Wednesday, 11 April 2007

28th March Jari Shah Baba School,Keshem

Early start again and long journey off road . Weather not so great and realise how lucky we were yesterday. Rain makes road very hazardous and we struggle to make it up some of mud banks . Keshem is beautiful . An oasis beside the river with vivid green fields and poplars along its banks . Sprawling mudbricked town tucked up in the North East of Afghanistan . Meet education director and then go to Jari Shah Baba school . Spend a wonderful morning visiting all the children . Jari Shah Baba is a girls school with 1285 girls in grades 1-12 . They are short of 6 classrooms and many girls are studying outside under tents . They have no desks and benches and no sports or science equipment . They are twinned with Holt Girls School in Wokingham and pupils from there have sent out lots of gifts for the girls which we give out . David manages to organize games and competitions which bring the whole school alive and lessons to a standstill. Girls line up to see who can blow up the ballons the fastest . Hundreds of others come to watch and laughter fills the air . It is so wonderful to see the girls enjoying themselves so much . Yet some of the older ones are very shy and hide behind chadors when David and Miles are present . It is sad to see the contrast between the vivacious and playful young girls and the older ones and it is a harsh reminder of how hard life is for them as they grow older. We are all invited to lunch at the headmaster's house . I often think how terrible it must be for the wives when these headmasters announce that they have guests and expect a meal ready. What must they think of us strange foreigners who turn up ,dressed rather eccentrically and so tall and with such big feet ....and who cannot eat sitting cross legged with comfort ,nor use hands to eat with without spilling rice everywhere .

The hospitality is boundless. For the first time in all my travels I am put in a separate room to the men for lunch . This would be fine ,but even now ,the women will not eat with us . Instead they sit and watch us eat ,refusing to join us . They cannot believe how little we eat and keep piling more on our plates . The effort to consume such volumes and not to be able to sneak extras onto the boy's plates is seems they will only be satisfied when these massive bowls of food are emptied. As we leave and hug the women goodbye ,the headmaster shows us his gate which is pockmarked with shell holes -a legacy left by the Russians .

We are told on arrival back at Taloqan that security is a problem and we are confined to the house . Then in true Afghan style ,the head of security arrives and we persuade him to take us out . It seems there is no change in security status --they just wanted us to have a night in !