Sunday, November 15, 2009

Songbooks Travel to Sheberghan

Sheberghan is located in the northwest corner of Afghanistan, northwest of Mazar-e-Sharif, very near the Turkmenistan border. One of SOLA’s students, Kudooz, came up to me about a week ago and asked if he could, “PLEASE, Ms Louise,” have 80 songbooks for his mother’s elementary school. I have only about 100 songbooks left, but I couldn’t turn him down. He told his mother about the project and she had immediately asked Kudooz to find out if her school could receive books. I was amazed at Kudooz's willingness to hand deliver them as soon as I gave my approval.

The trip to Sheberghan is arduous. It’s about 300 miles from Kabul and the bus trip takes 12-14 hours. Kodooz left Kabul around 3:00am and finally arrived at his home in the late afternoon. He did ask me if I wanted to go along but I declined! I think of myself as a hardy sort but somehow that trip seemed a bit more than I could tackle.

I’ve posted a few photos from his trip. I was delighted to see from the photos that the teachers were really using the songbook to teach basic reading skills. You can see, particularly if you click on the photo and enlarge it, that the letters of the alphabet are written up on the board. Kudooz reported that they sang the Alphabet Song and then went to the board and identified the letters. This pleased me no end.
(Kudooz is the handsome young man in the photos with the bright purple shirt!)

When Kudooz returned he presented me not only with a camera full of pictures but with a very official "thank you" certificate, elaboratively written in Dari and English, bordered in gold and green with official stamped seals in all four corners and signed with a signature of great flourish! I’m learning that the Afghans don’t take the gesture of saying thank you lightly. This certificate deserves to be framed.

My time here is rapidly passing. I have only about ten days left and I head home. I can't believe I've been here almost 2 months. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience and one I will not forget.

It is still somewhat uncertain, because we’ve yet to get the final visa approval, but the plan is that I will take little Khaleda back with me. She’ll be met in DC, where we first land from Dubai, and taken by her host family to Charlotte, NC. The SOLACE group has arranged for her to receive treatments for her disease, Thalasemmia, which is, as I understand it, a severe lack of iron. It is fatal if untreated. Her treatments could take from one-two years. SOLACE miraculously arranges for doctors to provide all their services free. Arranging all of this has required a couple of trips to the U.S. Embassy. One of those included Khaleda’s parents. Both are sweet and gentle people, terribly grateful to have someone helping heal their very sick daughter. Her mother, with her burqa pulled up off her face, sat quietly in the backseat of the car as we drove to the Consulate Office. Perhaps I was projecting how I would feel parting with my daughter for a year, but I felt compelled for most of the car ride to convince her that I really was a good person, a mother, a grandmother and I would take good care of her daughter on the plane! She just smiled tenderly and thanked me for all we were doing to help Khaleda.

I’m reminded daily how complicated it is to live here. There are so many problems, many of them seemingly insurmountable that it is easy to get off track. I need to daily remind myself what I can and cannot do. Stay focused is my motto!

By the end of this week I hope to have met with the CEO of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and Vaheed. I’ll report in on the status of the second songbook. The prospects of producing that are quite good at this point.

Thank you all again for your moral and financial support, for taking time to follow along and for allowing Afghanistan and the Afghan people to become a small part of your life.

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