Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Good Friday; 22nd April 2011

We left at first light, with the moon still up over the mountains and said fond farewells to our hosts to start the beautiful journey back to Taloqan. We made it by 8am and met up with Gareth and Jane. They had done a remarkable 2 days of teaching the teachers and headmasters of the region and had a fascinating and fulfilling time. It was great to see them again and to hear about all they had achieved. We left Taloqan and drove straight to Faizabad to the centre for disabled children, where we were to stay and await the morning flight following day.

We had to eat in the bazaar, which was right beside the mosque. I would rather have gone without food as was still very nervous about what might happen in the US. The call to prayer took on a sinister tone for me now and I felt very foreign and very much a sitting target! But there is no denying Faizabad’s beauty and fascination and as we walked home through the bazaars, it began to work its magic and calm my nerves.

We lay outside on cushions as dusk fell and the electricity never materialised. We ate our supper under the stars on our last night in Afghanistan, with no news of the outside world, wondering whether or not the burning had just taken place. Slept on the floor again and with all 4 of us trying to sleep in a tiny room, not much of a night and lay awake for the now eerie calls to prayer.

I spent my last morning in the classroom of the disability centre with 5 deaf children and two blind boys and a child with Down’s Syndrome. We had such fun! They copied a poster made by children at the Arbour Vale Special Needs School in Slough. They each drew round their hands and coloured in the shapes, which I then cut out. They made a huge poster of a peacock with hand feathers. The determined looks on their faces and huge efforts at concentration as they used the glue stick and finished their work was incredibly touching and a reminder of how the simple things in life can often bring the most joy!

Just before we took off from Faizabad in the safety of the UN plane, I received a message that the Pastor had been locked up and a disaster averted. I could have happily killed him! I said my farewells at Kabul to Ollie , Gareth and Jane - the teaching workshops would continue in Kabul, but I had to be home for Easter day.

I had 4 hours to wait for my Dubai flight and still nearly managed to miss it. I sat beside a Hazara who is now living in Australia and had such a very poignant conversation. He had fled Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. Thousands of Hazaras were massacred and those that survived were denied jobs and beaten up when they ventured out on the streets. He had been given asylum in Australia and had just visited his mother and family for the first time in 11 years. As he flew away from Kabul, he knew that he might never get back to his homeland again. He could see that there was no possibility of return and no future there for his children. I know how strong the communities and family units are in Afghanistan and it is devastating that so many thousands of families have been torn apart by the war.

I landed at Heathrow at 6 am and was totally overjoyed at the surprise of 2 sons standing at the meeting point to collect me - so emotional. As soon as we got home, the whole family went to church on a sunny Easter morning. The sermon was based on the theme of Freedom from Fear. I sat there feeling free from fear for the first time in some days. I was completely overwhelmed by the feeling that I no longer had to be afraid and by the gratitude that I live in England, which for all its faults, offers me a safe place to bring up my children with freedom from fear. I reflected on all those people I had met, on the Hazara, on the lives of all those across the world who live in fear all the time. The blossom was out in the churchyard. I walked around my garden alone. So much sunshine and green and buttercups in solid yellow on the fields - everything so beautiful and so safe - so very very good to be back home.

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