Morning flight to Phoenix. Farid had luggage issues and caught a later flight. I visited Brownwood Apartments in Mesa and met with my property managers. I hooked up with Farid at Phoenix airport and we caught the evening flight to London
Arrive in London mid day. Farid is stuck in transit area for lack of UK visa. I stayed at Hilton hotel and get about 3 hours sleep. 10:00 PM flight to Dubai.
Arrived Dubai 9:00 AM. Farid stays at Millennium Hotel and I stay at Meridian. My hotel has high speed Internet connection so I deal with many e-mails. The Dubai Rotary Club changed the date of their meetings so attending was not possible. Got about 2 hours sleep and then Farid and I went on Sand Dune Safari riding Land Rover Jeeps on the dunes. Had a barbeque under the stars followed by belly dancing entertainment. Went back to our hotels for about another 2 hours sleep. Met up with Steve Spencer at the airport then caught 3:00 AM flight to Peshawar.
Arrive Peshawar at 7:00 AM. One of my two bags did not show up. It was the one will all of my paperwork and the better one of the two to have missing. I should get it on Tuesday Allah willing. Farid was met by his cousin and went with him until we would meet in the morning. We went to the government office and obtained necessary paperwork for traveling through area that Pakistan government does not control. Watched a video tape of three day arranged wedding of Zamarud Shah’s son. (34 year old physician to 23 year old student) First time he saw or talked to the bride was at the ceremony. Took a 3 hour nap. We had dinner with Abdul Rauf Rohaila, District Governor Elect for District 3270, which covers all of Pakistan. Talked more about GSE and the team selection process.
Zamarud had problems renting a van and had a minor accident with a pedestrian causing about a two hour delay. We traveled through the Khyber Pass and arrived at border as it was closing. Mohammad Ishaq from Abdul Haq Foundation (AHF) and Fary meet us at the border. Mohammad convinced the guards to open the gate and let us through. Arrive in Jalalabad around 2:30. We had an absolute feast at the palace grounds of the Gailani family. Mr. Ishaq Gailani is our host. He is the brother in-law of Farid—their wives are sisters. Mr. Gailani is running for the president of the country. He is the 39th generation descendent from the Prophet Mohammed. We are advised that he is very popular. We sat on mats feasting in 70 degree temperature in the garden looking at the snow-capped mountains in the background. We then had a tour of the premises which must have been spectacular in its day. Then we went to the AHF guesthouse and had tea for a couple of hours and relaxed. We were joined by the Mayor of Jalalabad. We talked about the Sister Cities program. He would be interested in coming to San Diego in June for a formal ceremony consummating the relationship. We then went to AHF for dinner. We reviewed our up coming schedule and discussed the school project. Fary surprised me with a Heineken beer. It was a full and rich day.
The day started early by my recording journal entries since the beginning of the trip and preparing a few e-mails.
We started our formal day by meting with the Chancellor of Nangarhar University, Dr. A Quadeer Fazly and some other university administrators. It was a good meeting in two respects. We reflected on the last time we met and how the Department Heads and administrative staff had advised us that there number one problem was isolation and that we had made no promises but would consider their plight. Since then we had sent encyclopedias and agriculture books Plants, Genes and Crop Biotechnology and had also installed the computer lab. Secondly, Steve had a much-needed conversation regarding administrative issues regarding the computer center and the training he will be providing over the next several days. He assigned Vice-Chancellor Professor Tayeb, to be in charge of the Computer Center and gave him complete authority to release faculty from existing assignments so that they can receive their computer training. This individual is the one I have corresponded with since I was here before and he commented on how particularly useful he has found Dr. Maartin Chrispeels agriculture books to be. (We had previously obtained a Rotary grant to distribute these books throughout eastern Africa to targeted agriculture professionals and Dr. Chrispeels arranged for several of thee books to go to Nangarhar University had used the US Army Civil Affairs military mail to send these books and a set of WorldBook Encyclopedias to Nangarhar University.) In my prior meeting with the Chancellor from the last trip, he seemed distant and reserved. This time he was animated and very enthusiastic—clearly appreciative of what we have done for the university directly and indirectly for the people of Afghanistan.
We then went to the computer center. It was literally a dream come true to see everything in place. The room is the right size and well secure. It is plain but functional. A technician from the installing company was not available as requested. The only problem that created was that we were not able to hook our laptops into the system for lack of knowing how to change the IP addresses in our laptops to coincide with the center’s IP addresses. (Later in the day, I purchased a cell phone and Steve talked to Janet MacDonald, who runs the company from which we purchased the computers, and she provided the desired info. The Cell phone number within Afghanistan is 079 208740 from places other than the US 0093 79 208740, from the US 011 93 79 208740. There is no charge for incoming calls but the caller pays a lot. The time difference is Jalalabad being 12 hours thirty minutes ahead of San Diego.)
