Click Here for Pictures Pictures Updated 10/21/08 (3:00 PM Pacific Time)
Oct 26 Friday morning we had a good meeting with Brian King from WSU regarding establishing an ANGeL Center at NU. We think we can incorporate the NU Medical School computer lab in this, We flew KAM Air from Kabul to Dubai Oct 24 and stayed at a nice hotel there. We had a down day in Dubai and did some minor sightseeing, This morning we left for the Dubai airport at 5:00 AM. We needed to be there 3 hours before our flight. Their new terminal just opened and it is probably the most spectacular facility I have ever seen. We then took the inaugural Emeritus Air flight from Dubai to LA. We arrived in LA 16.5 hours after takeoff and Susan met us around 2:30 PM. Susan then drove us back to San Diego It is great to be home. We are a bit worn down but excited about moving our various projects forward.
Signing off until next time
Oct 22 (continued) The meeting with the World Bank folks was business rather than social. They want to know when the Light up Jalalabad proposal may be in effect. They are presently paying more than $30,000 per six months for internet connections at NU. Then Dr. Aziz came here for some minor follow up issues at the GH. We then received a call that Brandon Mendoza and Dave Warner were at the Taj. We met them there for about an hour to talk about follow up items. We then went to the Chancellor’s for dinner. We are now back at the GH packing. It looks like Ishaq did not pay the CDMA monthly charge so the Chancellor and us no longer have internet access. I did my most recent download at the Taj. Oct 23
We drove to Kabul this morning. It is a beautiful day and the mountain pass is spectacular. It is about a two hour drive to the edge of Kabul but takes an hour going through town. We are staying at a German Guest House where we have stayed before. After checking in at the GH, we met with Abdul Hai who works for the Ministry of Higher Education to review the results of our time in Jalalabad. We then went to Afghan Telecom for a two hour meeting to talk about the Light up Jalalabad proposal. Mr. Baht attended this meeting who is their Chief Technology Officer and also holds a position in the Ministry of Communications. The meeting lasted about two hours and was very difficult for many reasons. Some of the assumptions we have been proceeding with appear in error—like what amount Afghan Telecom would anticipate charging to a typical end user using the upgraded CDMA technology, the lack of perceived interest in marketing this up grade technology to potential end users, and the large incremental extra cost to Afghan Telecom to bring in more bandwidth to feed the ED-VO users back into the World Wide Web given the amount of bandwidth these users would expect to have available to them. I had a very difficult time in understanding many of the technical concerns and also could not get a good grip on how the various financial interests of the parties involved including Afghan Telecom itself which is an Afghan government owned entity. At one point it looked like the whole concept would not work with Afghan Telecom and because they are part of the government they can prevent competitors from obtaining licenses to consider going forward with this type of program. Eventually I suggested a modified technical version of our program and they felt it had promise. They asked me to send them some specifics regarding technical needs of end users contemplated. I have done that and they will provide a few options to consider. We came back to the GH and I sent a runner for beer which for some reason has escalated to the cost of $6 per can. Ishaq found us there and we spent a couple of hours with him reviewing various matters. This GH provides dinner which we just finished. Tomorrow morning we have a meeting with a Washington State University representative regarding establishing their on-line learning programs at the ILC at NU. From there we go to the airport and catch a 2:00 PM flight to Dubai. We are both feeling pretty worn out but our health and spirits remain good.
Oct 22. This morning we interviewed an English teacher (Hila) who teaches at the BiBi Mariam School near the NU campus. She is the daughter of one of the Vice Chancellors at NU. She is a first year teacher and her English is very good. Neither she nor her family has any reservations about her traveling alone to the US. We will be recommending her for Rotary’s three month cultural scholarship. If Hila receive the Rotary Scholarship, we will then want to include the Bi Bi Mariam School in our GCE program on a modified basis. I talked to the school principal about putting in two computers with one CDMA connection for use by Hila and about four or five of the best speaking English students. They have several females who speak excellent English. In fact one student (Tabasum) interpreted for me as I talked with the school principal about the GCE program. A condition of our putting in the computers will be Hila’s participation in the Cultural Scholarship. Meanwhile Fary interviewed the other English teacher at the school but her English was too weak to benefit from the Rotary Cultural Scholarship. We may explore offering the scholarship to Tabasum who graduates this year and wants to teach English upon graduation. She also wants to go on the study at the university. Her father is Dean of the NU Economic faculty. Also this morning we went to the NU medical school. In the past we have provided the internet connection but we can no longer afford the V-SAT at $500 per month plus $100 for Naqueb a medical student and a part time administrator for the lab. Yesterday Nagueb advised me about a company that provides an alternate internet connection solution. He arranged a meeting with representatives of that company at the medical school and we brought Almas to that meeting as well. It appears that we can set up one or two internet hubs in the City of Jalalabad that will serve five of our GCE program facilities and the medical school lab and just pay one monthly fee per hub. We can pick which level of band width we wish to subscribe and the cost varies accordingly. It appears that we can use this solution to provide on-line access to each computer in the labs we are supporting rather than rely on swapping CDMA cards between computers. They will send us a written proposal and my best guess is that it will be about the same cost as using the CDMA cards but with 100% coverage for each computer in our system. We then met with Mr. Azizi (Nangarhar Director of Education) to advise him of our progress in setting up the internet labs and what we have on the drawing board for the GCE Program. He remains fully supportive. We also talked about challenges at our Rotary School and supporting female education there. He reconfirmed his commitment to pay for female teachers at the school and will help identify additional sites that need outside support for female education. We then went to the ILC and met with our carpenter regarding projected work. To furnish the f NU female dorm lounge, office, kitchen, computer room and build cabinets for all sleeping rooms will cost $14,200. We asked him to proceed. His cost to build out the kitchen and computer lab at the NU College of Ed dorm is $1,600. I then met with Dr. Isanullah and one of his colleagues who are setting up a non-profit to serve Jalalabad. They have a pretty well thought out strategic plan and hope to work with our Sister Cities organization down the road. We had met with Dr. Isanullah a couple of trips back when he worked with the Jalalabad Chamber of Commerce. We then met with two of the village people regarding the bridge we plan to build to assist their community. We are now back at the GH. We have determined we will not take the USAID flight from J’Bad to Kabul because it will get there too late for the meeting with Afghan Telecom. We also want to meet with Abdul Hai tomorrow at the MOHE. Thus we will get an early start on the road to Kabul in the morning. The Chancellor called and invited us to his home for dinner tonight. The World Bank local reps (SHEP) just arrived at the GH for what is likely only a social call. I am not sure when I will send my next message. Right now we have a triple failure for connectivity. The CDMA signal is down for the city, the electricity is down for the campus and the generator for the ILC has a short so I can not use the V-SAT at the ILC without electricity. And my computer battery is running low matching my own energy level.
