I am travelling with my son, Mike and my Chairman of Trustees, Sir Richard Stagg (RS). After 30 years working on and off in this region, to bring my son and to show him a place I love and the work we have done is a privilege. He speaks fluent Dari and it is a joy to watch the surprise and delight on the faces of all who meet him as he converses in their language.
We see beautiful courtyards surrounded by intricately carved cedar wood balconies and arched windows, where Peacocks grace the lawns in the shade of pomegranate trees. We explore tiny rooms, their walls covered in ancient plaster work and we walk across the mud and straw roof from where we can watch the hum of city life stretching out alongside the Kabul River below.
15th July 2017 Return to Worsaj
We climb into the tiny 5-seater plane at Kabul airport and set off following the Salang Pass over the Hindu Kush, the reptilian spines of the Himalayas spread out beneath our wings. From the air the gift of water is never so apparent. Stretches of scorched earth fan out as far as the eye can see. Every now and then, the arid landscape suddenly bursts into colour as water quenches the dust and the earth springs into life in vivid green. Tiny mud bricked houses cling impossibly to the mountainsides and I can only wonder at how these people live in such inhospitable landscapes.
Taloqan airport is a dusty, stony runway. Quadus is waiting for us. He has driven me on every visit I have been on to the North bar one over ten years and I am so happy to see him and to introduce him to Mike. We set off towards Worsaj and I really cannot believe that at last, one of my family will see the place where I have worked for so long and which is so close to my heart. Tarmac gives way to dusty tracks as we leave Farkhar and head towards the valleys of Worsaj.
RS leaves at dawn and I say my farewells to him and to Najiba who has looked after us so well. Mike and I continue on to Farkhar and to an incredibly remote and hard- to -reach school which was built with support from National Geographic.
It was closed for 3 years in the 1980s when the Soviets conducted bombing raids and warfare in this area. In 2003, WFP visited the area and offered food for education. If boys turned up to school, they received wheat. If girls turned up they received oil and wheat. Thus was born education for girls in this school.
Since the school was built, numbers of pupils have soared and at last, it looks as if girls will begin to stay on to the final year. We need to support with teacher training and if possible, to pay supplements for travel for female teachers to come from the nearest town to teach the girls. They also need a Resource Centre with science lab, library and computer room. This school is an inspirational place, with a determined team of teachers and students and I feel strongly that we should continue to extend our support.
their line. The children are there too, with flowers and gifts and all the women of the village are there in their burkas, waiting to speak to me. The school is a series of wooden shelters and torn tents.
We bid farewell, determined to raise the funds needed to at least get the children off the dusty ground and build the village a proper school building, and make our way on to visit more schools.
We say farewell to our drivers next morning -both of whom have served SCA for longer than Mike has lived! My memory each time of leaving Taloqan, is watching these tiny figures as we fly off, they keep waving at us until we disappear into the clouds and back to the safety of our homes.
We have visited the caves of Foladi and the empty holes where Buddhas once stood. We have trekked into the Foladi mountains following paths which have served shepherds for centuries. We have visited the ruined City of Screams, where Genghis Khan and his men massacred an entire population, and we have seen the turquoise waters of Band-e Amir’s six lakes. Each lake lies higher than the other and waterfalls cascade between them. Here Afghans come to picnic and life seems joyous and normal and a clue to what could be if only there were a chance for peace in this most stunning country.
Tomorrow I will hug him goodbye as he continues his adventure and these incredibly special and now treasured days of travel alongside each other in this surprising and beautiful country come to a close.