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I recently returned from a consulting mission in Afghanistan. Whenever I return from a developing country I become aware of so many things I often take for granted. Reflecting on my recent business trip here are some things I am grateful for:

Freedom; the freedom to walk in the streets and in nature. In Afghanistan, I travel in a bullet-proof vehicle with a personal body guard who is armed with a pistol and an AK47. I am unable to walk in the streets. On the rare occasion (e.g. on the outskirts of Kabul on prayer day), I may walk outside with my armed and flak-jacketed body guard by my side.

Electricity, heat and light; on my recent mission the electricity was out for two days at the Ministry of Public Health where I was working. I interviewed a number of people in a cold portable with the doors wide open and got chilled to the bone.

Internet connectivity; when the electricity has challenges, the ability to connect with the internet is compromised. I keep in touch via Skype with family and friends and when I have no internet I am affected by the lack of connection.

Clean and fresh air; Kabul is in a bowl, surrounded by mountains that are deforested. There is a large amount of dust in the air, which gets into your lungs, plus a number of squatters have built their homes on the edge of the mountains and there are open sewers. You breathe in e-coli and who knows what else! I have had the misfortune of getting pneumonia twice while living and working in Afghanistan. Many people who work there get the “Kabul cough”.

Clean water; In Afghanistan as in many developing countries, it is not safe to drink from the tap or to brush your teeth with tap water. It’s recommended to use bottled water.

Ability to dress how I choose; In Afghanistan, even as a foreigner it is important to respect the culture, so I always wear a head scarf and am well covered (usually with a long jacket or shirt and pants). When it gets hot it is challenging to stay cool when you’re all wrapped up. I don’t know how those women in burkas do it! While shopping with a friend in Kabul a few years ago, she tried on a burka for about 2 minutes. When she took off the burka she exclaimed, “I could hardly breath and I don’t know how women see in these!”

What are you grateful for in your life? Feel free to comment and to share this with others.

P.S. There is a growing body of research on the health benefits of gratitude and the importance of being and feeling grateful for who we are, what we have and where we are in our lives.

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