Oct 21 This morning we met with Dean Amn who is head of the NU Political Science and Law Faculty. He again inquired if we have made any progress in assisting in developing a forensic training module for the law school. We advised him of the proposal we received from the San Diego Sheriff’s Dept. Crime lab and their willingness to go forward. Unfortunately it will take about $25K to put this into production and we have not been able to raise those funds yet. We also advised him of Stanford Law School’s initiative to help develop curriculum for the American University of Kabul. We will see if any of that curriculum could be made available for his department to translate into Pashto. If so, it would be desirable for one of his English speaking professors to spend some time with the Stanford Law folks who have been developing some of the course work. It would take approval of the MOHE to build this into the Nangarhar curriculum but it could be offered as an after hours class without academic credit. We met one of the law professors who spoke excellent English—Aimal Haqmal We came back to the GH and I worked on changing our flight to Dubai and room reservation. We would rather have an extra day in Dubai than one in Kabul when everything is closed on Friday. Because we are taking the USAID flight to Kabul on Thursday (they don’t fly on Fridays) our schedule has changed. Meanwhile Dean Shinwari and Dr. Baryali (head of the English Department) met here with Fary trying to justify some of the poor conditions for the English classrooms. We then went to the female dorm where our carpenter had arrived, this time with a truck with all the dorm furniture he has built. . He needed a place to store it. We decided to keep out of the way and went to the Rotary School. We arrived around noon and found young boys coming into the school as well as girls of all ages .It turns out that the school now has about 4,000 boys in grades one through eleven. The youngest boys are now coming in the afternoon shift and take up all of the small wing of six classrooms, as well as having three classes in the multi purpose room and three classes in outside tents. The morning has boys using all 20 classrooms, three classes in the multi purpose room and three classes under the tents. There are about 1,600 girls attending in grades one through nine. The lower classes of girls are still very large. But now there is only one empty regular classroom in which to add a teacher but we also could use the science room (which has never been used) to house one of the smaller classes of girls. The whole situation is rather overwhelming. Fary and I have visited many schools this trip and we find literally hundreds of students attending classes in the courtyards of their schools. Some sit in chairs and others sit on mats on the ground. A school of 6,000 students is common with room space for about one third of that size. Some schools are run in three shifts to partially accommodate the space problem. We then went to the female dorm at the NU College of Ed. Almas has the lab set up. He personally rewired the room and set up all ten computers and the printer. The lab is ready to go. Almas will wire it to connect to the V-SAT we are installing for the internet connection at our training center in a nearby building. From there we went to the BiBi Zainaib Girls’ High School. In four day’s time, Almas had personally completely republished the room, put in a new ceiling with ceiling fans, wired the room, installed a lighting system, installed an attractive carpet, hired a trainer, administered English tests to about 50 students, installed 10 computers and the computer class was running in its second day. Fary and I figure this guy has come from another planet. Before we personally met him, we had asked for information about high schools in Jalalabad. In two days time, he had visited 14 schools, met with the Nangarhar Director of Education,met with each principal, provided survey data, tested the CDMA signal and sent a complete report to us. We then went to the ILC where I made a presentation to faculty and students about the history of our involvement in Jalalabad. I think it went pretty well. Dr. Safi ullah translated into Pasto. We then returned to the NU female dorm and met with the carpenter. We have issues regarding location of furniture since Dr. Aziz installed an electrical box where a cabinet is to go. The only way to get into the upper bunks of the trundle bunk beds was to step on a desk chair then to the desk the to the upper bunk. After considering the options, Dr. Aziz will re-locate the switch boxes in all sleeping rooms. The carpenter will build out our computer lab at that dorm with similar furniture to what he built for the NU College of Ed dorm lab. We then went to the PRT for dinner to thank outgoing State Dept rep Shawn for his service and to meet incoming State Dept rep Mike Sears. We discussed using the military address to get the battery operated skill saw we will be purchasing to our carpenter. We also discussed the visa problems and various State Dept. sponsored programs to bring Afghans to the US. We forgot our headlamps and in leaving we had to navigate a narrow path in the dark with razor wire on both sides, We arrived back at the GH around 8:00. Tomorrow is our last day in Jalalabad so we need to be sure to prioritize the unfinished tasks. We always run out of time on these trips and the pace does wear us down a bit. (Abby is in Illinois so there likely could be a delay in posting pictures for a bit.)
Oct 21 Yesterday morning Fary and I split up our responsibilities since we are running out of time. She spent the morning on campus observing English classes. They are held in a facility nicknamed by the locals “Guantanamo Prison” since it is so gloomy. The building has no electricity provided to it. The classes are going well and the students are happy with the instruction they are receiving. The students want to use the CDs coming with the books but have very limited access to computers for this. Fary also visited the English Technology Training but there are very few computers available. They will soon be moving this to a larger room. Fary also met with the World Bank representatives on campus. Thirty computers are being bid on at this time but the computers may not come until January. Dr. Pardis invited me to meet with some World Health representatives so they could provide me polio up date. Present were Dr. Pardis, Dr. Ajmal Mommaud, Director of Nangarhar Public Hospital, Dr. Qahar Luden, Dr. Zama, WHO medical officer for the Eastern Region, and Dr. Tahir Mir who is the on-site person in charge of Afghanistan. It was good to see Dr. Tahir again. I had read that an Afghan doctor with a similar name was recently killed (as was another polio doctor) by a suicide bomber when they were working on the polio eradication initiative. Apparently, both doctors were in a UN marked car rather than their WHO car. The Taliban later explained polio workers in clearly marked WHO cars will be unharmed but UN folks are fair game for their suicide bombers. There have been 22 cases of polio in Afghanistan so far this year which is up a bit from last year. Most disturbing is that there have been 81 cases of polio cases in Peshawar which is the major city just across the border from Jalalabad. The formal border crossing known as Torkham has 16,000 persons per day coming into Afghanistan with 2,500 small children daily. The polio team wants to build a large canopy over the road 16 meters long and 10 meters across open on all sides and both ends. Polio workers will be stationed on chairs on both sides under the canopy and will vaccinate as many children as posible traveling through the border area. This canopy will be made of steel with several vertical steel braces with deep footings to withstand the major winds blowing through the Khyber Pass area. UNICEF may pay for this structure and if not, Rotary will be asked to pay. There will be a very good opportunity for signage on this canopy advising of the polio eradication efforts and who the partners are in this effort. Presently national immunization days are underway here with approximately 50,000 workers involved country wide. It is a massive undertaking. Dr. Pardis recently attended a meeting regarding this at the Ministry of Public Health. He advised his capacity at that meeting was to represent Rotary in Afghanistan. After that meeting I went to the female dorm at the NU College of Ed to wait for our carpenter to deliver the tables he has constructed for the computer lab. I was looking for a truck but instead two donkey carts showed up with all of the tables on them. I was a bit struck by the irony of how we are building a state of the art computer lab with internet facility and the stuff to furnish the room shows up on donkey carts. I then went back to the campus and met with Ishaq at the ILC. We started the process of downloading Quicken on his computer. We saw it would take a couple of hours. Fary was there and had been talking with some students. We went back to the GH and had what may have been our 15 meal of tomato soup. We returned to the ILC and I got Ishaq set up on Quicken and gave him a short lesson. Meanwhile Fary met with about 20 students interested in the SDSU short term peace program. They had some questions about the U.S. Fary asked me to help field. They are interested in how the foreign policies of McCain and Obama may differ. That is difficult to know and I tried not to be negative toward either candidate—which was not easy given my beliefs. The students are of the opinion that since Obama came to Afghanistan he would make Afghanistan a higher priority than McCain. We then went to our GCE Center at the NU College of Ed. for an orientation meeting regarding the program. Four high school principals were in attendance as were three of Almas' staff (one had a minor auto accident and could not attend) and four of the English teachers selected for TESL training as GSE team members in the summer of 2009. I provided background about the program, how it is getting set up in San Diego, and the objective of the program for students in both countries to get to know each other working on projects through the internet all with the theme being an Afghan American Pre-college Institute. Almas then explained how the program is getting set up and will be running at the various sites in Jalalabad. From there we went to the Rotary meeting held at the Nangarhar Teaching Hospital. There were about 15 people present. We handed out the ABC’s of Rotary and Rotary Basics both translated into Dari under the supervision of Hamed Bayat-an Afghan cardiologist in San Diego. We returned to the GH around 8:00 PM.
