1st place winner, Alyssa Hollingsworth: Upon arriving in Afghanistan, I was worn out from travel and the stress of being in (what felt like) a completely alien world. But no sooner had I arrived than my older sister, who I was staying with, took me to have lunch with our Afghan driver’s family. I sat down on the cushions, trying hard not to point the soles of my feet at anyone, or let my chadar slip off my hair, or trip on my long skirt, or make eye contact with the man of the house or his son… I had counted all the rules carefully, but I hadn’t counted on the hospitality of this Afghan family. I came steeped in prejudices and, frankly, fear—fear of offending the family and of being in that country at all. But no sooner had I sat down than my expectations—my prejudices—were blown away. A generous meal was laid out for us by a grinning mother and daughter. The father of the house sat and chatted with my older sister in Pashto. While he talked, his young daughter came to perch on his lap. Eventually she got bored of that and began crawling over him, playing with his beard, eating her feet—just being a little girl. He would grin at her, tickle her, encourage her. Watching them play—watching how much he loved her—was one of my most touching experiences in Afghanistan. Here was I, entering the country with my head full of textbook knowledge and an unhealthy dose of the news, expecting it to be a completely different world. But it wasn’t. It’s not all war. In Afghanistan, there is a taxi driver who loves his daughters and his wife and his son, and while I sat and ate with them I was welcomed as part of the family—I felt like part of the family. I wasn’t alien. It was like coming home.