Monday, 4 May 2009

Monday May 4th - "very raining"!

Great pics for Sun & Mon - For Sun scroll down. Paula

It never rains in Jalalabad in May......thats what I have been told. As I lay wrapped up in a sheet (from someone elses bed I later realised), the most dramatic storm hit Jalalabad. The thunder crashed, lightning tore open the skies and rain pelted the tin rooves in a deafening assault. I just couldn’t believe it. Of any day in any year in Jalalabad, why now, the eve of our cricket camp? All night long the storm revisited the city and kept waking me with loud claps of thunder and the heartbreaking sound of rain hammering into my dreams. I knew that at this rate, by dawn,the city would be under water and all our hopes for the camp would be in ruins. All the planning...all those worries over details ...but we never ever questioned the weather!

Running to breakfast through the massive puddles I was quickly drenched. Matthew and I sat eating bread and watched the drips coming through the ceiling and hitting the carpet where we sat. In disbelief! Matthew, a wonderful optimist and full of humour lightened my mood as we set out for the University grounds. As we left, our driver looked up to the sky and said "very raining"...and that summed it up perfectly!

The streets of Jalalaad had become small rivers. Rickshaws looked like bizarre half submerged fish as they battled through the waters, men walked to work with water over their knees, shops were flooded, stalls were floating and we felt amphibious as we made our way slowly through the floods.

But God is great! The children arrived, the Afghan team arrived and the kit arrived. The great hall of the University harboured us all from the elements and the childrens faces lit the interior in an incredible, tangible wave of happiness and anticipation. We all sat down and the team stood up one at a time to be each stood, huge applause and cheering filled the room and when the captain stood the children went wild.

Matthew and I had to give speeches and then, orderly queues were formed by the 150 boys for a photograph and a presentation of the kit. Each boy received whites emblazoned with MCC Spirit of Cricket and AC, a cap, T shirt and shoes. They were presented by the Afghan team members and I am absolutely certain that not one of those children will ever forget that moment .

Then the team went around the boys and chatted to them and posed for photos with them and at that moment the sun came out, the pitch almost dried off and we all headed outside for the coaching session. Armed policemen were utterly useless as, as inactive looking as can be, they allowed the crowds to come and watch. A wonderful scene as each player took 30 boys off and did warm up exercises and then coaching. These men are so gentle and so good with the kids and very very patient. Raees Ahmadzi came up to me and said ”This is a historic day for Afghanistan, this has never happened before and it is the start of something wonderful”...he also said that since he was born, he had never witnessed this weather in Jalalabad!

2 boys with disabilities from Polio from the SCA special needs school turned up and received special bowling training from Karim. We discovered some real talent and about 5 of the boys, including a 13 year old fast bowler who was outstanding and may well be recommended to the Afghan National Cricket Academy for training. It really was a miracle to see all these boys here and all the team here and this amazing event unfolding.

Lunch was provided from great cooking pots and piled high onto plates. I sat with the team and it is so fascinating talking with them. I was next to Sammi, who grew up in the refugee camps of Pakistan having fled the fighting with his family when he was two years old. They were there for 19 years. Cricket was his saving grace and he said that he could never in his wildest dreams have believed that one day he would play for his country....his mother is very proud of him!

More coaching after lunch as the skies unleashed a steady shower of rain adding a distinctly British flavour to the day. Then end of the first day of camp. Children ran back to their buses and we all went home to dry off over steaming cups of incredibly sweet tea!

This is the first camp of its kind funded by the MCC and has brought so much happiness and hope to the children and I am sure it will inspire them for the rest of their lives.

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