A Remarkable Perspective – Part 2

In the Name of God, the Sublte, the Loving

Jonathan Hoffman of Direct Aid International continues…

The past few years I have observed an increase in attacks along the roads I travel to get to Hezerajat. This summer was no exception. I knew that this was my last time traveling this way for quite sometime.

We walked the 3 miles to the location where the van was waiting for us. We piled in and headed up the road to Jagatu where we stopped for chai and a final check of the van before heading to the switchback mountain pass that leads to Hezerajat and relative safety. We arrived in Doab after dark around 9:30 where we just pulled up to a large single house compound where we would spend the night. It always amazes me how easily we can just pull up to some ones home and be welcome even in the dead of night with no warning of our arrival, traveling with Qassimi doesn’t hurt either. Before bedding down for the night our host served us some Nan and butter and warm milk with sugar.

If you were lucky enough to receive one of this years calendars the compound is in the background on the month of the August picture. As we left the male elder said that next time please let me know of your arrival so I can prepare a feast for you. I never met the man before but because of my reputation building schools and traveling with Qassimi, I am welcome anywhere, anytime, by everybody. It’s quite humbling.

We walked from the compound the several hundred yards to Doab where the provincial governor’s office is. Its one of the most picturesque sights I have ever seen. I never grow tired of being in Doab.

Rastimi has been replaced by a new Governor. This happens frequently here in Afghanistan for various reasons. Im not exactly sure why Rastimi was replaced yet but have a good idea why and you will to by the time I finish this letter.

Qassimi introduced me to the new governor over chai. He wanted me to know that he would do anything to assist me in my work in the Nawur region. After an hour of conversation Qassimi got up and said we should go to Eserak to see the new 3 room school we built last summer. The governor asked him. What New School? There is no school in Eserak. Qassimi was stunned by the news. He then relayed the news to me through a translator which did more then stun me. I was shocked. Imagine my thoughts as I sat there trying to determine what had happened.

The governor said that Rastimi had been distracted by the fact that his personal driver had hit and killed a women with Rastimi’s 4×4. Remember that most people here do not have a driver’s license and drive like mad men literally.

Qassimi made a call from the sat phone to Rastimi. The money had not been spent it was still in the bank in Ghazni. Qassimi ordered Rastimi to immediately transfer the money to another account so that the Governor and Qassimi could access the money for the school.
Later that afternoon, after visiting Yakhshi, we met with the village leaders of Eserak and made a new contract. They promised that the school construction would start tomorrow and be finished in a month. I hope to have better news after my next trip next week.

This is a classic example of how things can happen in Afghanistan. Last summer Qassimi said that he did not want to be involved with the Eserak School. He said that I would make a contract with Rastimi by myself. Knowing Rastimi for several years I did not think much about the comment. The money was handed to Rastimi in front of 8-10 men most from the village. I assumed that this would be enough to keep Rastimi honest. In all honesty I think that he thought I would not come back this summer. If I did not return he might have been tempted to keep the money himself. You will understand why later in the letter. Needless to say Rastimi’s reputation is not good in the Nawur region.

have had two projects now that have been difficult to keep a positive outlook on. Both did not involve Qassimi. Eserak was one and the Mir- Bacha Kot library is the other.
More on that project later as well.

By the way if you have Google earth, you can locate the area where I have built my schools. Just west of Ghazni city there is what appears to be a large lake. At the North end of the lake are the “Navar Lava Domes”. Doab is just a couple miles directly to the south of the domes.

After our meeting in Eserak we headed north of Doab for the 1st time in all my trips. We were heading to the two villages where we would build the 2 new schools this summer.
A couple hours later we were in Alton high atop a mountain at an elevation of just over 10,300 feet. The village elders were gathered together and that night we contracted an 8 room school of stone and cement that they said would be started the next day.
I will have an update on its progress after my next trip.

The village agreed to contribute one third of the cost of the school through labor, gathering stone and digging a well. I agreed to fund nine thousand dollars for the 8 rooms; currently the 120 boys and 60 girls are attending school in two tents splitting the student population between morning and afternoon sessions.

The village only schools its children to Grade 8, after that they either travel to Ghazni or Kabul to attend school. Obviously only a few lucky and studious mostly young men get the opportunity to receive a high school education

I mentioned my concern that there were only half as many girls going to school as compared to boys. I said that I will not tell the village what they should teach but would encourage each families male elder to allow the young women of the village to go as far as they can in school. Most of the elders nodded their head in agreement. I can only suggest not demand.

To be continued…

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