Sending this e-mail I had prepared involved an elaborate cut and paste job using a flash drive and extender I have with me and loading some software in one of the computers. The computers had administrative controls on them that took a while to figure out before I could load the software. I also spent considerable time printing out various documents where the hard copies had been in my AWOL suitcase. All of that took about 3 hours and we were out of time. A little frustrating but on reflection, it seems that the computer lab will be able get everything done we have anticipated.
We had lunch at AHF. Zamarud returned to Peshawar after lunch and a runner took our passports to the border. Because they closed the borders mid stream yesterday we had been caught between countries. Although they unlocked the gate to let us out of no man’s land, we had not been able to get our passports stamped acknowledging our entry into Afghanistan. Without that, one can not get out. So our passports stamps know show us leaving Pakistan on March 5 and entering Afghanistan on March 6—I wonder how that will be received as we leave Afghanistan and enter Pakistan?
After lunch, we met with the Mayor and his Sister Cities Committee and some other community leaders. He explained that although his committee has 22 official members, 35 community leaders were in attendance since there was so much interest in the Sister Cities idea. I spent about 30 minutes explaining background information regarding how we had become interested in Afghanistan and the work we are doing, how the sister Cities idea originated from a meeting between James Ritchie and myself, steps taken in San Diego to proceed with the relationship, the exchange of letters between the two mayors and what a Sister City relationship can be and what it is not—i.e. a quick pipeline to funds. Rather it is a relationship grounded in friendship between peoples creating an atmosphere for sharing of human resources and learning and appreciating better the respective cultures of the Cities involved. I emphasized the roles SDSU, UCSD, and USD have played to date and some anticipated further possibilities. We opened the meeting for Q& A. The questions were thoughtful and demonstrated a good understanding of for the potential and limitations for the relationship. On our side the meeting was attended by Fary, Steve Spencer, Farid and myself and everyone was able to participate in the discussions although I fielded most of the Q & A. Farid did the interpreting since few of our hosts spoke English. From the Jalalabad side this process is poised for consummation. The meeting lasted about two hours.
We then went directly to the Rotary meeting for those in Jalalabad who wish to charter a club. There were 20 in attendance besides the four of us. They now have a total of 25 individuals who have singed up to be charter members including those present and signed up at the meeting last week where Fary worked with the group. I spend about a half hour talking about what Rotary is, the potential for serving the Jalalabad community and the anticipated linkages to the International Rotary Community. I also explained what Rotary is not—that is an opportunity for personal gain. Instead it offers the opportunity for personal sacrifice for the betterment of mankind. I used Cliff Dochterman’s theme of Real Happiness is Helping Others as why so many individuals around the world are Rotarians. We then opened it up for Q & A. One of the most enthusiastic participants in the discussion was the Mayor of Jalalabad who clearly has a keen interest in Rotary. There was discussion about the mechanics of formation such as the meeting time so as not to interfere with public prayer that could be a distraction for the speakers. The club decided to elect officers next week. Mohammad Ishaq of AHF presided over the meeting and did the interpreting for me. The meeting lasted a couple of hours and our banner was presented to the soon to be Rotary Club of Jalalabad.
It was a very full day. We returned to the guesthouse and somehow Fary and ABH had arranged for the refrigerator to be stocked with a case of Heineken.
We decompressed for a while and then Farid, Fary and I meet with Mr Gailani at his hotel room starting at 8:30 for a couple of hours. We shared thoughts with him on what we are doing, how we got to this point and why we are doing what we are doing. He shared many thoughts with us regarding the Nangarhar Province and the powerful families we are dealing with and some of their historical background. He has clearly been a major player in the shaping of Afghanistan history over the last three decades. He has been involved in many important discussions in Afghanistan and abroad. He has been a commander and still travels with his own security force. He carries or has near a pistol belt that we saw at the last meeting and when we were adjourning. He had one of his men give us a ride back to the hotel. When I go out of the dark vehicle, I realize that my seat had been uncomfortable because I had been sitting on the barrel of a rifle. I’ll look a little closer next time I sit down in one of his cars.
Once back at the guesthouse Fary and I had the first time to catch up on many things. She loves what she is doing to help people here but misses her Rotary Club terribly.
