I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy to escort my older sister — who was no longer allowed to be outside alone — to a secret school. It was the only way we both could be educated.
Each day we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going. We would cover our books in grocery bags so it would seem like we were just out shopping.
The school was in a house — more than 100 of us packed into one small living room. It was cozy in winter, but extremely hot in summer.
We all knew we were risking our lives: the teacher, the students, and our parents. From time to time, school would suddenly be cancelled for a week because the Taliban were suspicious.
We always wondered what they knew about us. Were we being followed? Do they know where we live?
We were scared, but still, school was where we wanted to be.
A gorgeous landscape in Afghanistan, documented by TEDx speaker James Willcox
As school starts, the weather turns cold, and long walks become harder to handle, pangs of wanderlust are sure to set in again. So to celebrate World Tourism Day, we thought we’d bring the great wide world to you. Here, we’ve hand picked five talks that take you all over the world — from Palestine to Poland — so you can travel vicariously through TEDx.
The road less traveled: Tony Wheeler at TEDxQueenstown
In the travel talk to end all travel talks, Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet, waxes poetic about the adventure of travel — in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Albania, Libya, Myanmar, the Congo, Palestine, Zimbabwe and beyond — with gorgeous photos to boot.
A new look at an old country: Mark Power at TEDxKrakow
Sent to Poland to photograph the country in 2004, just before it joined the European Union, Mark Power found himself coming back again and again. This photographic tour de force at TEDxKrakow will show you the true complexity of this fascinating country. Warning: NSFW, some graphic images.
More than a thousand words — the power of images: Antonio Bolfo at TEDxEast
NYPD police officer and photographer Antonio Bolfo has seen a lot in his career. In this dynamic talk at TEDxEast, he shows how a well-crafted photo can tell a rich, inspiring story — with examples from the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the daily work of NYPD officers.
Off-road tours in Afghanistan: James Willcox at TEDxBathUniversity
James Wilcox operates a very untraditional tour company in Afghanistan and Somalia, giving tourists a chance to see the real places behind the headlines. In this talk at TEDxBathUniversity, he describes how he was inspired to start this off-road initiative after a chance meeting with a UN translator named Abdul.
Scenes from a Romanian village: Katy Fox at TEDxLuxembourgCity
Social anthropologist Katy Fox spent several months as a researcher in rural Romania. At TEDxLuxembourgCity, she shows what she learned — weaving stories of the people she met in the villages with stunning photos of village life.
(Photo from James Willcox’s talk at TEDxBathUniversity)
Growing up in Afghanistan, Mohammad Khan Kharoti was the first in his family who had the chance to go to school. At TEDxConcordiaUPortland, he shares how he’s now returned to Afghanistan — which still suffers from one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world — to build schools and give girls and boys the chance to receive an education like he did.