In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving
This is the beginning of a series of posts by a remarkable man named Jonathan Hoffman. He is president of a one-man NGO called Direct Aid International. He works alone to build schools for boys and girls in Afghanistan. You cannot help but be amazed and in awe of this person when you read his accounts. His letters are very long, and I will break them up into several small pieces. I have asked and received permission from Jonathan to reprint his posts. Here is part I:
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
You Know Mr John, If I was just 2 maybe 3 minutes late for work we would not be here talking. You Know? It was very bad, very bad…. Very bad indeed…
The Indian Embassy is just a couple hundred meters down the street from the Mustaffa and the Ministry of Interior. It also happens to be just across the street from the Post office where I mail my Post Cards.
Fortunately for Jawid he was able to pass by the embassy on his way to Chicken Street without delay from Traffic along with his father and brother who work with him in his shop. I attended Jawids wedding several years back; he has two small children one boy and one girl. As he was closing his car door the Explosion happened, Metal and glass and body parts flew into the air and the surrounding area. I could go into a more detailed description but would rather not. From what I can gather over 55 people died two days ago in what was the worse attack since the Taliban were removed from power. Most of the dead and injured were normal everyday Afghans waiting in line to get there passports stamped approving them for admittance into India for work or pleasure.
As for me I was not In Kabul at the time. I was making my way back to Bamiyan from Nawur which is a new route for me because of the deteriorating security situation in Ghazni province.
The ride from Kabul to Ghazni was the shortest so far with good reason. Even with an exchange of taxis outside Kabul city limits we made it to Ghazni in one hour and fifty minutes.. John John, aaah John, Je Jurtisti? Me Hubistum Tachakor. I made arrangements for transport to Ghazni by taxi. When I met Mr Qassimi he was quite surprised that I traveled the road without security. In my opinion, Yellow and White is still the best way to travel. From my observation of the remnants of destructed tankers and road side bombs I was right.
I would rather travel as a normal Afghan does and take my chances then arrange to travel with a convoy or pay someone who might not be worth a Damn if we did get stopped.
I hired a Pashtun taxi driver who travels the road delivering people like myself safely from Kabul to Ghazni all the time. That said this trip has been one of the most difficult security wise. I counted close to ten spots on the road that were severely damaged either from IED’s or from roadside attacks from the Taliban. In places the Tar on the road was melted extensively from the heat of the explosion.
The 2 hour stretch from Kabul to Ghazni has been a hot spot over the past few months with more trouble anticipated this summer… I still prefer traveling by taxi over a security convoy of some sort that could be attacked. They stick out like a sore thumb and with the Taliban becoming more daring in this area I thought it was best to travel alone.
I didn’t see much of the trip because my driver asked me to drape a scarf over my head and pretend I was asleep in the back. I positioned my scarf so I could peek over his shoulder as we headed down the highway.
My driver wasted no time delivering me to the Ghazni Police station to register my arrival and travel plans. Because it was Friday the Muslim equivalent of our Sunday back home no one of authority was available to register me at the station.
I spent the night in Ghazni while Qassimi made the travel plans north to Nawur. The second leg of the trip was not going to be any easier. I put my trust in Qassimi’s hands, like every other trip this one was no exception…
We may never pass this way again
The room was eerily quiet as Qassimi’s men prepared to escort and protect not only myself but Qassimi as well. Even Qassimi who hadn’t donned his military gear in years dusted off his Kalashnikov and spare clips for the trip.. I love you too much not to come with you this time he said”. It has been several years since we have traveled together, but never under this severe a threat to all of us. At least that I knew of that is.
We Zig- Zagged out of Ghazni, taking back streets out of town until we reached the wide open spaces. We traveled through several villages with everyone looking towards the foothills on each side of us keeping a sharp lookout for Talib’s. Finally we reached a village where we all piled out to walk several miles leaving Jarod to drive alone back to Ghazni with the van.
It was 2 pm; the hottest part of the day was still in front of us. At 7,500 feet in elevation and being the hottest part of the day, (95degrees) this is not my preferred time to be walking through wide open spaces with no alternative but to hike the 3 miles to where we would be picked up by another van and driver with our belongings.
The seven of us spread out over 100 yards with me in the middle of the pack right behind Qassimi. We walked as much as possible through the shallow ravines that would conceal us from observation and possible gunfire. Eventually we reached a village path that on my right had a graveyard with the green cloth flags indicating that they had been “Martyred” during one of the many battles over the years. On my left were terraced fields of wheat weeks away from harvest. For some strange reason a single sentence from an old Seals and Crofts tune kept repeating itself over and over again…
We may never pass this way again…
To be continued…