March 7, 2004
This was another world-class day. It started with a general lecture at the Nangarhar University regarding the computer lab. There were about 175 in the audience to learn about the computer lab—50 professors and lecturers and 125 students. One professor is from India and we learned he is here under a grant from the government of India. About four months ago the India government installed a 14 computer lab without an Internet connection where Windows XP and Microsoft Office programs are taught. The classes are being given to the faculty and students. This will really help us in the use of our computer center since the users of our center can come in with some basic computer skills. We will prioritize faculty who have successfully completed some basic computer training. At the lecture, the Chancellor opened the session with a warm welcome to us and a motivational speech to the audience, I followed by proving some background information regarding how this project developed. Then Steve Spencer did a masterful job talking about the Internet and how it can open a whole new world through access to information.
The lecture was followed by the participants breaking up into groups for a workshop demonstration at the computer lab. Steve S. brought a video projector and provided a live Internet demo projected on the wall. Sites were found in the local languages which impressed the audience (although Steve then instantly lost his ability to know where to place the mouse among the various squiggles on the screen).
While in the lab, I figured out a way to re-program my laptop to run the Internet directly from my computer. However, it is incredibly slow and I could not send pictures. The technician will be here in a couple of days and he can show me what I need to do.
We took a lunch break and Farid, Steve and I brainstormed about how the lab should be administered after we leave. We were joined by Professor Tayeb (the NU representative overseeing the computer lab). We are exploring the idea of funding a part time person who is quite familiar with the Internet functions to work at the lab and also to fund a second person who performs functions we describe as to what a librarian typically performs. We have identified an excellent candidate to be the librarian (the son of an Assistant Chancellor at NU) who has been at the lab and assisting us. These individuals will work under the direction of AHF and I have some ideas regarding how we can fund these positions. For the lab to be successful, it is absolutely necessary to have the appropriate administrative structure in place. Later in the day I discussed all of this with Ishaq at AHF and he confirmed that they could perform this oversight function.
I then broke off from Steve and Farid, hooked up with Fary and went to the school site. (Farid and Steve continued to work to set up software at the lab for the anticipated hands on workshops to take place the next day. Fary had been meeting with the US Military to and others to help coordinate some of our schedules. I suggested that she ask the US military if they could arrange for a helicopter video shoot of the school and university. They advised that they would try to do this if they can get the necessary approvals. I consider this important if we want to have a first class video presentation regarding this trip. (I told Fary to tell the military that Rick Clark would be happy to come out and fly around in the helicopter in the same area where people are looking for Osama Ben Laden since Rick likes to video tape so much, but she forgot to so advise the military—sorry Rick.)
The school is an unbelievable site. It will not be in a position for occupancy at the time of the Dedication Ceremony March 13 but we have anticipated that situation for some time. It will look very good at the time with some finishing details that will need to be done over the next month and a half. What sets the school apart from anything else in the area is not only its size but also the attention to detail provided in its architecture. Most buildings here are simply plain looking boxes with doors and windows. For our school the brickwork is beautiful and the interior courtyards with columns supporting the overhangs on the walkways provide an unbelievable visual effect. I suggested they significantly add unskilled labor to the pool of workers to perform clean-up functions. There were about 30 people working at the site and they agreed to put on 20 more people. I advised that I wanted to return Wednesday afternoon to see additional progress. I pointed out that we will want to seek funding for phase two and if we are to seek additional funding, we need the best appearance possible at the Dedication Ceremony which will be filmed in our promotional video.
The immediate area surrounding the school has totally changed. Our school is right on the edge of a very substantial community. There is no other building that compares to this in all of Nangarhar Province. Ishaq advised it will be the third best facility in all of Afghanistan, only behind what the French government and German government are building. Interesting that our club is doing things in the same league as countries
The cell phone has proven to be useful to coordinate activities. I did have one miss-hap when I was riding with just a driver but not the others, I was impressed with the Afghan music that seemed to come and go in the truck. I finally figured out it was someone trying to call me on my cell phone and that is how the ring was programmed to sound.
We all regrouped at the guesthouse late afternoon and decompressed—Fary now is drinking more than her allotted share of the Heineken. We then went to the AHF place for dinner. Once there we met up with the Mayor and were advised that the Governor had invited us to his home for a meeting. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Minister of Education. While waiting for the Governor, we were able to talk with the Minister about building out the additional six classrooms, running the school in shifts to be able to accommodate K-12 with boys and girls in equal numbers. He advised this would be an acceptable way to proceed. With that encouragement, I will start to plan for the next round of development to launch once the first phase is successfully completed and up and running. He also confirmed that we can use the multi-purpose hall for adult vocational training. In response to my inquiry, he advised that the two priorities for adult vocational training will be basic literacy and numeracy and technical skills like computer use.
