After Afghanistan, A Vet Finds His Talent For Felted Animals
Here is the remarkable story of Kiyoshi Mino, a farmer who needle-felts incredibly realistic small animals for fun.
The Illinois native had no intention of being an artist—or a man of the land, for that matter—but two stints in Afghanistan gave him a new perspective on personal priorities, and significantly changed the course of his life.
That experience led Mino to question the quality-of-life standards that most Americans are often born-and-bred to hold dear.
“We’re raised with the idea that our way of life is better than those in less ‘developed countries’ and that progress is always good, so my preconceptions going in were that these people would be incredibly impoverished and kinda miserable. But talking to them and seeing how they went about their everyday lives I began to realize that they were happy living the way they were, with nothing to their names but a mud brick house, a wheat field and some goats. They worked hard when there was work to be done in the fields, but when there wasn’t any they had all the free time in the world, and they spent it hanging out and drinking tea with their neighbors and family.”
Mino went back to Afghanistan after his stretch in the military and spent an additional year in Tirin Kot, the provincial capital of Uruzgan, managing a USAID project called the Alternative Livelihoods Program.
“I came to realize that most of what is called ‘aid’ or ‘development’ is really just an excuse to use taxpayer money to make a bunch of U.S.-based companies rich; very little of the money reaches actual Afghans.”
Mino took the whole thing to heart.
“I increasingly felt that instead of trying to help these Pashtun tribesmen in the mountains of Afghanistan to live more like us Americans, we should be learning to live a bit more like them: cutting out the extraneous stuff and living simply while valuing our families and communities,” he says.