Oct 20 Yesterday we met Almas at the NU College of Ed training Center (CETC) for the GCE program. One group of College of Ed. university students was taking a course and another group of students from the Checknawri Boy’s High Schoolwas taking the English exam to qualify for the course. Students from that school live close by and will be able to use the CETC for our classes. That works well for us since that school does not have a room we could use to set up a lab. So the CETC will support students from: • Tajrobawi Boys High School—two classes • Tajrobawi Girls High School—two classes • NU College of Education—one class of boys and one class of girls, and • Checkawri Boys High School—one class of boys The classes will run for about 26 days and then new cohorts will be brought in. We then visited four high schools as possible additional GCEP sites. The first school visited was Mia Omer Boy’s School. This school has over 8,000 students and more than 1,800 high school students. Two of the GSE English teachers we selected are from this school. This school will dedicate a room for our computer center. We will temporarily use the physics lab and then move the center to a new building the PRT is building. The English teachers will take the first lessons offered and then volunteer to help in the lab thereafter. The school runs in two shifts. We authorized Almas to proceed to set up a 10 station lab in this school. We next visited the Nasrat Boy’s School. This school has boys in the morning including 1,000 high school boys and girls through grade seven in the afternoon. The administrators did not want us to have boys in the lab in the afternoon and if we are to include the younger girls we would need to have a female teacher for them. So this school is a low priority. It would need two half time teachers and the girls would be too young for our program. We may consider this down the road and have the girls work with Dolye Elementary students for the program connection. From there we went to the BiBi Aysha Girl’s School. Two of Almas’ Sisters teach at this school—one teaches English the other Pashto. Almas knows the assistant principal very well at this school. This school has over 3,000 students but I think has only about 250 high school students. They are just completing a beautiful new building and will dedicate a large room for the computer lab. We will set up a 15 station computer lab in this school. We then visited the Abdul Wakil Boy’s School. Almas attended this school. They will dedicate a room for the computer lab. We gave Almas the go ahead to set up a 10 station computer lab at this school after the other ones are finished and operating well. We then met with the carpenter and showed him a picture of a battery operated skill saw we want to purchase for him. He is very excited about this and I will ask my brother in-law (Dale) to buy this with three batteries. (We can mail this to the PRT from Diamond Lake when he and Sally visit in early November.) The carpenter has completed al the word work for the computer lab at the College of Ed. female dorm and it will be installed today. We also advised him we would like him to provide us a quote for building 24 cabinets for the female dorm at NU. Today he will bring one set of beds and desks for a room to the dorm and then figure out the dimensions for the cabinets. We then came to the GH and had a meal prepared by engineering professor Ajmal who had been at SDSU for a short term workshop this summer. Our guests were, Ajmal, Sayad, Israr, Ishaq, another professor from the engineering faculty and the Dean of the engineering faculty. We then went to a meeting hosted by the PRT where Rachael Cook from the US Embassy was providing training to Afghans for impromptu speaking. (We did not know who would be there or why we should go but Dr. Pardis had called us saying we should attend.) We met briefly with Rachael to talk about US Visa issues and the GCE program. She advised that Philip Cargile is in charge of that program relating to Embassy responsibilities. We found that interesting since he knew nothing about the program when we had met with him earlier. Rachael advised that was a bit troubling. She also gave us the name and phone number of the person in the US Embassy who is in charge of consular services where visas are processed. Brenden O’Brien 0700 075874 We then came back to the GH and met with Dr. Aziz regarding the 19 items on our list. We authorized him to install razor wire on all GH walls except the common wall with the dorm for $2,261, to build a 10,000 liter Cistern on the roof of the female dorm (he advised he built the facility to hold that weight), and to buy three 6,500 watt generators to run the GH and the computer labs in the two female dorms. He advised those generators should be able to handle everything including the load of the air conditioners. We also spent time at the NU female dorm regarding the revised electrical work to be undertaken. Ishaq then stopped by but we did not have enough time to get him set up on Quicken. I hope to do that this afternoon. Ishaq then picked up the Chancellor and we had dinner at the GH for the four of us. The Chancellor will increase the NU contribution to $200,000 for the Light up Jalalabad program if we build a facility for a computer lab at the NU College of ED if the Ministry of Higher Education and World Bank OK that use of those funds. We also talked about his recent experience with the Senate in Kabul.
October 19 Yesterday afternoon we met with Dr. Shinwari. He is a Rotarian, proposed member for the January 2009 GSE team coming to San Diego, a pediatrician, and Vice Chancellor for Academic affairs at NU. His brother is an influential member of parliament and he believes his brother may be able to arrange for visa interviews at the US Embassy in Kabul. (I doubt it, but it is worth a try.) He called his broth from his office and the brother advised he will issue a letter to the Kabul Embassy requesting processing there. We hope this plays out this week. We have also determined the Islamabad Embassy in Pakistan is now open and can process visas again. After talking to his brother, Dr. Shinwari passed on some information to us about the Chancellor’s situation. I caution that this information as I understand it may not be totally accurate. Apparently the Chancellor was summoned to appear before the Afghan Senate yesterday on impeachment charges. Shinwari’s brother is supportive of the Chancellor and perhaps with some influence by him the outcome of the hearing was favorable to the Chancellor. I believe this came about because of the peaceful student demonstrations which themselves were a result of the Chancellor announcing that, down the road, he would be enforcing the mandate directed to him by the Ministry of Higher Education to only provide campus housing to students who have passing grades. Ironically, Maqsood mentioned to us yesterday that although it is very difficult to get into NU, in the four years he has worked on campus, he has never heard of a student being asked to leave for academic reasons. Favoritism plays a big role here. He knows of a student in the past who graduated from the English department who could not even say pleasantries in English. One reason we wanted to meet with Dr. Shinwari (in addition to the visa issue) is that Sayad advised us earlier in the day that Dr. Shinwari had come into his class and asked to talk to him privately. They went outside the classroom and Dr. Shinwari asked who he was and why was he there. (Again I may not have all the facts right.) We wanted to advise Dr. Shinwari about the status of Israr and Sayad and answer any questions. We asked Dr. Shinwari about this. He advised that he received an inquiry in this regard from someone on campus—I assume someone with influence who is one of the troubling elements here. Dr. Shinwari advises he then went to the Dean of the literature faculty (Dean Shinwari) who oversees the English program and who is intimately familiar with Sayad’s and Israr’s program to determine their status. Dr. Shinwari reports that Dean Shinwari professed ignorance about who Sayad and Israr are or why they are here. There are other troubling items I do not want to discuss here. It is apparent to me that a meeting needs to take place involving the Chancellor, both Shinwaris and Ishaq to discuss all aspects of the program. I believe (but can not know for sure) that Dr. Shinwari is fully supportive of the program. Given his position as Dean of Academic Affairs, it is essential he is up to speed so that when undesirable elements on the campus surface, he can respond in an informed manner—while the Chancellor is undergoing things like impeachment hearings before the Afghan Senate—probably also instigated by troubling elements on campus. We also discussed with Dr. Shinwari the protocol to schedule events at the ILC and what needs to be done if the campus community is to be invited. Yesterday Sayad’s and Israr’s program about their trip to the US aborted because the protocol was not observed. To invite the campus community, a request needs to be made to Dr. Shinwari providing information about the program. He in turn will advise the Faculty Deans who in turn will advise the professors and students. It looks like Maqsood so advised Sayad about this and he did not follow up but again I may not have the facts right. What is important is that we flushed out the protocol and hopefully this won’t come up again. Yesterday started with Fary and I attending a kick-off even for a polio national campaign for immunizations. This was attended by the Provincial Council, the media, and those supervising the campaign. Short speeches were given, including one by me, and I provided some drops to a baby. From there we met Ishaq and Almas at the bank. We found that one of the wire transfers coming in was stuck in a New York Bank. They knew it was to come to our bank here but for some reason did not know what account it was to go to. We spent about a half hour with paperwork and the bank here released the funds to Almas to pay for the computer lab he has set up at the BiBi Zainaib school and the one he is setting up at the NU College of Ed. Female dorm. We also changed the GCEP account so that either Almas or Ishaq could withdraw funds that than requiring both signatures We then went to the GH and again met with Dr. Aziz. We gave him a list of 19 items to review. Some were items he needs to do to meet his obligations other items are things for which we want his assistance. I also gave him a spreadsheet with my accounting for all funds I have sent to the account over here to be disbursed to him. I told him I do not have the records of what Ishaq has disbursed to him. Quicken software is not available here but can be downloaded. I want to buy it for Ishaq and set up some accounts. Our ”Rotary” account here receives funds from about five different unrelated sources as a matter of administrative convenience but Ishaq does not keep records segregating the funds. This will be easily solved in using Quicken. From there we went to the NU campus and met with the English Professors. There we learned about the issues we discussed with Dr. Shinwari. We then went to the ILC and met with Maqsood to learn more about the protocol to invite the campus community to events. Then I met with Dr. Aziz to compare records on finances. Everything was resolved. There really were no disputes. Ishaq had not requested some funds from me for amounts owing and he was holding back some funds until one matter was clarified. There were to additional issues regarding timing of payments to Dr. Aziz. I approved the timing issues in Dr. Aziz’s favor. We still are not obligated to pay for 45% of the cost of the dorm until it is certified as complete so we have a very large cushion. It is about 95% complete and should be complete by the end of November according to Dr. Aziz. I think Dr. Aziz is about out of funds and we don’t want him to go broke at this point. We then came back to the GH and had a meal—not sure if it was lunch or dinner but it was the only meal we had. From there we met with Dr. Shinwari as referenced above. The charm of being here is beginning to wear a bit thin but we still have much to accomplish.
Oct 18 Yesterday we stayed at the GH all day to catch up on work. The electricity was only on for a couple of hours so we were not as efficient as desired. We had to judicious in use of batteries for the laptops and usually could not use the printer. We reviewed all aspects of the GCE program and revised the budget looking at various scenarios. We believe we have sufficient funds to a computer labs at seven sites utilized by eight schools and also utilized by the NU College of Ed students. Costs to be considered in addition to buying computers are paying for instructors, paying for connectivity through CDMA cards (one for every two computers) buying generators and paying for fuel daily. Under this configuration we have the capacity to serve over 500 students per day with the students having one hour lessons and teachers teaching eight one hour shifts with 10 students per shift. The lessons configuration will be for a 28 day term. Thus the capacity (but not the reality) could be to serve students in the thousands. Between the German computer program in place here at about 5 schools and our program, almost all high schools in Jalalabad will have some type of computer training although the German program does not have internet connectivity. Ironically, the bigger challenge will be to get sufficient high school kids involved in our Rotary District to interact withal of these Afghan students. We also spent substantial time going through our financial records to reconcile all the payments to Dr. Aziz for construction of the ILC, GH dorm to date, and extras at both jobs. Are records are excellent but it is not clear how much he has been paid once we wire the funds here to be disbursed to him. We do not see a problem but record keeping is challenging with the systems being utilized over here. We also mapped out what we still need to accomplish while here. We feel our time is now short with only about five working days left. We have to deal politely with all the social stuff people want s to do-particularly in the evenings. It does not work for me to be running around all day and then spend an evening elsewhere only to then do the same thing the next day. There is simply too much to keep track of. Late afternoon we went for a walk on the backside of the campus near a canal that runs from the dam supplying the intermittent electricity. We had a light dinner at the guest house and watched a DVD movie. In the pictures to be posted you will see one of our additional guests at the GH. There is more than one here but it is difficult to get them all to pose for a picture. Fary is not overly fond of these guests.