We then were joined by the Governor who asked that I update him on our activities. He is very warm and friendly and extremely appreciative of the things we are doing. Steve S. went into some detail regarding the potential of the Internet, what we hope to accomplish and the potential relationship with SDSU. The Governor’s demeanor makes everyone immediately at ease so an hour or so flew by.
After dinner at ABH foundation we returned to our guesthouse where AHF had arranged for a local father and son musical team to play drums and a local string instrument late into the late night. We were joined by several others who have been dining with us who have some relationship with AHF—including a Russian fellow, and Laura, a freelance reporter for CBS who is posed to spring into action as the hunt for Osama intensifies.
I should mention that while here, one almost forgets how much people at home worry about our safety. Yes, guns are commonplace as is presence of people in uniform. In fact spending time with Mr. Gailani the previous couple of day, on e could not help but notice that he travels with his own security force—which resembles a small well armed military unit. When Fary, Farid and I met with him the previous evening, he indicated that at one time he had risen to the position of number two on the Taliban’s hit list. Since there are still some Taliban and Taliban sympathizers, it makes since for him as a military commander with his own faction of followers to travel that way. But other than that, where we have been and the people we are interacting with seems to me that although the people here are facing hardships and huge challenges, they seem at peace with themselves and others. I am sure this is naďve, but the point is, personal risk and security don’t seem to be issues that we are very concerned about. We don’t take chances in that we travel with locals and don’t wonder off on our own. We aren’t doing things to draw attention to ourselves. So far the charm and intrigue of this place together with an incredibly busy work schedule has us totally captivated and the adrenalin is constantly flowing. Over time the inconveniences and annoyances will probably start to get to us but right now, life could not be better for any of the four of us.
Tomorrow should be another jam-packed day with our splitting up again and going in different directions.
Today was another full day. I interviewed 13 Nangarhar University professors for GSE (to bring 5 to 7 to San Diego for one month this fall) in a five-hour period-- non- stop. Farid was able to help with some of this although he did start teaching his English as a Second Language Classes at the university today. Steve Spencer was providing Internet instruction all day and Fary was running errands getting some logistics taken care of for upcoming events.
The way the system worked, the Chancellor of the university asked each department to select two individuals for the interviews. Then he also approved of a few more professors interviewing as well. Everyone in the interviews spoke some English. About three individuals can be ruled out because of the weakness of their English, a couple can be ruled out because of their age (over 60), and there are a couple who would simply not benefit from the program. So far, the strongest candidates are in the fields of agriculture and veterinary medicine and we would probably need to develop programs for them for some of their time outside of San Diego. There also is an excellent ESL candidate who may be able to obtain a scholarship at San Diego State university for their one month intensive program regarding teaching ESL to teachers of ESL. I still will be interviewing four more candidates at NU’s main campus and will interview candidates from the medical school. I also intend to go to the nursing school to see if we can interview candidates from there. Up to now, I have only interviewed males.
Farid and I were joined by Professor Tayeb for a quick lunch. Then I caught up with Fary and we went to the office of Relief International. That organization has helped us set up the computer lab and through Rotary we are assisting in funding the equipment for an Afghan Women’s’ Development Center (AWDC) they are developing in Jalalabad, We met with their director Philip Sansone who is new on the job but an experienced manager. We got caught up on things and then took a tour of the AWDC under construction. The facility is quite large and will be a big deal for Jalalabad. They expect construction to be complete by May 9 but that will be a challenge.
After a brief respite at out guesthouse, we went to the office of IF Hope for dinner with Richard, its director. Steve S. joined us there and Farid had dinner with Mr. Gialani.
I think the pace will start to slow down a little bit by tomorrow or the next day.
The morning started with Fary and I meeting with Robert Antonucci who works in Afghanistan for the NOOR Eye Care program of International Assistance Mission (IAM). NOOR has operated eye care and surgery centers in Afghanistan for over 10 years. (I was referred to them through a series of connections emanating from an eye care vendor show in Anaheim that Frank Devlyn wanted me to attend with him. The purpose of the meeting was to learn if it would be feasible for Rotary to partner with NOOR in setting up some type of eye care/surgery center similar to what NOOR runs in other parts of Afghanistan. It is estimated that there are probably 45.000 to 60,000 people considered legally blind in the general vicinity of Jalalabad and many of these could regain their sight through cataract surgery. The primary issues relative to setting up a center have to do with the qualifications of the ophthalmologist who has the primary responsibilities and dealing with various overhead items relating to running a clinic. If we can have the government donate an appropriate building to set up a clinic, I think it may be possible that the other issues can be worked out between Rotary and NOOR WE want to talk to the Governor about the feasibility of obtaining the land donation.
