Video clip: https://vimeo.com/50975052
Sitting in Worsaj, north east Afghanistan. Outside the growl of a generator which powers a single bulb, and before me, school teachers praying at dusk. One sings, leading the prayers. They drop to their knees and touch their heads to the floor, then stand again. Now bowing, then kneeling, then standing in a ritual they have known forever.
We arrived here today, having landed in Kabul just yesterday evening. Apprehensive leaving the UK and heading back to Afghanistan, particularly after all the demonstrations following the release of the anti Muslim film and cartoons, Kabul immediately reassured and now being in Worsaj is like coming home. My travelling companions are Ned Cranborne, William Reeve, a trustee of Afghan Connection, who spent 24 years in Kabul with the BBC, and Leslie Knott, a film maker. The delightful and reliable Sayed Mukhtar is our guide and our loyal drivers, who have accompanied me for over seven years are Haji Mohammad and Qodoos. We flew here over the Hindu Kush in a tiny single engined plane almost scraping the great leathery spines of the mountains as we went. A dramatic landing on Taloqan's dusty runway and our journey to Worsaj began.
Along the way we visited 2 schools in desperate need of classrooms in Fakhar, the neighbouring district to Worsaj. The Local education authorities are asking us to spread our work from Worsaj to their district. An entire girls' school is studying out in tents at Bibi Amena School. The teachers laid on a beautiful picnic for us on bright red Afghan carpets beside the river, under the shade of poplars. Delicious freshly picked pears, apples and grapes and fish straight from the river.
On arrival at my favourite school, Bibi Ayisha, which we built back in 2009, the welcome was overwhelming. Hundreds of girls lined our path. We were showered with glitter and petals and smothered in garlands as one by one, the girls came over and placed them over our heads. The headmaster had a loud speaker and razzed up the crowds shouting welcome Sarafane, welcome! Lots of speeches followed and much clapping. Then Leslie and I were whisked away by the female teachers, who had made us outfits as gifts. All day, wherever we have stopped, we have received such hospitality and I have lost count of the meals we have had. Tonight we eat in the school and then Leslie and I will be taken across the river to stay in the home of a teacher. This Afghanistan seems so far removed from the one we see back home.