We Felt Their Kindliness:

An American Family’s Afghan Odyssey



Os Cresson


Haddonfield NJ:

Emerald Pademelon Press

(anticipated publication date: June, 2002)


two excerpts from the book appear below [click here]


This book will be sold at cost to people making donations to the

American Friends Service Committee Afghan Relief Fund


[to order this book or request more information, click here]







Rebecca and Osborne Cresson lived in Afghanistan from 1949 to 1951 with their daughter, Wetherill (8 years old when they arrived) and son, Os (one year younger).  Osborne taught math in a government high school and Rebecca taught elementary school at home.  They believed that a practical way to build world peace is for families to go and live among people whose ways differ from their own.


While teaching and homemaking, visiting and traveling, Osborne recorded the scene with a camera and Rebecca with pen and paper.  This record provides a glimpse of the Afghan people in the middle of the 20th century, only a few years after their country started to admit foreigners.  Although the materials are over 50 years old, the culture described is still present in Afghanistan today.  The Cresson family opened their hearts to the people around them and the Afghans responded in kind.  May these words and pictures encourage us all to reach out in similar ways.


This book is being published to raise money for Afghan relief.  All income not spent on publishing and marketing the book will be given to the Afghan Relief Fund of the American Friends Service Committee. 


Excerpts from the book appeared in the April issue of Friends Journal (see  For more information please go to the website of the publisher, Emerald Pademelon Press (, or contact the author at





Excerpt #1: The Bamian Boy


A father and son embrace on the shore of

Lake Band-i-Amir in Bamian Provence


The 18-month-old boy wore a silver embroidered cap with purple earflaps.  On the cap were many coins, red, green and blue beads, small Koran boxes and leather wrapped verses too.  He wore a dirty cotton, ankle length dress, a wadded pustin with a blue girdle and a strap on which hung boxes and coins that jingled as he ran.  He had a cotton pouch in which he carried some nawn and nuts.  His anklets were bits of wire on which old coins, blue and red beads and lumps of silver were strung.  His father had him try on Os’ shoes but the child cried and kicked at the strangeness.  He was a darling big eyed youngster with a nice grin like his father’s.


Excerpt #2: Saqao, the Water Carrier 



Saqao, the water carrier




When the Afghan sun shines at noon heat, the compound gate opens and a water carrier twists through with his bloated sheepskin on his back.  Saqao is very old, with long white tufts of sparse hair growing on his chin.  His body is bent almost double under the weight of the water bag.  He leans heavily on a stick, his Mongolian features drawn in lines of strain.  With mouth hanging open and beads of sweat running down the creases in his face he plods slowly toward the kitchen.

Saqao has been a water carrier ever since he was strong enough to carry a small skin.  His father was a water carrier before him and his grandfather, too. 

Generations ago Saqao’s ancestors lived in the far north central part of Afghanistan.  The last spreading fingers of the Himalaya Mountains rose high and snow-covered between them and their King, who lived in Kabul. 

During long years of isolation these people learned to love their freedom, to grow strong and clever in order to survive the rigors of their existence, but eventually they became too bold and too independent.  When they revolted against the King an army was sent to sack their villages.

The northern rebels were routed and defeated.  Many men were brought to Kabul in captivity, some to be slaves, some to do the most lowly tasks.  Water carrying, road making, and street cleaning became their jobs. 

There is no law, now, to prevent these people from entering other occupations but most of the street cleaners, road makers and water carriers still have the typical, flat, Mongolian faces, the broad cheekbones, slanted eyes and scant beards of their forefathers. 

In contrast, bazaar keepers and government officials usually have narrow faces, aquiline features, and large round eyes.  Class distinction, defined by facial appearance, added to poverty and the inertia of malnutrition have kept the northmen’s descendents at their lowly work.

Saqao comes down the path with his empty water bag flapping.  In the midday sun his turban is as white as his wispy beard.  He stops under the window to salaam and smile, touching his forehead and then his heart, folding his arms across his chest and bowing, once to sahib, once to hawnum-sahib, and once to the children. 

Malarial fever is not burning in his thin, muscle knotted body today, so he does not ask for medicine.  His smile spreads from wrinkle to wrinkle across the breadth of his face.  He turns, and with a last low bow, shuffles out of the gate to come another day, as his son will come when old Saqao can no longer carry the heavy water skin.






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