We were joined by Robert and next went to the Nangarhar University Hospital, which we learned is totally physically separate from the Nangarhar University Medical School. We met with the ophthalmology staff. Many have no specialized training beyond basic medical school. Most have taken a teaching position at the Medical School upon graduation from the school. All only work (lecturing and being on call at the hospital) until 12:30M each day six days a week and earn about a dollar a day. Most have private clinics where they see and charge patients in the afternoon. The hospital has few resources but it is not clear if additional equipment would be used if provided, at least in the ophthalmology department, since the doctors have their own private clinics. We were given a tour of their eye surgery center and the wards.
We also net with the administrative staff at the University hospital and requested that arrangements be made for physicians there who would be willing and available for GSE. I indicated that we were particularly interested in women and would prefer candidates to be mid-forties or below. (It takes seven years to finish medical school.) Specialties we are particularly interested in include, ob/gyn, nursing (which training is done at the hospital, perhaps pathology, and specialties that do not require a heavy investment in capital equipment. We will conduct the interviews this Friday.
We then went to the Nangarhar Public Hospital and met with the female physicians in the ob/gyn department. We are working on donating an ultra-sound machine to this facility and needed to test the feasibility of the same. One of their physicians has had four years of ultra sound experience at a private clinic and it is probably that she can be certified on the donated machine perhaps with just a little training offered at Kabul through this donation program.
We then visited a private eye clinic operated by one of the University Hospital Doctors. We talked with him and his patients regarding how these types of operations fit within the health care system generally. Basically, for eye care, the patients do not want to go to the public institutions even though they are free of charge (unless the treating physician “asks” for a gratuity.) The scheduling of appointments seems to be an attraction at the private clinics, compared to not knowing which day one may even be seen at the public hospital.
We then went out to the computer lab at NU. We were short of time and had no time for lunch. We knew that Steve Spencer was not feeling well so he took our car back to the guesthouse and Fary and I with the assistance of an intern oversaw the Internet training activities for the afternoon. We also downloaded some of the software we brought with us. It is real clear that we have been and will continue to be real short on time to get all of the pieces in place. Just the fact that there hasn’t been time to load software is indicative of that. When the power went out we decided to call it quits rather than fire up the generator.
We had stopped earlier in the morning to negotiate with the one plaque maker in town to have our plaque completed in time for the school Dedication Ceremony. We appear to be competing with a substantial tombstone and there seems to be more of a sense of urgency for the recently departed. We also stopped to negotiate buying a TV and VCR for the school Dedication ceremony with some funds from the UN Association of San Diego they provided for something for the school. We also arranged for about 20 boxes of the English Dictionaries to be delivered to NU so that we can start passing these out at the Computer Center Dedication Ceremony.
Farid taught his ESL class in the morning. He advised that Mr. Gailani came to NU and observed his teaching and also sent to the computer center with his traveling entourage. Farid also went to the IRC office in Jalalabad—IRC is his employer in San Diego.
I think I am beginning to wear down. I know that tomorrow will be another full day.
The day started with Fary and myself interviewing four more professors for GSE. There is common theme that has developed, when we ask if they have any questions of us, almost everyone after asking a question or two says something to the effect: even if you do not pick me, what you are doing is so incredibly important to the future of Afghanistan, I thank you so much for considering me and my university for this program.
From there we went to the computer lab and hooked up with Steve S. and Farid. Today is national exams for students, so there were no computer classes today. We experimented more with the computers. They were incredibly slow in accessing the Internet. We telephoned our provider regarding this and she is sending us some information that may provide more bandwidth options. Sometimes the cell phone doesn’t work and for the same reasons the satellite connection may be effected. A CBS freelance reporter suggested that sometimes the CIA is undertaking some activities that can affect the airwaves. I have know idea if this is true and would probably would have a hard time finding the CIA telephone number here, calling them and asking them about this. We also need a technician to get the copy machine working properly.
We were invited to meet with the India Counsel General at their Consulate facility in Jalalabad. This invitation came through the two Indian Computer instructors teaching basic software at NU under a grant from the Indian government. They travel with their own well-armed bodyguard. We went with them to the Consulate and spent two and one half hours meeting with the Counsel General, his immediate underling, and the two Indian instructors. The meeting was very productive not just because he insisted we all share his stash of Heineken beer but also to learn about the their perspective on issues related to education in the country. Their concern is that through their education program, they will provide professors sufficient computer skill on various software programs that the professors will leave the university and take jobs with non-governmental organizations operating in Jalalabad. Most professors earn around $30 per month plus have their housing paid for so the incentives for departure are extreme. We are less concerned (but still concerned) about this for the training that will come from use of our lab since we are only teaching skills regarding how to access the Internet for research and to gain additional information. One thing is crystal clear when it comes to providing the humanitarian assistance in the programs we are looking at, providing equipment without an administrative support side to maintain and sustain it, without proper rewards and incentives will not accomplish much,
Fary and I then went to the school site. It is amazing how much can be accomplished in a couple of days, with a crew of about 100 people working. Most of the construction debris had been cleared, the floors for all classrooms have been finished, the front entrance had been made very presentable, most exterior brickwork had been painted and trim painting was well underway. There still is probably about 2,000 feet of concrete to pour for the admin areas, medical clinic, and multi-purpose room. My guess is that most but not all of that will be complete by the time of the Dedication Ceremony, chairs with attached desks have been placed in three of the classrooms and the rooms will accommodate 50 students each-- five rows across and ten rows deep.
