In February 1961, Mary MacMakin arrived in Afghanistan with her husband and four children, landing on a snow-strewn runway in the capital, Kabul. It was a trip into the unknown for the 31-year-old aid worker and her family.
Little did MacMakin know that her trip would kindle a decades-long dedication to Afghanistan, a country MacMakin has now long called home.
A Boston native who majored in physical therapy at Stanford University, MacMakin had lived a privileged life in the United States. But it was in impoverished Afghanistan where she says he found her true calling as a humanitarian worker at the height of the Cold War.
“I have always felt…home here,” says the 87-year-old, who lives in a cramped, shared apartment in Kabul. “I have been in love with the mountains and the people.”
She tries harder to explain her fascination, recalling a shared taxi ride with three young men in Kabul many years ago. She says conversation naturally turned to why MacMakin, so obviously a foreigner, felt so at home in Afghanistan.
“I told them I have been trying to figure that out for decades, why I like living here. And one of the reasons I'd discovered,” she says, “is because the people seem to be so well-balanced, personally, between mind and heart. Americans live in their head/mind so much they have forgotten their core being, their heart.”
It was no surprise when MacMakin finally decided to apply for Afghan citizenship last year. Due to her lifelong commitment to the country, she was presented with her documents by none other than President Ashraf Ghani and first lady Rula Ghani on Norouz, the Persian new year, in March.