Ghazni and Back

Hey Folks, 1st the short version; I made it here safe and sound. It’s hot, dry and dusty. Everyone says hello and thank you.

The 2nd version

I knew when my flight to DC was canceled and everyone was sent home for the evening that even the best laid plans are put to the test. Nothing different this time around

After 32 hours of puddle jumping in 747’s Inshallah (Ariana) airlines served its version of breakfast. A hard roll w/ butter and apricot jam some canned fruit cocktail in a plastic cup, and soft brie and feta cheese with fairly fresh Danish. My strategy when traveling is to eat everything set in front of you, so with little hesitation the meal was inhaled. I was reminded of why I treat myself to a few good meals before I leave after I opened the foil packet to observe A 4 hour old omelet. No worries about weight gain here. The Afghan diet is back!

The search for Haji..

Those of you who were privy to my e-mails last year will remember the importance of Haji for my success and subsequently the bond that ensued. Before I left last year I helped Haji put together a resume. It had the usual imagination needed to put oneself in the proper light. When recording his job history we had almost six years where his major accomplishment was surviving the Taliban occupation. I thought that a bit of humor might separate him from the pack. Hire this guy he speaks English and has a sense of humor! Last night with a driver we went to the address on his resume and proceeded to try and track him down. It appears that he has moved and no one knows where he moved to. I have a few ideas as to how to track him down. It would be nice to have him at my side again. Last year I was not able to locate my friend, my brother, Guhl Muhammad who the year earlier had been my driver and body guard while working here. I hope that is not the case this time with my brother Haji.

The Mark Ice community Library for Mir Bacha Kot:

I hired a driver and translator today to take a quick ride to MBK and take a look at the library. I had been told of some of the problems concerning the project during and after the completion of the 1st phase. Earlier this year I had a deep sense of frustration and feeling helpless concerning what seemed like large issues at the time.

The two major concerns were the quality of work performed and the cost of materials and labor. The cement spackled walls were cracked in several places but appear to be nothing more then superficial. The structure of the building is strong and should hold for a long time barring any major earthquakes which is always a distinct possibility.

We did do several preventive design measures to address that issue but with centuries old techniques I wouldn’t keep reading if the ground starts shaking. The front entrance has a couple of pillars with a roof to allow for inclement weather. This outside roof could use another support beam in the middle but aside from that and a little spackle the structure should be fine.

The cost of the construction as usual went over budget leaving little for books Today the headmaster of the school was under the assumption that I had guaranteed $1,500 for just books alone. This is the same person who last summer wondered why I didn’t just get a cement truck and pour forms and slap a roof on. He also suggested a project for this years funds which by his own estimate would cost $2000 more then last years $6000 budget. I politely informed him of a promise I made of getting a library built with the hope of some funds for books and supplies. It didn’t happen. What did happen was that another person who saw the dilemma was able to obtain a number of books and magazines to start filling the shelves with what appears to be appropriate reading material. Actually this was great news! I had been waiting for the community to start and take ownership of the project.

Because of having a weak translator today I opted to keep the focus narrow and will get into the numerous other areas when I locate a translator who has a good command of the English language. Am I satisfied? Yes. Considering the time table and finances I think we did well with the money. I wish I could have been in MBK to complete the project but that was never an option. In all honesty my presence wouldn’t have changed the result much if any. Considering the fact that this is my largest project to date, I’m comfortable re-spackling a few walls. (I won’t actually spackle the walls myself)

This summers plan was to do a follow-up assessment and take care of small details like Books and shelves etc. It should be ready for fulltime use by the time I leave in August Is the community satisfied? From all comments made today we hit one out of the park. The Minister of Education toured the sight, asked who had given them this gift and made a point of thanking us for our generosity. We will try and have a small ceremony in early August to celebrate the completion of the library with local community members, officials and most importantly children.

We briefly discussed the concept of doing a few English lessons for the 5 Teachers who were Marks students in 1971 as well as a few select students and teachers who have some command of the English language. Every-time Marks name comes up in conversation we all get a little teary eyed with a smile catching the tears. The emotions that come up while doing these trips not just for me but for all involved makes it special.

These letters serve several purposes.

For me they record my daily and weekly activities for old age. Others enjoy reading these “Muses” giving them a sense of connection to our projects here in Afghanistan. For some more then 2 paragraphs is lengthy and like to hear from me just so they know I’m not the center of attention in the Afghan traditional pastime of Buzkashi! Hey if you don’t have a sense of humor about these things then move on.

Not much to report yet. I am just getting the ball rolling here setting up and reconnecting I could go on, but feel its time to wrap this e-mail up and move onto the next edition. I head for Ghazni tomorrow to start on the Yakhshi water project. This also means I will be out of touch via e-mail for a few days. Just a teaser here, after several miles of walking the streets of Kabul today, I located the rolls of black plastic pipe needed to bring the water to the girls AND if possible the boys school as well.

Enough for now. I will be in touch.
Khadafis
Jonathan

Bullets:

Rand and the Balkan Sunflowers are still going strong in Kosova. Rand is looking for someone to sponsor an extraordinary Roma (gypsy) male student who should be given the opportunity to go on to college. It would be a lot of hard work and money but I assure you it would be an amazing experience to help change this person’s course in life. Contact me if interested.

The streets are cleaner, less dirt and trash, more roads are paved or being paved. It seems as if there are less people in Kabul then last year. It doesn’t feel as crowded. Maybe people are heading back to their villages.

The road to the Shomali Plain is Loaded with construction of new homes / compounds. We might have had a hard time locating workers and supplies if we had built the library this year instead of last year. It amazes me as to how much construction is going on everywhere in the city. Even the Mustaffa is being remodeled.

The tank with our Mad River Glen sticker was removed while clearing the sides of the road of mines. Not to worry plenty more where that one came from.

Fewer beggars approaching me for money. (So far)
I haven’t seen Raypa on Chicken Street either.

It was 101 degrees yesterday.

Inshallah:

If it is God’s will. (The plane will land safely)

Buzkashi:

An Afghan – mid evil version of Polo/ Soccer where the ball is either the severed head of a goat or when possible the head of a rival warlord.

Khadafis:

May God be your protector. (Good bye)