We then came back to the guesthouse and met with Mohammad Ishaq regarding several logistical issues. We filled out most of the paperwork necessary to Charter the Rotary Club of Jalalabad. They will meet again this Saturday at which time club voting will take place regarding the remaining outstanding issues to be resolved.
We also spent time reviewing what needs to be accomplished in what now seems to be just a few days left here.
Finally, I have prepared a formal letter to the Chancellor which I will hand to him officially turning over the items in the computer center to Nangarhar University.
The day started early with all of use going to the computer lab to get it set for the Dedication ceremony. The Ceremony started late since we had to wait for the arrival of the Governor. He was on a tight schedule so we did the ribbon cutting before the ceremony itself. There were three excellent speeches given by the Governor, the Chancellor and the Director of Abdul Haq Foundation. The theme of the speeches was that the university no longer is isolated from the rest of the world and now has access to research facilities through out the world. The students and faculty were charged to make the best use of this facility and much thanks was given to those of us involved. I talked a little about the background leading up to this and about the fact that the American people care about those in Afghanistan and want to help provide them the opportunity for advancement without any intent of exporting our culture to Afghanistan. Steve Spencer talked about the benefits of utilization of the facility and Farid talked about how the Afghan people in the States have a vital interest in assisting the Afghan people here. The auditorium was standing room only and overflowing out the door. I would guess there were about 350 people at the ceremony. I also talked about the fact that most information on the Internet is in English and that is why we are working to assist the ESL program in Nangarhar University and why we have brought thousands of English dictionaries to distribute. The distribution of the dictionaries quickly evolved to a mob scene and thanks to some quick action of one of the Abdul Haq folks, order was restored without anyone being injured—i.e. me. Farid then left for Kabul and the rest of us went to the computer lab for a while and helped some of the students and faculty.
Mid-afternoon we went to the US Army base and met up with the Provisional Reconstruction team of the US Army Civil Affairs division. My first order of business was to get some US antibiotics since a nasty cold has developed. Colonel Law showed us around the compound—the grounds of what one was a very elaborate hotel facility built and used by the Russians. It felt good to be around the US soldiers in uniform and we were treated with great respect.
We then had a long talk with some of the Army’s civil affairs personnel. They are very eager to help us with the finishing out of the school, equipping of the school and the build out of the final phase. They pointed out that this is why they are here. In essence, our project provides the perfect model for them to collaborate with an outside organization and they are full of enthusiasm to help. This is what we have needed from a long time back and now it looks like it will materialize from this point forward.
I also met with a representative of the US State department who provided some contact info for people who might assist us in navigating the process of getting US Visas for the GSE candidates we will be selecting. Although the US consular services division operates with substantial anonymity, it nevertheless will be useful to let high up State Dept. personnel know what we are tying to accomplish with the GSE program and they may be able to make the difference for us in getting the visas.
The Army personnel kept emphasizing what a huge story this is that our school is right in the back yard of where Osama Ben Laden use to operate and reside. This is part of the territory they are responsible for and they travel there regularly. They also reconfirmed that they thought they could do a helicopter video shoot of the school as the Tora Bora operation cranks up.
We were waiting for our ride out of the base when I noticed a couple of boxes in the corner with the Rotary Theme "Lend a Hand” on it. These were two of the missing boxes of ESL books I had shipped to the military, which they thought had not yet arrived. Fairly amazing since their compound covers many acres that we were in the same room with these boxes.
Back at the guesthouse, we strategize over how we can best put in place the administrative structure for running the computer center. We meet with university officials tomorrow morning to see if a three-way agreement can be reached on this among the university, Abdul Haq Foundation and LJGTRC Foundation. It will require some funding but I think I know where to find that on a short-term basis. Thereafter Steve Spencer plans to write a grant to obtain some intermediate term funding. It seems clear that we can’t simply leave this to the university to administer and pay for on its own. It will not have a useful life if we do that at this point in time.
