Thursday, 29 April 2010

28th April

Just arrived back in Taloqan after a few days out in the mountain villages of Worsaj.

It has been the most incredible experience. We drove out to Khanaka village 2 days ago. Along the way we passed 2 schools in the valley which had been built by AC. On arrival, we went straight to Bibi Ayisha High School. This is a school for 1100 girls . The building was completed last year thanks to a very generous donor who was born in Afghanistan. It is a thriving school and, though none of the girls here has an educated mother, 35 graduated and went to University last year.

We always receive the most overwhelming welcome at this school and this day was no exception. All the girls had come out to greet us and were lined up waiting for us. As we walked through the corridor of clapping girls, they came forward saying "I love you” and gave me bunches of flowers and gaudy garlands were wrapped around my neck. Hundreds of them! They screamed and laughed and followed us into the school, jamming in, hundreds of them, all crying “Tank You2
The atmosphere was alive, with girls cooking our lunch, chemistry classes to watch, sewing classes, computer classes and volley ball - so much going on. We visited as many girls as we could. Left them with a camera to take photos of their daily lives for us to show in England. Their own project , documenting their own lives.

We were then called to the boys school, which has just been completed thanks to a donor who travelLed out here and wanted to help this area and education. Again, hundreds of children were lined up waiting for us and we received another rapturous welcome and could hardly move under the weight of flowers and garlands. Made me weep! Always have to give a speech at these places... and that made me very emotional too. The Governor had turned out and everyone thanked us for making such an impact on education in this area.

We ate a delicious lunch all laid out on a beautiful cloth at the girls school. Then we were whisked away in our cars up a rough mountain track which hugged the river below. Through tiny villages we went until we reached Quanduz. The school teachers here had heard that we were in Khanaka village. Our reputation for building schools has spread, and they had sent someone down the valley to beg us to come and visit their schools.

Again, hundreds of children lined our route and this time sprayed us with glitter as well as heaping us with flowers and garlands. It is how I imagine it might be to be a pop star, only instead of high heels, I am in my trekking boots, and the red carpet is replaced by a dusty track! The boys greet us first and then we climb up to the girls school for another alley of students and more greetings. We see girls studying out on mats in the dust and are walked to a table . There we sit and are served tea, local almonds and sweets out in the open. The whole school gathers round us. Boys perch on the school roof, girls, some in burkhas, some in head scarves, sit before us and the headmaster stands and gives a speech asking us to help to build a school. There are 700 girls and only 6 classrooms and the boys are 1000 and have a tiny building, with hundreds sitting outside.

It is at times like these that I look around me and pinch myself and wonder how on earth I have reached this point in my life. How all these people think I am the answer for their school, that I will build 2 schools for them and help them with their education. How I have even managed to build any schools I sometimes wonder...and now there is so much expectation. I call myself Lady Dollars as I think they probably believe that I can easily find money! And yet I do not begrudge them asking , rather I love the fact that they heard I was here and managed to get us to visit and want their school so badly. And of course, I want to help and I want to find a way ....and I also really want to concentrate our aid to this valley and build all the schools that are so needed here. As I look at their expectant faces, I promise myself to find a way.

We end our day with a fishing trip. We head to the river and one of the teachers brings a fishing net. He wades into the icy water and casts his net again and again, moving downstream to the snow covered mountains beyond. He pulls out little trout and soon fills a bag with fish. We head back to the village and make our way down the narrow mud walled paths to the house where we will stay. We climb up some wooden steps and into a carpeted and cushioned room. A delicious supper is brought in for us, including the fresh fis . The moon is full and I sit by the river trying to catch a few moments of silence and privacy, but look up to see twenty children racing down the hill to join me. In Afghanistan, it seems, you are never alone. I try to wash and do my teeth and am shadowed closely by the son of the house, who has obviously been told to look after me. He watches every move and I wonder how on earth I can sneak off ! Definitely NO privacy possible. But at last Mary and I are taken to sleep in the women’s quarters, on beautiful cushions in a low ceilinged room.

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