As we came over the last hill before the school, the entire route ahead was lined with children....all the girls dressed in bright clothes and headscarves, the boys in their best clothes. They all clapped and cheered as we got out of our car and lined our route as we walked towards the school. The choir sang us a traditional Afghan welcome song and then we were followed by the hundreds of children up to their new school. We were all brought to tears by this incredible welcome. It was so humbling ---so far away from home in such a distant corner of rural Afghanistan. The girls took my hand as I walked up the hill and the crowd surged behind us and I felt more than ever before how worth while this work is and how wonderful it is to bring hope to these children.
As we climbed the last part of the hill we were greeted by all the elders—hundreds of them, lining the way, wearing their traditional striped badakshani coats and turbans....all the elders from all the villages around. They each took the boys hands and shook them and to me they touched their hands on their hearts in traditional Afghan welcome. Being greeted by the old and the young of the area was so moving.
Then we were ushered to a platform and all the children and elders sat in front of us. We were joined by the Deputy Governor of Takhar Province—who steamed up in his tinted windowed jeep complete with a carload of bodyguards and the local Education Minister. There followed endless speeches and endless rounds of thank yous. Then we too had to address the crowds. It was amazing to look out on a sea of faces, old and young perched above the villages and fields of Afghanistan.
After the ceremony, our donor handed out sweets, biscuits and drinks to everyone at the school---then we were ushered in to a carpeted room, where I sat with 30 men, having lunch....all provided by the local community who must have killed many sheep! I reflected how sad it was that not one woman had been allowed to attend the opening ceremony.....and yet could comfort myself with the knowledge that the school girls were at last allowed to school—only since 2003 have they been offered an education at all.
As lunch came to an end, men came in carrying gifts for all the guests—beautiful coats for all the men and a scarf for me
We left the school and head back to Taloqan.