He skipped his senior prom to travel through a land shattered by decades of fundamentalism and war. American-born Said Hyder Akbar was a high-school student in Concord when his father answered a summons from childhood friend and new Afghan head of state Hamid Karzai to come back home and help out. Akbar senior was appointed Karzai's official government spokesman, and the teen accompanied his dad to an ancestral homeland he'd never known before. Access to top honchos alternated with other amazing scenarios: ambushes, bombs, warlords, al-Qaeda trails, and the gory corpse of an assassinated vice president. That and subsequent trips became pieces on This American Life and then a book, Come Back to Afghanistan (Bloomsbury, $24.95). Now attending Yale, to which he transferred from Diablo Valley College, Akbar still spends his summers overseas as the founder and codirector of WADAN Afghanistan, an NGO devoted to rebuilding schools and installing pipe systems throughout the country.