Wonderful to leave Taloqan and head off to the mountains of Worsaj. The familiar drive through the gentle hills of Taloqan and on to the wilder floodplains before Fakhar with the snow topped mountains of Worsaj growing ever nearer. Such a familiar route now and past schools which we have built- Ledgei and Wahdat, still there and in their beautiful surroundings serving the local communities.
The welcome we receive at Bibi Ayisha is legendary and today was no different with rows of children standing in lines, singing us a greeting and showering me with glitter and flowers and placing garlands over my head. I love seeing the guards –splendid old men who have more wrinkles added to the contours of their face at every visit and who greet me like family.
After breakfast of fresh trout from the river, wild rocket with fresh cucumbers and naan with carrot and plum jam, served with the most delicious green tea, we went to see the boys’ school. I had opened the school last year and again we received the most magnificent welcome with the whole school standing waiting for us with more flowers and garlands.
Qawunduz Village was next and a visit to the Khadeja Kubretal Girls School. I had visited last year and we were asked to build a school for the 750 girls, most of whom were studying outside. The Bonita Trust has funded the majority of the building and the donor who came to visit last year has funded the rest and part of another girls’ school further up the valley. It was incredibly emotional arriving to find all the village men out laying the foundations of the school and moving the village road so that classrooms could be built. This is their contribution to the project and I saw them all and thanked them and watched the first foundations of the school being laid.
All the girls had come out to thank us and there followed another procession with flowers and garlands and cheers and then I was asked to give a speech. The visit was made even more emotional as our donor is very unwell and I so wished he could have been here to see the beginnings of his school and the joy he has helped to bring to these children. We were not allowed to leave without another delicious meal and more green tea!
We continued on to Anoy School which is in deperate need of classrooms. From the ridge we could see 2 tents and a classroom outside and all the other classes being held in an old building with no roof and broken down walls. I know I could get funding for this school. The need is overwhelming. However a grim man arrived and told us in loud aggressive tones that we would have to buy the land if we want to build the school. The community told us that he is a corrupt politician and never owned the land but has a fake certificate of ownership. So they refuse to pay him for the land and these children will not get a school unless some other land can be found. So depressing.
To cheer things up I distributed the beanie hats knitted by the women of East Woodhay and soon hundreds of children were wearing brightly coloured hats. Wonderful sight! Well worth bringing them all this way!
Then on to a community based school in Viruf which is being funded by AC. We are funding 30 CBS in Worsaj for 600 children and without these schools the children would not receive an education because the nearest schools are too far away. They are run out of houses or the mosque by arrangement with the community and AC pays the teachers and for the stationery and teacher training. Fantastic to see the young children studying- some of them in their first year at school. Had great fun watching their classes.
Then mats were brought and laid out by the river under the shade of the purple blossoms of the pistachio trees. Tea was served with fresh almonds and raisins.
Lastly a visit to the teacher training centre where 50 women were having training in the fading light- the future teachers of Worsaj.And now we are in a carpeted room in a home in the hills of Qawunduz. I am sitting on cushions with 12 men sitting smiling and watching me write. They are so hospitable and arrived with bags of fresh trout to cook for our dinner. It is so rare for foreigners to stay in villages these days and we are incredibly privileged. I feel very safe here. But I am afraid of Friday and just pray that the madman in the US is not planning to burn the Q again as we have been informed ...in which case we will leave here tomorrow and get to Faizabad.