Talk wraps up ‘Tea’ season


March 3, 2010 - 12:00 AM

As a culmination to the seven-week-long Iola Reads, Kansas State University librarian Diana Farmer, who has worked in Afghanistan, will show photographs and talk about her time there. Farmer will speak at 7 p.m. March 11 in the Iola High School lecture hall.
The talk will teach Iolans more about life in Af-ghanistan, where Greg Mortenson, author of Iola Reads’ spring selection “Three Cups of Tea” works building schools, especially for girls.
While Farmer did not work with Mortenson, she did note the impact education has on the culture there.
Farmer was in Af-ghanistan “advising them about their libraries” in November 2008 and June 2009. She helped select library materials and “offer(ed) training sessions to faculty and some graduate students on how to do research on the Internet.” Such materials and knowledge were wanting, she noted.
Afghanistan is very conservative toward women, who have to keep themselves concealed at all times, Farmer said. Farmer had to abide by similar social mores while in the country, she said.
“I did have to wear a scarf and keep my head covered,” she noted. “The clothing I wore had to cover me from the  wrist to the neck and also my ankles. The clothing also had to be loose and not form-fitting.” 
At Kabul University, where Framer spent time, her lectures were attended by both men and women at the same time, a habit not typical even at the university level.
“Most of them understood the cultures are different and they were happy to get the information,” she said. Even so, she noted, “when they would come in for a class the women would sit on one side of the room and the men would sit on the other.”
Outside the university, men and women who were not married couples could not be in the same room at the same time, she said.
Farmer also visited Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh province while in Afghanistan, she said. It is home to the blue mosque, believed to entomb Hazrat Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Muslim prophet, Mohammed. The mosque is revered as “the tomb of one of the religious leaders of one of the sects of Islam,” Farmer said.
Farmer will present a PowerPoint presentation of her trips during her talk.

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