Electricity went off today around 7:00 AM and am not sure if it will be on during the day since this is the day of rest here. But it is to be our paperwork catch-up day. I will make my journal entry short since I need to conserve battery power on my laptop. Yesterday Fary, Israr rand I went to the BiBi Marian School near the NU main campus. We interviewed one English teacher for the three month Rotary scholarship. Her English was very weak. They also have another female English teacher for us to interview who was not present. In talking with the principal it looks like the computer program run by the Germans will not integrate with our GCE Program. They suggested we provide a separate lab and they have a room for that. But we would prefer to put in a lab at a school with no lab. We then went back to the GH and talked with three female NU students in the Shirah law program to see if they would be interested in the short term SDSU Peace Program. They are all interested but could not travel without a male family member. They thought there was a small chance if two females were selected they could participate without a male family member.
It is beginning to look like we may not be able to bring any females to the US under the various programs we have funding form Ishaq then stopped in and we reviewed a variety of items with him for a couple of hours. We then had Almas come to the GH to review matters. The computer lab at the BiBi Zainaib School is almost set up. He has hired a female trainer and the program should be up and running in the next two or three days. Today Fary and I will review the GCEP budget. We think we can add two more school sites for a total of six participating schools. That’s all for now.
Internet has been down till just now as well.
Thursday, Oct 16 Yesterday morning we waited for Israr to pick us up to go to a meeting. He was over a half hour late which is not like him. When he arrived he advised that the protesting students had taken over all of the English classrooms. Ironically that is the only program where the students affected would care. These classes start on time and are very disciplined in approach. No English classes are regularly scheduled for today, and tomorrow is Friday—the day off. So we will see what the situation is on Saturday the next class day. We went with Israr to the Spinghar hotel where Dr. Pardis as the Rotary representative for polio eradication in Afghanistan had arranged a meeting of the mullahs. These mullahs are highly influential people and have back channel communication systems that reach through out the region. There will be national immunization days Oct 20-22. Dr. Pardis wants the mullahs to discuss this in there Friday prayer services at the mosques. There we several speeches given about the polio initiative and the importance of hygiene and this was all tied into specific parts of the Q’uoran. Apparently the Q’uoran specifically comments on the duty of Muslims to protect their children. It was also pointed out there are no side effects from the vaccine. The most interesting speech to us was from a powerful Taliban mullah who talked for about 15 minutes very passionately about the importance of this effort. He was clearly very well spoken and everyone was on the edge of their seats listening to him. There were about 40 mullahs present, about 30 elders, about 10 students from the Taliban madras school and local and national media. Rotary hosted a lunch for all participants. This seemed like a historic event to me. We had a picture taken with the local Taliban leader, Mohib ullah Israr (former Rotary Scholar), Dr. Pardis, Fary and me. The event lasted about four hours. From there we stopped at the Taj to pay our bar bill from the previous stay and then went on to the ILC. A two day event is being held at the ILC which is a seminar on human rights and women’s’ rights. The room was full of students and adults, men and women. It was great to see this facility we have provided being used for these topics. Who would have ever thought when we first came to Afghanistan in 2002 that such a seminar would take place—let alone in a facility we were to provide. We then came back to the GH for three more interviews for the Rotary scholarships. One candidate is a potential alternate for the Michigan English scholarship. The biggest problem in all the interviews is that many have what they call a BA degree from Pakistan but they have only had 14 cumulative years of education. That degree will not be recognized internationally for a student wishing to pursue a Master’s degree. The Dr. Aziz and crew arrived to do the electrical work so that the air conditioners would work. We ran the bedrooms air conditioners all night. Dr. Aziz was followed by the carpenter’s son who installed screens for the front door. We then left for diner at the home of Engineering professor Zakria. We were joined by the Chancellor and Ishaq. The home is spectacular. We have found that almost all the people we interviewed live in large houses with extended families often with about 20 related people in one compound. Our host then brought in a bucket of ice—made from boiled water-- a large unopened bottle of Jonny Walker Red and six sixteen ounce chilled Heineken beers. After a few drinks (which our host and Ishaq did not partake in) we adjourned to another room and had a feast sitting on the floor. On the road home we were delayed a bit because a truck was stuck sideways on the road but we eventually were able to get by on the shoulder. We believe the pace should soon slow down. We are hoping that we will spend all of Friday at the guest house just getting caught up on paperwork. We have all kinds of follow up we need to do relating to our various activities but no time to do it. By the time our daily activities have wound down we are not very motivated to get back to work.
Wednesday Oct 15.
Yesterday morning we re-located back to the GH from the Taj. Things are quiet so we will plan to stay here. Apparently, the electricity had stayed on after we left for the evening and fortunately the beer I had stored in the freezer did not freeze. That is the good news. The bad news is that the main part of the refrigerator had quit working and everything there was warm. The good news is that this morning the refrigerator seems to be working OK and beer does not spoil. Beer administration is one of the many but high priority challenges here.
We spent three hours with Dr. Aziz. First we reviewed loose ends relative to the GH and ILC. Supposedly today we will get the appropriate electrical cable to the GH so we can run the air conditioners. We owe his some money and will not pay it until that is taken care of. It has remained pretty hot—probably low nineties but a dry heat—like Blythe on a cold day.
We then went with Dr. Aziz to the female dorm to discuss issues we had noticed. His electrician was confused about the electrical plan. Where the plans indicated plug in outlets just above the floor, they instead wired each room for a light fixture on the wall near the ceiling—for each of the many rooms. The walls have all been plastered so they will take that apart and redo that wiring. But they also placed the electrical switches for each sleeping room where the cabinets are to be against the wall. That is much more difficult to change so we need to re-configure the arrangement of the furniture for each room. That is not as easy as it sounds since our carpenter has pretty much built out all of the furniture to sit in the exact local as shown in the plans. This may require some modification of the cabinet dimensions which can be accomplished since Dr. Aziz has not yet built the cabinets.
Another issue relates to our plans that show a large overhang protruding from the second floor covering the porch below. Apparently, Dr. Aziz thought this was to be an upstairs deck but there was no access to it. So he made it structurally sound to hold weight, put a railing around it and framed a door to it through one of the sleeping rooms. That takes away from the closet space in the room but will provide private access to the balcony to those in that room. They also will likely be the most popular girls in the dorm.
Also Dr. Aziz thought our laundry room was only to be a storage room and he had not provided plumbing or necessary outlets for the two washing machines.. This is an easy fix since it is next to the bathroom.
We have been debating what to do for generators, if anything, for the GH and dorm. We have decided to buy a small generator for the GH which should be able to run everything including the air conditioners and a small generator for the dorm that will just run all facilities including air conditioning in the computer lab. Electricity is commonly off in the afternoon when classes are not in session. That will be a prime time the girls will have to use the computer lab so we need to see it is functional then.
Dr. Aziz will also give us a quote to run razor wire around the three walls for the GH. The common wall between the dorm and GH will not need the wire since the dorm will have razor wire around its other three walls. We also want Dr. Aziz or someone to give us some landscaping ideas for the dorm grounds. The enclosed area looks like a little over an acre to me.
We then had interviews scheduled at the GH but we delayed them to get a bite to eat. We conducted two interviews and have another very strong candidate for the Michigan scholarship. In fact, after considering some additional information about this candidate, we think he may be the best choice of all.
Then the Chancellor showed up as we were leaving for our next meeting. We spent a little time with him and then went to DAI to meet with Flouran Wali. She is the Afghan American lady who came on the first trip with Fary and me in November of 2002. Shortly thereafter she took a job in Afghanistan and has been here the last six years. She has been working with economic development for women here.
