Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Safe and Sound in Cambridge

I arrived home safe and sound on Wednesday, Nov. 23, just in time to celebrate a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family. It was quite a trip back. I brought Khaleda back with me, who as you might recall has a serious illness that needs immediate treatment. She was a trooper and the two of us managed to wield our way through the Kabul airport, where the guards were skeptical, despite documentation, of my taking her with me.

We then had a 4 hour layover in Dubai, much of it waiting to “confirm” our luggage so it could be transferred to the United flight to DC. We finally boarded our United flight at 12:50am. Khaleda fell sound asleep. I was not so fortunate but did manage to get some sleep over the next 15 hours.

Approximately 24 hours after leaving Kabul we arrived in DC. Khaleda’s host Mom, Amanda, who she spent time with last summer, was there waiting for her. Khaleda flew into her arms. It was really quite touching for all of us. Khaleda was so, so sad when she left her parents in Kabul and couldn’t stop crying. I felt much better when I saw how happy she was to see Amanda. I knew all would be well. They headed off to North Carolina and I headed to Boston. I was greeted at Logan by my son, Jason, and my good friend Susan Fisher who was holding up a sign – “WEL COM HOME” (spelled like the sign the kids made in Kunduz!) I loved it.

Having now a few days to regroup, catch up on sleep, and unpack, I am clear-minded enough to reflect on my time spent in Afghanistan. I feel very positive about what was accomplished, despite the security issues, a couple of earthquakes and a few other challenges. I am quite confident that the project is moving along in a good direction and that new systems are in place in Afghanistan that will allow the project to run more smoothly and to be even more Afghan-driven.

Future plans:
1. We’re close to printing another 5000 songbooks. I just need to do another accounting with the Folk Arts Center.
2. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Kabul is working with Vaheed to collect songs for a 2nd songbook.
3. I will continue to fundraise for the production of the 2nd songbook and for additional printing for the first songbook.
4. I have been asked to do a couple of presentations about the project, one at a school and one at an Afghan-American organization in DC. Those will occur in February. (By the way, I’m always happy to do this kind of presentation and feel it helps educate people about Afghanistan, beyond war and terrorism. Please contact me if you have any ideas.)
5. I’ve designated Rauf Meraj, one of SOLA’s students, to be my in-country songbook distribution manager. This frees me up from that task, which was always very difficult to manage from afar.

Although hard at times, going to Afghanistan was an important journey for me to take. I thank all of you for following along and providing support. Many of you sent in contributions and I am very, very grateful to all of you. Every donation means a huge amount to this project. If you'd like to make a contribution to help print more songbooks, go to www.afghansongbook.org

Please feel free to share this blog or the songbook website (www.afghansongbook.org) with anyone you feel might be interested (music teachers, classroom teachers, families, etc.) in learning more about Afghanistan and/or this project.
Thank you again. Happy holidays everyone and may there be peace on earth.