Today started with Steve Spencer and me meeting with NU administrators and AHF rep to work out the details for the administration of the computer lab after we leave. It was agreed and reduced to writing that there will be a person on site 8 hours a day 6 days a week who will perform functions similar to a librarian logging in users and keeping the machines up and providing minor assistance. We are hiring Latif, one of the sons of the vice chancellor for this. He has a fair amount of computer experience and is very motivated. We will also hire someone to provide Internet instruction two hours per day for three to six cohorts of students which can be NU faculty or NU students. The person to fill this slot has not been identified. We have found a pocket of funds to pay for this for the next several months and this will be supervised by AHF and we will receive weekly status reports.
After this we went with Baryalai, director of AHF to a town hall type of meeting in a fairly remote village. There were about 150 elders there representing one third of the villages in Nangarhar Province. We were advised that this group is from the toughest of the tribes in all of Afghanistan. Baryalai have a looooong speech which we were advised pointed out the need for unity among everyone in Afghanistan. Steve Spencer speculates—it seems accurately, that Baryalai may be in the process of forming a political party in Afghanistan but, without on the surface at least, running for office. A setting for a movie could not have been more interesting—great collection of beards and every single one of them made a point to shake our hands upon arrival. Fary was the only woman visible. After the speeches we had a literal feast sitting on floor mats eating with our hands. Then back to the cars, stopping at a poppy field for pictures with a few locals questioning what we were doing.
Once back to Jalalabad Steve S. went to the computer lab and Fary and I went to the university hospital. We had requested the opportunity to interview physicians for GSE. We did not know how many would show up and we were there close to a half hour early. We were greeted by 12 eager participants all waiting to be interviewed. Everyone spoke adequate English to participate. Most look 10 years older than they are. My guess is that many of their specialties will not benefit much from the experience since the way we do things in the US and the equipment we use is not transferable technology. One thoughtful ophthalmology doctor suggested that instead of bring one ophthalmologist to the US why not bring someone from the US to Jalalabad to train all of them for one month. It actually may make more sense to bring one from India since there are many there with good skills who have received substantial training and the types of things they see in India would be similar to what is seen in Afghanistan and the equipment used may be of a more similar caliber.
In the evening we have hooked up with a David Tilling, a photographer arranged for by Rotary headquarters in Evanston for the school Dedication Ceremony and he also will take some shots of the computer lab.
So now we are working through the final details of what we need to do before our departure in a couple of days.
Today punctuated an appropriate crescendo for our activities in Afghanistan. We (Steve, Fary, Farid, David and myself) arrived at the school about 8:30 in the morning. It was beautiful with the words La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club painted in huge letters above the main entrance to the school. The concrete work was finished in all rooms except the multipurpose hall, medical clinic and admin rooms. The exterior painting and trim was complete and one of the courtyards was set up with hundreds of the desk chairs for the audience. We set up a couple of classrooms for the student pictures.
About 9:30 the students started to file in—first the group of boys and them the group of girls. It was impossible to count the numbers but there were probably 500 or 600 all in uniforms. They went to the second courtyard and sat on the dirt. Many others were arriving—Zamarud Shah came from Peshawar, Pakistan, Flouran Wali for Kabul, government officials, US military, Jalalabad Rotarians (provisional), Relief International personnel, IF Hope personnel, Abdul Haq personnel, local media, elders, and parents. The Governor arrived with his security force and the ceremony started close to on time.
It lasted for a couple of hours, with speeches by the local television anchor, (apparently previously the computer dedication ceremony and parts of our speeches had been covered by the local TV news), the Deputy Minister of Education, Baryalai from AHF, the Governor and myself. There was singing entertainment by the boys and girls separately and then a formal ribbon cutting. Refreshments were set up in one of the classrooms for dignitaries. One of the speakers said that this is the nicest school in all of the surrounding provinces and the nicest primary school in all of Afghanistan.
As we were leaving the ceremony, the principal asked if we could consider providing bicycles for the teachers who have to travel such a long distance. I indicated that we could not consider anything further until the school is totally complete. On reflection, I did not give enough thought to his question and we may wish to follow up.
We went to AHF for lunch and then on to the computer lab. The students and faculty were lined up at the door when we arrived. We opened the lab and it was humming while we were there—all connections were working with high speed uploads and down loads. Professors were helping each other. My second suitcase arrived today with the extra software and hardware for the lab (and extra ESL books I turned over to Farid).