From there we went to Shirzai Park for the Rotary meeting. About 20 people were present including some new members. Fary and I knew most everyone there. Dr. Pardis was the program talking about the polio eradication efforts underway in Afghanistan and his role in representing Rotary in Afghanistan. The Chancellor was there and gave some words of encouragement about the club and encouraged member development. (The Chancellor is a member of the Club) Sayad announced that he is now a Rotarian. Fary and I said a few words complementing the club. A Deputy for the Governor was present and advised he wants the Governor to become connected with Rotary and the club's activities in some way. Also, an individual was there working for an organization called “Youth in Action”. He would like to assist the club in getting connected with youth activities and may join the club.
After the meeting, for whatever reason, we had a five car escort back to our GH. This is our security in Afghanistan-local leaders caring about our well being.
Below is info relating to my earlier referenced comments on activities in Helmand Province. So the info we received the prior day proved inaccurate—no surprise.
Airstrikes kill more than 60 Taliban fighters in Helmand • Sam Jones and agencies • The Guardian, • Monday October 13 2008 More than 60 Taliban fighters were killed yesterday as hundreds of insurgents tried to launch a surprise attack on Afghan forces in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province. A convoy armed with mortar weapons was bombed by Nato aircraft as it began an assault on the outskirts of the city early yesterday morning. Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the fighters had attacked the city of Lashkar Gah from three sides but were pushed back after a battle involving airstrikes. Rockets landed in various parts of the city but there were no civilian casualties, he said. He added that Nato reported "multiple enemy forces" killed but had had no reports of casualties for its own organisation. The death toll yesterday - in the province which is the British troops' base in Afghanistan - could not be verified independently. An MoD spokesman said British forces had "supported" Afghan allies in the attack but would not say if the troops had fought alongside the Afghan army. It is thought British forces could have provided intelligence on the Taliban action. The US commander General David McKiernan, head of the Nato-led force in Afghanistan, said that hundreds of fighters had gathered for the attack. Brigadier General Richard Blanchette, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said: "If the insurgents planned a spectacular attack prior to the winter, this was a spectacular failure." Authorities recovered the bodies of 41 Taliban fighters on the city's outskirts, from where the attack began, Ahmadi said. He added that another 20 dead fighters were carried away by militants. Taliban fighters traditionally have relied more on suicide bombings and roadside bombs in their campaign in Helmand. If yesterday's attack represented a departure from the insurgents' usual tactics it was one that had "failed miserably", the MoD spokesman commented. Afghan officials also said yesterday that troops had retaken the Nad Ali district of Helmand. Ahmadi said the three-day fight ended Saturday and that Afghan security forces were in control of the district centre. Helmand is the largest drug-producing area in the world and the region alone accounts for more than half of Afghanistan's opium poppy production. More than 90% of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan and up to $100m (nearly £59m) of the trade's profits are used to finance the Taliban insurgency.
Tuesday Oct. 14
Yesterday did not go as planned. As we were going out the door for the Rotary meeting Dr. Khan President of the RC called and said it would be best not to come because of demonstrations taking place in the City. Shortly after that Hilda called to see if we were safe. She advised that Tim at the Taj was trying to reach us and consideration should be given if we should move to the Taj for better security. We then called Tim at the Taj who has a direct link to UN surveillance. All indications were that the demonstrations would be peaceful but they were to take place in three locations converging at the university. The issue is students complaining about a government directive allocating rights to student housing based on passing grades. The Chancellor is enforcing this directive so the demonstrations are directed towards the Chancellor (and perhaps his friends). We then contacted Ishaq and he confirmed what we had heard. By this time the demonstrators were blocking the main roads so travel would be difficult. It would be best to stay at the Guest House and not go to the ILC for the scheduled interviews. Ishaq also mentioned that everyone at the university knows how much Fary and I have been doing to help it and they are all supportive of these efforts. Also, the construction workers at the female dorm next to us are keeping an eye on things. One guy is working on the roof and doubles as a lookout. This all may sound more dramatic that actuality. I am trying to express the precautions and systems in place if anyone smells any type of potential trouble. Student demonstrations are common here and for that matter elsewhere. Almost always they are peaceful here but because of the cautionary “almost” we need to take precautions. Hilda told us if we get in trouble the PRT would be at our doorstep quickly and we had many numbers to call to assist if necessary.
Maqsood (one of our IT guys) then came to the GH. He advised ILC had been secured. We worked with Maqsood to schedule several events to be sponsored by the ILC (but not necessarily located at the ILC) as follows: • Meeting for Dr. Pardis with regional mullahs to gain support for polio eradication efforts • Meeting for Dr. Pardis with local NGOs and medical community to discuss polio eradication efforts • Presentation for campus community by Israr and Sayad regarding their experiences in the US • Presentation by Fary and me regarding our involvement in Afghanistan • Round table discussion by all GCE program participants.
All of these should take place while we are here.
Our carpenter then showed up and we took him to the female dorm to have him put together his quotes for furnishing various parts of the building. This is a huge job for an old man and his sons working out of his backyard but we are confident he will be able to do this.
The electricity went off around 10:00 AM which was a bit unusual.
We then started the interviews with several candidates for a possible Rotary/USD scholarship for the Master’s program in Peace and Justice at USD. We found one strong candidate but his academic record is not very strong. We will pass this information on the USD quickly to see if he may be able to qualify. No decision can be made until he would formally apply. We also interviewed candidates for the Masters TESL program in Michigan. No candidate was as strong as the one previously interviewed and we have more interviews to take place today. We interviewed one excellent candidate for the short term summer peace instate at SDSU. The video taping of the interviews may have picked up the demonstrators chanting and the loudspeakers associated with the demonstrators as they approached the campus from various directions. Again, our security was the locals. If they were not nervous we had no reason to be but needed to stay alert. We also knew there was in the air surveillance as we could hear military helicopters overhead and the US military and UN knew our location.
In interviewing one of the candidates he was a bit shaken since he had just had a phone conversation with a relative advising that Helmend Province where this relative lived had fallen to the Taliban. The PRT was evacuating the main city the best they could since anyone associated with the Afghan Government, theNGOs or the US would be most likely be killed by the Taliban. Many Taliban had been killed with bodies all over the streets and people were fleeing the best they could include his many relatives who lived there. Over time we will find out if this is really true or at least the extent of the loss of control by the Afghan government. This has been perhaps the hottest spot in Afghanistan recently and is not near Jalalabad.
Dr. Aziz, our contractor for the female dorm, GH and ILC then came to the GH and we had a long meeting with him regarding various issues including the need to upgrade the electrical connection to the GH so that the air conditioners would work. He promised to do that by Wednesday. There are what I would call typical issues relative to construction disputes all of which are resolvable—perhaps with money and compromise. There are two sides to most issues and there is always a question as to whom we can trust here as we get various reports regarding the work of Dr. Aziz. Both Fary and I like him and think he is top quality but he is not always in the right on some issues.
Then Ishaq came to the GH and advised that word is out that electricity will be out for several days due to major repairs at the dam. My immediate concern was keeping the beer cold. Dr. Aziz sent our driver to get one of his generators for us as it would be dark in about an hour and a half. I had not been judicious in preserving my battery in my laptop since I had assumed electricity would comeback on. Ishaq left and then returned in an hour and strongly recommended as a precaution we transfer to the Taj. The streets were quiet but more demonstrations may be taking place after dark. He said he had made room reservations for us there. We have always said that our best security is the local information network. We have no basis to make independent judgments on this so we relocated to the Taj last night. We will go to the campus today to carry to out more business and re-assess at the end of the day. As we were leaving the GH the electricity came on but we do not know for how long that will be the case.
So such is life in Jalalabad—surround by caring and concerned friends as we go about our business. The best part of all of this is that the Taj has a nice South African Cabernet wine we will be able to take back to the GH for Fary and with some luck the beer will have been cooled down again with some partial electricity.
Pasted below is a report describing the demonstration and the issues associated therewith.
