By ROBIN CAUDELL
---- — SARANAC LAKE — When Ian Pounds’s life came undone, he sought refuge in Afghanistan.
For four years, he taught boys and girls at the Mehan Orphanage run by the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization in Kabul.
In his one-man show, “Undestroyed: Tales of One Man’s Journey to Afghanistan,” Pounds shares his experiences as the only Westerner in an orphanage today at the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake. The event is sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.
“I lived outside the loop of expats and Westerners,” Pounds said. “Right now, I’m homeless, traveling around the country, giving this monologue and raising money and awareness, and trying to drum up support for the Afghanistan orphanage.”
In the war-ravaged country, there’s an exodus.
“Money is tight. Money is drying up, and jobs are drying up. People want to wash their hands of Afghanistan. This program for these kids is so unique and valuable. We’re trying to make this transition one way or the other. I’m not sure I will get back to Kabul,” Pounds said.
Pounds was directly targeted — a fatwa was issued — for teaching leadership skills to girls ages 16 to 19.
“At the end of the school year, I left to let things cool off,” he said.
In “Undestroyed,” Pounds takes his audience on a multimedia journey.
“I bring them to Afghanistan. They experience all I experienced my first year there. I’m also a musician and songwriter. I perform three songs I wrote in Afghanistan. I share photographs and a video. People get to really see and hear Afghanistan and not just imagine it,” Pounds said.
He hopes people come away empowered.
“Feeling there is something good happening in Afghanistan,” he said. “We are all tired of the news loop, the same tired, old story we’ve heard. We don’t believe anything about Afghanistan.”
“Undestroyed” restores people’s confidence in humanity and the possibility in Afghanistan.
“One person can do something. You can make some changes, positive changes, in the world. Even someone as stupid, useless and screwed up as I was, I was able to transform … into something positive,” he said.
In “Undestroyed,” Pounds does not ignore the ugly things but focuses on how two disparate cultures can come together.
“The children taught me, they reignited what we call the ‘American dream’ in my heart. The idea (that) through your own efforts you can make a better world. The children really carried that in them. They’re really extraordinary.”
The Afghani children also taught him about love and seeking a balance between Western philosophy of self-determinism and Eastern philosophy of the communal.
“Nature is more powerful than anything. It tends to be fatalistic. It’s all written, so you can’t change what is going to happen. Both of these philosophies are deeply flawed by themselves. The children taught me how to combine these two. They are not mutually exclusive and blend into a third way,” Pounds said.
Historically, Afghanistan has served as the crossroads between the East and West.
“From Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Russia — they call Afghanistan the graveyard of empires,” Pounds said. “No empire has been able to last there. It’s the beginning and the end for them.”
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.orgIF YOU GO WHAT: "Undestroyed: Tale of One Man's Journey to Afghanistan" by Ian Pounds. WHEN: 7 tonight. WHERE: Pendragon Theatre, 15 Brandy Brook Ave., Saranac Lake. ADMISSION: $5. Free for students. CONTACT: For questions, call Nathalie Thill at the Adirondack Center for Writing at 354-1261.