard to learn the language.

Bordeaux is beautiful at this time -- xmas lights and decorated trees to cheer the mood, the ubiquitous xmas market, not to mention my favorite European winter delight -- warm mulled wine laced with citrus fruits and spices. I'm looking forward to ice skating on the soon-to-be laid rink in the square next to the formidable Cathedrale St. Andre.

Amazing to think Eleanor of Aquitaine was only 15 years old when she married Louis VII in 1137, a few months before becoming Queen.