Protest happened at Nangarhar University Date: 13th of October 2008 Hundreds of Nangarhar university students participated in a peaceful demonstration today on 13th October 2008. The demonstration started at 9:00 am and ended at 1:15 pm, the students blocked the main high way of Jalalabad –Kabul. They were demanding that hostel facility should be given to the new students and Chancellor of Nangarhar University Hamidzai should be removed from the post. Recently Ministry of Higher Education decided that any student who gets 65% numbers in the semester exam, hostel facility will be given to him if the student fails to take 65% marks in the semester exam then the facility of the hostel will be taken from him. After the decision official letters were issued to all the Universities of the country. Nangarhar University Chancellor Amanullah Hamidzai followed the orders and told his staff that any student that pass the criteria hostel facility should be given to him , if not hostel facility should be taken from him. Even few weeks before new students who recently joined Nangarhar University had problems with hostel facility and they met with the Governor of Nangarhar few weeks before. The new students mentioned their problems to the governor of Nangarhar then governor promised the students that he will discuss the issue with Ministry of higher education an even with the president. But till now the problems were not solved by the provincial government officials so today the students of different faculties of Nangarhar University did a protest and blocked the Jalalabad- Thorkham highway. They gave slogans against the chancellor of Nangarhar University and against America. They were also broadcasting Taliban songs etc. Head of the Crime Branch and Officials of the NDS were negotiating with the students to solve the problems but the students still saying that we want change of Chancellor and hostel facility for the new students as well as for the old students. They were also giving slogans Death to America. Then around twelve am they opened the highway and had a gathering in front of the Chancellor office and gave slogans against the chancellor. Nangarhar deputy Governor Dr.Alam Ishaqzai visited the students at Nangarhar University campus and promised with them to stop the protest. The food issue (because of the orders of the Minister) will be discussed with Mashrano Jirga and then according to constitution food will given to al the students and decision to change the chancellor of Nangarhar university Governor of Nangarhar Gul Agha Shirzai will have a meeting with all the heads of faculties and then he will decided what to do. The protest ended at 1:15 pm. But the students were asking that if our request were not solved then we will continue our peaceful protest and even we will start huger strikes in the future. Chancellor of Nangarhar University, heads of Faculties are now having a meeting with the governor of Nangarhar, in that meeting they will decide about the current issues of Nangarhar University. Note: A group of 50 students start asking for the removal of the chancellor in the protest , actually the protest was for the hostels and food facility for the students but there is a 50 students groups who are always trying to create problems in Nangarhar University they started slogans against chancellor . The actual protest was not for that purpose.
Monday Oct. 13
We picked up Almas yesterday morning at met Mr. Azizi-Director of all schools for Nangarhar Province. He was very complimentary of the work Almas has been doing for us with the schools in getting the GCEP program up and running. He had known Almas from previous work Almas had done. We thanked Mr. Aziz for his support and also for helping to indentify the English teachers we want to bring to San Diego. Mr. Aziz also confirmed that he is now paying for 13 female teachers at the Rotary School including the eight we were paying for last year. We still need to bring on more female teachers as is discussed below. We advised Mr. Azizi we were going to the Rotary School directly from his office. He cautioned that we should be OK by going there unannounced and not staying very long at one time. The”security” in that area has deteriorated. We have heard this in the past but he was more explicit that previous cautionary words from locals. He knows trouble well having had toe leave Kandahar as Director of Education because of death threats to himself and his family. He speaks English very well, is you and a good leader. Our school has had no problems. I have the feeling though we are probably providing education to some children with Taliban parents. But on reflection that is good. Given them education, opportunity and hope so that they can make intelligent decisions for themselves about their future.
We drove to the Rotary school which is only about a half hour from Mr. Azizi’s office. Hard to believe it is an insecure area so close to the city. We went to the computer lab and it was an unbelievable sight. About eight students were in the lab. The instructor was using the projector with computer lessons plans projected on the wall in English. One of the students was reviewing the information for the others. The V-SAT internet connection should be up and running this week (CDMA signal does not hit our school.) The instructor teaches eight classes of one hour each. Four are for girls and four are for boys. The principal has built this into the school curriculum. They need to use the generator most of the time for the lab and keep a detailed log regarding is use. They lock it up so the guards can no longer use our fuel at night to watch TV.
The school, running in two shifts has about 3,800 students with enrollment still increasing daily. 1,300 are girls through the ninth grade 26 ninth graders and boys go through grade 11. WE still need more female teachers but are not sure how many more. One of the English speaking teachers is getting us a class size breakdown for all classes. We do know that the fourth grade girls are in two classes with more than 100 girls per class. The school yard was clean but substantial cosmetic repairs are desired for replastering etc. I am also concerned that our San Diego Architect, Rick Clark, may be sued for build a school that is too small. Three of the boys’ classes are taking place in tents just outside the school. We are arranging for a local Mullah to review the situation with Rick.
We only stayed about one hour and then went to our carpenter’s home workshop to review various matters. His back yard is full of all the trundle bunk beds and dining tables he has built for the school and the desks under construction. It looks like he has two small table saws and a skill saw for his cutting tools. He has designed and given us a price for the female NU CoE dorm to build out the kitchen cabinets as well as the computer lab there-a total of $1,600. We will be taking him to the female dorm at the main campus to have him design and build furniture and related items for the computer lab there, the student lounge, office, kitchen, etc.
We then met with Dr. Pardis Director of Nangarhar Public hospital and Director of Public health for Nangarhar Province. He has been selected for the Rotary GSE team to come to San Diego. He had gone to Pakistan to get his visa but the Bombing of the Marriott hotel shut down one of the contractor company’s involved with processing and no one knows when it will re-open. He mentioned that it is now too dangerous for him to return to Pakistan since he is a high profile public official. Yet the US Embassy in Kabul will not process his visa request since he is not coming to the US under a department of State sponsored program. One other GSE team member has this same issue. We will see if we can work with DOS to resolve this.
Dr. Pardis is Rotary’s official representative for the polio eradication effort in Afghanistan. He would like to convene two conferences while we are here. One will be Afghan leaders in the public health field to provide some education regarding the polio eradication efforts. The other will be for Mullahs who are vey influential in their local communities to gain their support. He advises he was shown a letter from the Taliban who are influential in Nangarhar Province promising cooperation and days of peace while the eradication efforts are underway.
We next talked about efforts of Rotary and Assist international to bring heart monitoring equipment and training for the same to Jalalabad. He is most interested in this and working with Afghan born-US educated-cardiologist Dr. Hamed Bayet- member of our Sister Cities team.
We also showed Dr. Pardis and artificial hand that as US Rotary District has developed and is promoting and left a DVD with him explaining its use. We will see if there is interested in having some of these shipped to Jalalabad.
We then talked about internet coverage at his hospital. It has one slow V-SAT serving about 7 administrative computers at a cost of an estimated $500 per month. This hospital has three computer training centers- one for male nurses, one for female nurses and one for mid-wife training will about 200 students enrolled collectively. They used to have an internet connection for these labs but there is no funding now or being considered. This is the largest hospital in the entire country with over 600 beds. We have taken pictures of the computer labs and will tell this story as we develop the Light up Jalalabad revised proposal to bring upgraded CDMA to the City.
We then visited the Fab Lab set up at the Taj. This is a MIT/Sister Cities sponsored program to bring technology and fabrication machinery into one setting and to provide training for utilization of this equipment. It was an unbelievable site. There were about 30 male students—high school age-- receiving training and making things. Their instructor is a female English student at NU—the one who was wearing the red scarf for those who have head the switching scarf story for our last trip. The lab was running in two shifts during the summer but once school started is now running in one shift. We are interested in learning if a morning shift can be set where adults are brought in from the city for training. We are also interested in learning if the lab can eventually be run as a fee for use basis so it can be self sustaining. We will pose these questions to those more directly involved in getting this set up.
We then returned to the GH and visited the female dorm under construction for a more thorough inspection. Work is underway in prepare the interior for painting but it seems to be going at a snail’s pace.
We went back to the GH to relax with our new outdoor furniture and replenished beer supply. Then the parade of guests started, Maqsood and Rasheed who are our local geek squad, followed by Ishaq and later by one of the NU Vice Chancellors.
When I have more time, I will provide reflections on being here. But Let me just say that Jalalabad is a huge success story with a vibrant rich quality of life for the locals and with everyone welcome in contact with treating us with the utmost respect and concern for our comforts.
I need to run to the Jalalabad Rotary meeting which takes place 8:00 AM Monday morning. I am able to follow the Charger game on the internet and hope they hold onto their comfortable lead.
Saturday Oct. 11
Yesterday afternoon our driver was driving without us and got rear-ended by a motorcycle. The motorcyclist went through the back window of his car injuring himself. We do not know the extent of the injuries but the window is gone. Our driver collected from the motorcyclist’s family about $200 of the $300 necessary to fix the window.
Thus, we were a little delayed going to the PRT. We had dinner at the mess hall. I had a T-bone steak that was very over done but I am sure will be my only steak for a while. We spent our time there with Hilda (who is the USAID representative imbedded with the military.) She showed us her apartment and office. She is a very dedicated individual. She also offered to make arrangements for us to take the USAID flight to Kabul for our return leg if we wish to take advantage of it. The reservation is made and we will wait and see if we want to use it. She would not be travelling with us since she will be in India for R&R. We got back to the guest house around 8:30 pm. We were not very comfortable traveling at night but we did not have any problems.
