Thursday, 16 October 2008

16th October - cricket, crafts and red carpet!

Pictures of School Consultants receiving gifts are also posted - scroll down to see! Here we see the Afghan Cricket Team and some of the beautiful work done by the potters at the Turquoise Mountain, Paula.

A great day and much achieved. Met up with Raess, from the Afghan cricket team. He had been man of the match in the finals in Tanzania when the Afghan team won the trophy.

Leslie Knott, who is making a film on the team (see had recommended that I contact him as he is determined to use cricket as a means to help the people of Afghanistan and has already organised cricket camps for kids in Northern Afghanistan.

He was born in Pakistan, where his parents were refugees. He grew up and saw the Pakistan team doing well in cricket and decided he wanted to be a great cricketer. He played in all the refugee camps in Pakistan and popularised tennis ball cricket. He remembers coming across the border back into Afghanistan in 2003 and being shocked at the devastation of his homeland and deciding he wanted to be a part of the rebuilding of his nation.

We met at the Intercontinental Hotel,which stands proud on the hills overlooking Kabul and was a bastion of the troubled years, often housing journalists during the Russian war. I remember seeing it in 2002 when the ceiling was coming down - now it has been done up and is pretentious and rather hideous and sterile-soul-less would describe it well! Outside the security is incredibly tight and at the door there is a large notice saying no guns allowed.

We discussed the possibility of arranging cricket training camps. Raess will get 6 members of the Afghan team to come to Jalalabad in the Spring and give coaching to 300 of our kids from our twin schools in that region. They will be supplied with clothes and cricket equipment and given coaching and play in matches. If it is a success we will plan other camps across Afghanistan on Peace Day 2009 and will also get all our Afghan, Swedish and UK schools to play cricket that day - a challenge in Sweden!! We will also fund cricket in as many schools as possible. We will try and harness these camps to health issues.

After our talk he took William and me up to the big celebration where hundreds had turned out in a large tent to celebrate the victory in Tanzania. Spivvy camera men packed the stage and dignitaries walked up the red carpet. I met up with the team, which I had met already in Dubai and they video recorded messages for Alex to thank him for his support. So,one step nearer our cricket goals.

We then had our meeting at The British Council. Security tight and so was a joy to sit out in beautiful manicured gardens with the British Council cat on my knee for discussions. Heard about the BC projects in twinning here and we discussed what we are doing, there are many avenues where we can cooperate and a very useful meeting.

Then off to The Turquoise Mountain foundation, where we had a tour. It is like entering a different world. From the chaos of Kabul and the streets choked with traffic and beggars,you enter a haven of peace and beauty and architectural delight. Crafted from the earth it seems, this beautiful early 19th century fort has been restored lovingly and the gardens are awash with roses, geraniums and vines. Peacocks strut across the lawns and Kabul seems a world away and instead you can imagine it as it was centuries back.

Met Sophie Swire who used to build schools in Pakistan and we have been trying to meet for years, so planned a meeting for tomorrow. Went round the workshops in calligraphy, woodwork and pottery. The pottery is based on the famous ceramics from Istalif — a beautiful hilltop town off the Shomali plain. When I visited 5 years ago I found a town — which was once famous as a retreat and picnic spot for Kabulis and lies on a river,totally destroyed - every building razed to the ground. The famous ceramic workshops had been destroyed too and since then Turquoise Mountain has been working to restore this craft to the region and apparently Istalif is slowly reemerging to its former glory.

It is wonderful to watch people so skilled in these crafts of pottery, woodwork and calligraphy—their work utterly beautiful.

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