Pascale’s 5th travel account
Positive information
from Afghanistan
September 2011 with Sarah

Supplemented by small anecdotes from someone soon to be mentioned ….

My trips to Afghanistan seem to have fallen into bi-yearly routine. This trip was organized similarly to that of summer of 2009, so that this report will be a little shorter. There was one special difference this year: I had a German escort.

I’m not as young as I was and am very aware how quickly energy dwindles. Managing a project like this one is multifaceted and time-consuming. I receive a lot of help with certain tasks (a big thank-you to my dedicated helpers), but it boils down to one fact. If and when I give up work on this embroidery project, it will die! At the beginning of the year I started thinking about a successor and approached Sarah at the beginning of spring. I asked her if she would like to become acquainted with the complexity and time-consuming aspects of this project during the next few years, since she has known it from the beginning. I thought we could phone extensively with each other once a month (she studies in Bremen), and I would inform her of all progress so that she could grow into it. I received Sarah’s answer 3 days later; she wanted to gather her own impressions on-site and asked if she could accompany me in September as she was free then. At the age of 24 one can be very spontaneous!

That is true! I am very thankful to Pascale for her equally spontaneous positive reply. I was able to experience a trip that has impressed me like no other in my whole life. The magic of the orient…..

Our trip began on September 3rd and lasted 3 weeks. I would have preferred to travel during the summer school holidays because I still have a school “child” but Ramadan started on August 1st (for 1 month), which would have made work impossible. The trip was organized according to the same concept as the summer of 2009. We flew to Herat (returning September 11th) and paid many visits to the embroiderers in the Hazara colony of Sharak with whom, although they very reserved, we were able to chat casually.

In Laghmani
Visiting the 4 villages of Laghmani was a pleasurable recurrence for me; for Sarah everything was new! Sherifa, a stitcher, had died just before Ramadan. Otherwise several women changed accommodations. Having no home of their own, several poor families wander from house to house among their relatives. People squeeze together to make room for the other family. That goes well on a while, then the poor family moves in with the next relatives. This is a practical example of deepest poverty but also of active solidarity.
Many houses are being restored or newly built, something I hadn’t noticed before. It indicates that 10 years after war, the people have enough money and faith to rebuild. More cows and calves were to be seen than before. They are usually bought for a few months, and resold before the winter for a little more money. During my first visit in 2005, a cow was a rarity. Part of the milk is for the calf, the rest is immediately used to make yoghurt.

Contrary to the German practice of guests giving their hosts a present, the Afghans give their guests one and so we received many delicious dried mulberries. One family gave us trendy sandals. Pascale, not hesitating a second, slipped her feet into hers and with an elegant swing of her hips, provided the women with a catwalk, earning much laughter from them.

It was very heart-warming to learn that girls, 3 stitchers among them, will be graduating from school in November. They belong to the first generation completing school after the Taliban era. Amongst them is Fatma who is adamant about becoming a teacher. She can register for examination depending on her graduation results. If she passes this she can start her studies in Tsharikar on March 22nd. She is an exception in a village where many fathers still do not allow their daughters to go to school.

We have decided to end the alphabetization program. It ran successfully for 3 years but now the girls are older, becoming engaged and are no longer permitted to leave their yards OR they have so much housework that they rarely had time to attend lessons. The classes became smaller and lost their dynamic. As a special closing event we decided to furnish each of the 4 villages with a library. This was an idea from in Freiburg.

The work with Sarah has been excellent. I didn’t regret for a second taking her with me. I have been organizing the work here as I thought best for years. Some decisions are made with Khaled and Lailuma but generally I am the moving force here. This time we were in tandem, Sarah’s opinion count and we share the work on site together. Sarah was very active, although more of a viewer. She always had good ideas or solutions and was generally in agreement with me (how wonderful!). I found it to be a very successful combination of my age and experience and her youth and fresh views and appreciated her easygoing directness with the village people.

Altogether I have a very positive impression of development, in the villages as well as in Kabul. The roads are improving; police manage to take charge of the traffic at times. I was impressed by little fir trees planted in the middle of wide avenues. They were about 1,50 m high and deep green (but of course very dusty) which means that they are watered regularly and not misused for firewood! This is a wonder, and although there is no thing, it is a good sign that positive things are happening in Kabul and Afghanistan.