This morning we met Almas at his office and reviewed some of the GCE files he is maintaining. His record keeping is meticulous.
We them met with Dean Farmanullah to confirm being able to enroll 15 to 20 females in the NU College of Ed. in the GCE program. He is happy to support that. We talked further about lack of support from the $40 million designated to help the colleges of education in Afghanistan. I want to make sure the facts are what I believe them to be before I considerer bringing this to the attention of higher authorities. He confirmed the following things had taken place relating to the NU College of Education: • Two professors have been awarded scholarships for Masters degree programs—I presume in the US • A few short term training workshops have taken place on site • One computer has been purchased. • Some marking pens for white boards have been purchased.
I am getting more details from his staff so there may be more to it than that—perhaps a few erasers were purchased as well. His college has over 1,500 students studying to be teachers.
From there we went to the BiBi Zainab Girls School. Once you get behind the gate you enter an enclosed campus with many trees, flowers, and several buildings. There are 5,500 girls enrolled in this school in grades 1 through 12 600 girls are in high school. Under the Taliban only small girls were allowed to go to school. Since the Taliban were run out of this area, more than 200 of the female graduates have gone on to university.
Almas had previously met with the school principal to discuss using this school for a computer lab in the GCE program. They have set aside a room for this program but we need to outfit it from scratch. We gave Almas the go ahead to set up the lab and start the program.
We asked the principal about interviewing some of the female teachers to come to the US for one or two of the training positions available. She advised none of the females were comfortable in considering that. They also were not comfortable with us taking pictures although the Principal did give permission to take two pictures from a distance of Fary talking to some of the students.
We then went shopping. We bought a fan to put by the window of the Guest House. The wiring to the GH cannot handle the voltage, amps, ohms, or whatever to run the air conditioner for more than about ten minutes. But again we now have no electricity now so we can not even run the fan. We also bought some outdoor furniture so we can sit on our patio when it is this hot inside. We also bought a couple of small appliances.
From there we went to the ILC to meet with Ishaq. Somehow word got out that we were there and we were joined by about seven of the English professors who have been to San Diego. Our local carpenter has made and installed a room divider for the ILC. He has also made a beautiful cabinet which includes 50 small sliding shelves to hold the laptops coming to the ILC.
We talked with Israr, Sayad and Ishaq about scheduling items coming up as follows: • Israr and Sayad have arranged for us to interview about five more candidates for the Master’s program in Michigan • They also have arranged for us to interview and about five candidates for the Masers in Peace and Justice at USD • Two female English teachers at the BiBi Marian School have indicated a willingness to be interviewed for one of the training programs in the US. • One candidate is being recommended for an interview for the short term SDSU summer Peace Program • Israr and Sayad will put on a program under the auspices of the ILC for a broad based campus audience regarding their experiences in the US (They are getting many questions.) • Fary and I will put on a program at the ILC regarding our various involvements in Afghanistan starting with our first trip in 2002 • We will hold a round table discussion at the ILC with all GCEP staff and representatives of participating schools (and schools we hope to add on) to discuss the program generally.
The interviews will all take place day after tomorrow and we are working out the schedule for the ILC events.
We came back to the Guest House and had tomato soup for lunch. We have found some canned soup by Heinz that is very good. Right now soup and beer may be come our primary sustenance.
Electricity came back on so time to go back to work. Whoops- it just went off again and it is getting dark. Fortunately we each have camping headlamps and our stove has four gas burners and two electric burners. Not sure how to keep the beer cold though.
Friday Oct. 10
Yesterday afternoon we went to the NU College of Ed. and met with Almas who is our in-country Director of the Global Connection and Exchange Program (“GCE”). This is the program where our Rotary Club Foundation received a grant from the US Dept. of State to use technology to connect high school students in the US with high school students in our Rotary District working on projects together... He is a remarkable young man doing a phenomenal job and is only 22 years old. We reviewed many aspects of the program and set up a schedule to start visiting schools involved. We went to the training center and observed one of the cohorts of students in their class. They happen to be students at the NU College of Ed. and we have special permission from our program officer to include them in the GCE program.
We then met with Dean Farmanullah who heads up the NU College of Education. We are using some of their facilities as a hub for students in the GCE program. He advises that the school of education has over 1,000 students only 40 of whom are female. It now dawns on me that our 10 computer lab is providing the only computer training to college of Ed. students and is the only access to computers the College of Ed. has to offer students. This is probably the second largest College of Ed in the entire Afghanistan system and a Rotary club should not be the exclusive source of funding to equip the lab and to provide training for the future teachers in the Afghanistan. I am beginning to think about including an additional component into our Light up Jalalabad proposal to better address this situation by greatly expanding the access to computers and training program at the NU College of Ed. That could probably be accomplished for $100,000 to $200,000 with USAID funding half if a cost share in dollars could be provided for the other half. But with the stock market presently trying to emulate 1929, I am not sure any flush potential donors still exist. There is an excellent facility on the College of Ed. campus that could house a good computer center for the students. Unfortunately, it was taken over a few years back by a notorious and powerful war lord and no one has knocked on his door with an eviction notice.
On the way back to the Guest House, we purchased a case of Heineken beer which was helpful in washing down the vegetarian dinner prepared for us by our driver and Fary. The pace was beginning to catch up with me in the evening.
This morning (Friday), the NU Chancellor showed up at our door around 7:30 AM to pay his respects. He was on his way to Kabul to meet with the Minister of Higher Education. Fary suggested the Chancellor let the MOHE know of our problems in getting US Visas, have the Minister so advise President Karzai and have Karzai talk to our Dept. of Sate through President Bush.
We talked generally about the Chancellor’s plans for further development of NU. He has some good plans but they do not benefit all colleges. We are totally perplexed why USAID allocated $40 million for higher education with some funds to go the various colleges of education and none at NU is being used for infrastructure nor does the Chancellor know how the funds are being spent. It looks like two US universities captured all of the $40 million and are using the funds to pay tuition to have Afghan professors attend their universities. A couple of trips back we asked the recipient organization overseeing these funds if any money out of the $40,000,000 could be used to provide one internet connation at the NU College of Ed for about $500 per month. They basically told us that they had no interest in that for their program to help colleges of education. So maybe it is up to a Rotary club rather than the US government to provide connectivity and computer facilities to the second largest college of education in Afghanistan.
After the Chancellor left, we went to the College of Ed and visited the female dorm there. We had our carpenter with us to spec out putting in cabinet work for a kitchen in the facility. A Japanese ladies group built the facility with a room for a kitchen but failed to outfit it. We will provide necessary appliance through a Rotary grant and put in shelving and cabinet work. We then went to a room designated to be a library in the facility but it has nothing. Again through Rotary we will put in a state of the art computer lab. The carpenter will build out the improvements. Almas will oversee the purchasing of the equipment for the lab, the upgrade to the wiring and will also oversee the obtaining of the appliances for the kitchen.
We met with the female residents at the dorm. There are only10 presently. It was the same group we had met with last March. They all speak English and are interested in participating in the GCE program. They advised that some of their non-resident female colleagues would be interested as well for a total of 15 or 20. Almas talked to the group and advises that he can set up a class for them. We need to talk to Dean Farmanullah for approval but since we are providing a computer lab in the dormitory it is a natural thing to have the female students participate in our GCE program.
We then used Almas’ office to interview 12 candidates for two Rotary programs to bring Afghan high school English teachers to the US—one program is for one month the other is for three months. All candidates are Afghan English teachers and involved in the schools participating in the GCE program. Almas and former Rotary Scholar Israr had worked with the local Nangarhar Director of Education to select the first round of candidates. Almas and Israr then conducted prescreening interviews and provided a short written exam for the candidates. The 12 we interviewed were the ones Almas and Israr recommended for further interviews. There are three excellent candidates and many more very good candidates. All candidates were much better than we had anticipated. All candidates were male and all but one were well qualified. We are now also aware of two potential candidates who are female. We hope to interview them in the next day or two. Once this process is complete, we need to obtain cooperation from the Pakistani District Rotary leadership to proceed to the next step. Sometimes this has been very problematic and early indications are that may be the case again. And of course we will need to deal with the US visa nightmare.
We then interviewed a candidate who may qualify for either of the two Rotary scholar opportunities we are working on—a Masters in English with Teaching English as a Foreign Language as a specialty thanks to a donation from a Rotary District in Michigan and a scholarship opportunity in University of San Diego’s Master’s in Peace and Justice program for consideration in Rotary’s competition among candidates tendered from low income countries. The candidate interviewed is one of the best candidates I have ever interviewed. He received his higher education in Pakistan and there are always accreditation issues relative to the degrees issued from Pakistan. I have reason to believe these issues can be favorable dealt with by potential universities in the US.
