In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving
This is perhaps the most amazing part of his letter he sent to us…
Last summer while traveling back from my last trip to Nawur I was caught in an ambush.
Rastimi (still the governor of Nawur at that time) and I were traveling back to Ghazni in separate vehicles. I was in the 1st vehicle with Changese, Jarod and Biani. Rastimi was in the 2nd with his Afghan police security detail. We were not even a half hour from Ghazni when I heard a loud Swoooosh Kaboom! It was an RPG that had hit the road somewhere behind me and in front of Rastimis vehicle. We all jumped out of our vehicles as the bullets from the hillside started to shower down. It all happened so fast. We had no time to communicate. Changese and the others pulled out their guns and immediately started to shoot back. ME? I jumped out of the front seat, ducked down behind the truck and wondered what I should do next. Fearing another RPG being fired, this location was not the best place to hang out for long.
There was a stone wall behind me and within seconds had jumped over the wall and lay as flat as I could making love to the ground. The Talibs spotted me and devoted some gunfire in my direction. Bullets richoted off the stone’s above me and hit the dirt behind me. I was not in a position to move anywhere, they had me pinned down. There were large holes in the wall above my head that I tried to plug with rocks laying within arms reach. I must of layed there for almost twenty minutes before Rastimis young son joined me on the ground behind the wall. A few minutes later Rastimi came down my way and lay in front of me while the bullets continued to come our way. The gun battle must have lasted almost 30 minutes. In all honesty the least of my concerns was not timing this part of the trip!
A few minutes later Changese showed up with his large caliber gun and devoted gunfire towards the hill from behind a small grove of trees. A few more minutes passed by before the gunfire had ceased and I was directed to run like the wind down the road towards an embankment that would give us better shelter. We beat feet down the road as fast as we could. No shots were being fired at us as we ran the 100 yards down the open road.
We all gathered behind the small ravine where set up defenses again while we waited for the Afghan Police from Ghazni to show up. We were within cell phone use and Changese was communicating with the security detail coming to our assistance. A few minutes later we ran another 100 yards to a side road where our truck that had been driven down earlier was waiting for us. Jarod my driver had been shot in the leg passing through his thigh without hitting a bone. He was lucky! All Jarod had for shooting back was an 8 mm luger that was basically useless from that distance. Biani mentioned that he was standing out in the open on a bare terraced piece of ground doing his best “Bollywood” impersonation of a famous movie star when he got hit. Not too smart seeing as there was ample cover behind him. Aside from that no one was hurt, just shaken to the core. Rastimi jumped in the driver’s seat while I piled in with Biani and Jarod and Rastimis son and brother in law, to bring Jarod to the Ghazni hospital.
The emergency room at the hospital looks more like a dirty Mash Clinic. It was decided that I should head back to the compound instead of hanging around the hospital where I could be asked questions or even worse be spotted by Talibs. An hour later we were all together again briefly before I was whisked away to Kabul and relative safety. Before I left Biani, Jarod and Changese and I all agreed that we would travel together again this summer.
Upon my return this summer it was great to hug my friends and body guards, a year later and we were all still alive and well. Because of the rush to get me to Kabul last summer, I never received a complete report on the happenings that day. All I read in the paper was that a district governor had been ambushed; no other information was given in the Google alert. Changese filled me in this year; he said that there were about a dozen Taliban on the mountain. Two were killed one was the guy with the RPG, who know’s how many were injured.
So why now?
There are several reasons why I did not tell anyone before now.
The 1st was that Qassimi asked me not to tell anyone for a while. He as well as I did not want to have to answer any questions concerning the incident. We wouldn’t be in trouble or anything we agreed it would be best if the focus was on Afghans instead of an American being involved
I also thought that It would be best if time passed before informing family, friends and donors about my experience. I thought it would be best to wait until after I had returned to Afghanistan reducing the amount of worry on your part. I did not want to have to constantly reassure everyone that I would be all right on this trip; it’s bad enough as it is frankly.
I decided long ago to time it while here in Afghanistan so I wouldn’t have to talk about it in detail upon my return, hopefully it will have become somewhat of a non event by the time I get back. If you think otherwise think again. I really don’t want to rehash the story for everyone’s benefit. I must admit it did linger after coming home last year for a several months but not in a bad way. It’s gone now and I am comfortable traveling here, and besides writing about it now rarely do I think of it.
I was scared, we all were. Who wouldn’t be? But as I lay in the dirt blowing away the ants coming towards my face, I reminded myself that this was an expected event. I prepared myself for this and was calm during the 30 minutes I lay face down on the ground. Its part of the job, part of the risk involved to do what I do and where I do it
Is it worth the risk?
Good question, you can have your opinion, but please allow me to make the decisions I need to make without the added burden of dealing with your sense of possible loss. It’s not about you.
The other day when I handed out notebooks and pens to children in Yakhshi I was in my glory. I work all year, travel many hours over miles of terrible roads in unbearable heat getting diarrhea and vomiting from terrible food I have to eat just to be polite all for the few moments I get with the kids. For me just extending my hand to each child I give a book to is worth the risk.
This is what I get out of it, a couple of hours a year reaching out and making contact with the little ones. The rest is just part of the process to achieve those few moments each year.
As you all know I’m not married and prefer not to have kids of my own. I tell the locals here when asked why I’m not married, that if I were married I would not be here, and then I smile and gesture to the air that these are my kids and in some way it’s true. I love these small undernourished children who haven’t washed in weeks and have faces and hands that are as rough as sandpaper. Most of you would have a bottle of hand sanitizer ready if you did what I did. I still have several unused bottles that have been given to me
If the NGO’s two hours North would make an effort in this province I would gladly go home and pick Chanterelles and eat steaks w / a cold beer. I wish I wasn’t needed here but I am. Until someone else with more resources gets off their ass and expand their boundaries a bit I will keep on coming here, but it’s comfortable in Bamiyan and they can build schools with little concern of security. In all honesty it’s the same in Nawur or could be if they would just make the effort they did in Bamiyan.
We head out tomorrow on another journey taking a different route that should be much safer and technically longer then the old way…
For security reasons I would prefer not to give the exact details of my trip. But in all honesty it’s just a precaution, one I have to take so you can all give me a hard time when I return home in August. I also timed this letter to coincide with a ten day trip to the region. That way I don’t have to read and respond to the letters of concern.
I do appreciate all the love, prayers and words of encouragement that I receive for doing this, but it doesn’t compare to the heartfelt thanks I get from the village elder’s at 10,000 feet who have just decided that the 1st school to be built in their village will be for the girls.
I hope all is well in your world