Wednesday, 22 October 2008

20th October

Today in a very distant valley I was told that there is an Afghan saying, that those who work in education and help others to have an education are the luckiest people on the earth .....and that is how I feel tonight. It has been an extraordinary day.

We head off for my favourite valley beyond Takhar and towards the great Anjoman Pass, which crosses the Hindu Kush. It is a 4 hour journey along a track which takes you through the most spectacular and dramatic scenery, through massive gorges, beside a clear green river, through villages, mountains and fields, which from above, newly harvested and ploughed look like one massive quilt of contours and colours.

We go to Wahdat and stop at the school that Afghan Connection built with The Angus Lawson Memorial Trust. The boys are just arriving as we get there and it is wonderful to see the school swing into action. There are over 600 boys in the school.
We pass another AC built school on our way to Zouhruddin -Ledgei school, which houses 700 kids from the villages in the mountains around.

Zouhruddin Girls School is a school for over 1000 girls and we have funded 20 classrooms. The first block of 10 is completed and painted and looks amazing. The second block is underway. The latrines and outside wall are finished. As we draw up outside all the teachers are waiting for us. We have a warm greeting and are taken inside and then - whoos! the corridors come alive and the children swarm from all directions to greet me. There is clapping and cheering and the students rush up and put garlands around me and hand me flowers and throw glitter and confetti over me and virtually lift me off my feet. It is impossible to describe the noise and the screams of delight and the hands coming out to us and the colours of the garlands and flowers and the volumes of them so great that I had to keep passing them to teachers to hold. It was just overwhelming. Jane and I were presented with chalois chamise in bright pinks and blues to wear and we then went to the staff room to meet the Governor of Takhar who had cancelled all his meetings to see us. There followed a series of speeches, all of which said that I was now a true Afghan and would be in all the hearts of all the villagers for generations. They say that I have kept my promises unlike so many others and now there are 4 schools in the valley which we have assisted.

We are whisked off to the boys school where lines of children stand to greet us and again the clapping starts and as we walk down the path lined with children, they put garlands over our heads, shower us again with confetti and give us more flowers. We are building a new classroom block here, thanks to a donor who came to see the school in the Spring, and the boys are thrilled. More speeches and then back to the girls school.

This time there is a stampede in the corridor as all the younger children break line and surround us as they try to shower us with the confetti and garland us and bunch us....I am totally swamped by flowers and am terrified the children will be crushed as the whole corridor is jammed with children. All so emotional.

We show the girls the film we took of them last time and then hand out all the gifts from the Twin school. They stand up and thank us in English and some sing a thank you poem.

Then off up into the hills for lunch in the Headmasters house. We walk up the river and through the fields and the tiny paths to the village, go through a wooden door and enter a courtyard full of apple trees and roses and overlooking the entire valley....including the school below. Jane and I sit with the women and the boys go in the room next door for their lunch - always awful being separated from the men as it means we have to eat far more - and today there was a mass of mutton, rice, salads, yoghurts, bread, curry and fish caught fresh from the river and no saying no to seconds and thirds. The generosity of these people is unfailing.

We say our goodbyes and the children rush out of the school to wave goodbye - next time we will come and stay in the village.We have promised we will and as I watch all the glitter and confetti fall off my clothes this evening,I know that I would be well looked after and could stay very happily with those people and would be safe.

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