We had a brief ceremony at the lab talking about how it will be administered going forward. It will be open 8 hours a day 6 days a week with a full time staff person (Latif0 in place to check people in and out. Starting today, Latif will fill out a daily report and send it to me by e-mail. Baryalai’s son has just arrived from Germany and he has agreed to help provide Internet training for some time—not sure of the time frame. Also, since Farid will be teaching his ELS classes in the morning only, he will be at the computer lab for the full afternoons for the next 10 days and he will provide Internet training during these afternoons.
I have arrange for funding to cover the costs of the librarian function on a full time basis, for the costs of internet trainers once Baryalai's son and Farid leave on a part time basis and for some supplies and diesel fuel for the generator. This funding may provide for the operation of the lab for up to 11 months depending on the intensity of the use. Meanwhile Steve Spencer will be writing a grant request to provide longer term funding and exploring having externships for San Diego State University students in educational technology to consider coming to Nangarhar University for research and training.
From there we went to the Rotary Club meeting. Two additional prospective members were there. At the school dedication ceremony I talked to an Afghan gentlemen who works for an NGO supported by the Netherlands Government. He indicated he was interested in the work Rotary was doing in his country. He had lived in Australia for many years and had joined Lions there. He wanted to be part of Rotary in Jalalabad. He attended the meeting and is now on the board. Mohammad Ishaq indicated this gentleman would be about the most important person in town to be in the club. Flouran Wali brought one of her female colleagues from Relief International to the club meeting. She too is interested in joining and would be interested in joining the club.
The Club held election of officers electing Mohammad Ishaq president, a vice chancellor of the university as President Elect—who happens to be Latif’s father, and Wali as Secretary who is the son of the Vice Chancellor and has a computer repair business. A treasurer was elected and three other board members. The club set its dues structure at $70 per year. (Some type of subsidy arrangement will need to be worked out to assist the professors in the club who earn around $60 per month.
Fary, Steve and I will meet with the Pakistan District Governor tomorrow afternoon or evening (if he is able to keep his appointment) and we should be able to present him a package signed sealed and delivered for the Chartering of the Rotary Club of Jalalabad.
I took everyone to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Kabul River. The group included a delegation from the Japanese Embassy who has some projects in Kabul. Mr. Miyahara, who is Chief of Mission at their Embassy, indicated that he returns to Japan every three months to be with his family and during those times he talks to Rotary Clubs about the state of affairs in Afghanistan. He advises that these clubs always ask if there is a way for them to get involved in Rotary projects in Afghanistan and if there is Rotary there. We exchanged cards and I am confident the assistance that will result from this conversation will be a factor many times the cost of dinner for 20 in Jalalabad at the best place in town--$100.
After dinner we (including the Japanese delegation and their security force) returned to the guesthouse for our last evening together in Jalalabad. AHF had again arranged for the father and son sitar player and drummer to entertain us late into the evening.
Fary, Steve, and I left Jalalabad, traveled through the border, picked up our armed guard and returned to Zamarud Shaw’s home in Peshawar all without incident. Our driver did provide us a white-knuckle ride through the Khyber Pass.
Steve Spencer left this morning for his onward journey to the Pacific Islands. Fary, Zamarud and I went to the “handing over” Ceremony for the Computers our club and the Uni-town Peshawar Club has purchased through a matching grant for high schools in Peshawar. I was not expecting much, but there was a room set up with the computers and an audience of fifty people about 18 of whom are Rotarians. The District Governor Elect from Pakistan “Rauf” was present. We all gave speeches. The computers are going to a semi-private boys school--5, a semiprivate girls school--5 and a government school.—4. We are also providing the Microsoft donations of Office 2003. The school principals were present and our time at the school lasted a couple of hours from beginning to end.
We then ran some errands—we are getting Rick’s video camera fixed at a shop in Pakistan—there is a great extended warranty on the repair work. Fary and I then sorted through some paperwork. We needed to get in order the chartering documents for the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and also the info on the GSE team members we are recommending.
We had a very late dinner with DGE Rauf to review all of our Afghanistan activities. We talked in detail about forming the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and GSE. In essence, we handed Rauf a completed package to charter the Rotary Club of Jalalabad with info on its 2e charter members (some were dropped because they are students) and adopted constitution and bylaws. He advises that his club will be a co-sponsor club with ours and he will proceed with the processing. We are not sure if this will be well received by the present DG but will soon find out.
Regarding GSE, Rauf is pleased with our recommendations. However, he insists in having a Pakistani team leader and the details on that can probably be worked out. He advises that that person will be an educator.
This was definitely the most relaxed day but it still did not end till around midnight.
Zamarud and Fary saw me off at the airport vary early this morning. Fortunately I had some extra Kleenex for Fary and I needed some as well.
Unless something worth reporting happens on my transit back to San Diego, this will be my last diary entry.