I am now back at the guest house with no electricity and it is getting uncomfortably hot. We go to the PRT (U.S. military base) for dinner this evening. If they don’t have electricity we do have problems here. One editorial comment—progress is remarkable here. People love Americans and what we are doing to help them re-build their country notwithstanding the many difficulties, challenges, inefficiencies and mis-placed priorities. Fortunately, CNN is not coming in right now to convince them otherwise.
Both the laptop and CDMA works without electricity thus allow preparation and transmission of this message.
Thursday Oct. 9
We had six meetings yesterday—five of which were productive. Hilda Grigorian, USAID PRT representative from Jalalabad, set up several of these meetings and we are very grateful for her efforts
Meeting with USAID re Light up Jalalabad Proposal
At 9:00 AM we went to the USAID office in the US compound in Kabul. We met with Chuck Drilling-Acting Chief of Party for USAID in Afghanistan and two of his colleagues—Lisa Magno and Zsravko Sami (former Rotarian in Macedonia). Chuck is relatively new to his position. We provided some brief background information about the history of our activities and then went into the specifics of our proposal to provide upgraded CDMA (3G) technology known as ED-VO Rev, A to the City of Jalalabad. We advised Chuck that we had hoped Qualcomm would have been responsive to the proposal they requested from us but they determined (and told us unofficially) that at this time they did not want to spend philanthropic funds in Afghanistan compared with other areas of need. Accordingly I have developed and went through with those present the provisions of a scaled down proposal that would accomplish much of what we wanted to do in Jalalabad including providing upgraded CDMA internet access to the various locations of facilities for Nangarhar University, all high schools in Jalalabad and the major medical facilities. We went through the sources of funding we do have lined up including funds from Nangarhar University through a chain of donors, and some in-kind donations. Chuck was receptive to what we presented in this proposal which, if approved, will result in a little over $1,000,000 cash to do the upgrade and to provide hardware, software and support for many end users. We advised that we were meeting with the Afghan Telecom folks later in the day to determine the parameters of what would be feasible. Prior to all of this we have had three briefings sessions from Raheel, a most helpful employee at Qualcomm who has provided us enough technical information to discuss the upgrade intelligently.
General Briefing to USAID personnel in Afghanistan
Hilda had next arranged for a meeting with various personnel from USAID for us to provide a briefing of our historical involvement in Afghanistan and projects that are underway or in the contemplation stage. Fary and I fielded many questions from the participants at the meeting. Hilda’s purpose was to let the USAID people know about efforts of Rotary that tend not to show upon our government’s radar. I think those attending were surprised at how much we have been able to accomplish primarily through a volunteer network.
We then had lunch by the swimming pool at the US Embassy. Our Rotary Club Foundation has received a State Dept grant to use technology to connect high school students in Jalalabad with high school students in Our Rotary District centered in San Diego. We were supposed to meet Philip Cargile in US Dept of State--Public Affairs for lunch depending on when he would get back from a media event at the Kabul Zoo. He did not show up but after lunch we found him in his office. We have been advised we have some reporting responsibilities to the Kabul U.S. Embassy but do not know what they are. Apparently, neither does Phillip. We then emphasized generally the issues we have had in getting visas over the years and look forward to assistance from his office as we identify Afghan teachers in the Global Connections program we intend to bring to San Diego next summer. On the way out heading to our next meeting, we noticed another one of the Embassy staff sitting in her office who was suppose to try meet with us at the meeting. State Department staff in D.C. has emphasized the importance to the program for us to meet with these folks in the Embassy in Kabul, but they did not seem to share the same level of interest.
Meeting with Afghan Telecom
We then went to the office of Afghan Telecom (“AT”) located in the Afghanistan Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. AT is a government owned telecommunication company that provides cell service and wireless connectivity through low level CDMA technology. We were met in the board room by the top management at AT including their CEO. We had previously been in communication with them regarding their possible role in the Light up Jalalabad proposal. No time to document the meeting details now, but basically they provided us a power point presentation regarding their existing system and coverage in Jalalabad and what would be involved financially and otherwise to bring in the upgrade. I should mention that the upgrade has two advantages. The first is to provide high-speed connectivity similar to what we have in San Diego through cable, DSL and upgraded CDMA. The second advantage is that the signal can be received by a device that is both a receiver and a router and convert the signal to Wi-Fi. Through the Wi-Fi, the signal can be distributed to multiple users for the cost of one inexpensive connection—perhaps as low as $40 per month per connection as opposed to V-SATs used here at $500 to $5,000 per month per connection. That is what we need to support the various schools, university facilities, and medical facilities on a cost affective basis. We were able to determine the minimum upgrade necessary to accomplish what we want. It looks like we should have enough funds to do that if USAID accepts what we discussed earlier in the day. But we then advised AT that we will want concessions for certain users in the public sector in return. I won’t go into the negotiations but will say this request caught them by surprise. After a healthy discussion I think something can be worked out in this regard. Right now it looks probable that the Light up Jalalabad proposal has a reasonable chance of going forward.
Meeting with Afghanistan Small and Medium Enterprise Development (ASMED)
At Hilda’s suggestion and with her making the arrangements, we meet with the top folks (Bryan Rhodes, John McElwaine and David Elliot at ASMED regarding the Light up Jalalabad proposal. We met with them to get further input in shaping our proposal but instead found that they have substantial interest in funding this proposal through their own program. The problem is that it appears they require at least twice as much cost sharing to generate the same amount of funds as USAID. But there are ways they can be helpful and we have many mutual interests if we weave in features to help small businesses in the proposal and perhaps consider having the Jalalabad Fab Lab considered in the cost sharing arrangement. The bottom line appears to be that two different funding sources (but both ultimately paid for by the US government) seem to like our proposal and may want to be the ones taking credit for providing some of the funding. I hope this perspective is accurate. Hilda has cautioned that we need to protect our concept from being plagiarized and taken over by someone else.
Meeting with ICMA
Again at Hilda’s suggestion and with her making the arrangements we met with Ron Enzweiler and Rohullah Aminzia at ICMA. ICMA is a trade association based in the US with membership composed of municipal management personnel. They have been contracted with to provide advice and blueprints regarding functionality of Afghanistan’s larger municipal government in all respects and how the political process should function in having open and fair elections for municipal representatives. They are particularly interested in the San Diego~Jalalabad Sister Cites relationship and are interested in leveraging collective resources to help accomplish their very challenging mandate. They know our interests are limited to Jalalabad and several opportunities were identified to be considered. I later forwarded them Chuck DuVivier’s excellent assessment and recommendations he developed in 2005 relative to selected municipal issues in Jalalabad.
Our day started at about 7:15 and ended about 6:30. We felt we deserved some refreshment. Kabul Inn is very accommodating and was able to run out, find and deliver six Heinekens within minutes—although they were warm. As a back-up plan, we had purchased some Johnny Walker Black at the US Embassy and it was available for personal emergencies.
This morning, we went to the USAID station at the Kabul Airport and flew with Hilda on a USAID plane (14 seats- twin props-two pilots) from Kabul to Jalalabad—a 20 minute flight. The view was very interesting to see for the first time from the air-- terrain we have traveled on for the last six years. Some of the mountaintops were capped with snow but most of the mountains were very rugged and desolate. The Jalalabad valley was spectacular with the Kabul River flowing and much vegetation on all sides.
Hilda arranged for one of her contractors to meet us at the airport. (She needed to put on her bullet proof vest and helmet and travel with her heavily armed entourage to take her a short distance to the US PRT facility.)
Fary and I were dropped at the guesthouse at NU. We took a quick trip to the female dorm our Rotary club Foundation is building next door and which will be furnished by the Rotary Foundation through contributions from various Rotary Clubs and Districts. It has not yet been painted and finishing work still needs to be done such as closet installation etc. before we can start the furnishing. There are several issues we noticed that need to be discussed with the contractor but this will be a truly spectacular facility in a very large enclosed area.
We are about to head out for a couple of meetings in Jalalabad this afternoon.
Tuesday evening Oct. 7
We are in now in Kabul. We left Sunday at 6:00 AM driving to LA, caught a plane to JFK and then on to Dubai. We were supposed to fly Emeritus non stop LA to Dubai but the LA airport is not ready for the Airbus 380 super jumbo. We did ride on that plane to Dubai with 599 other passengers. The plane is quite nice but all Emeritus planes are nice. It took our driver an hour to find us at the Dubai airport. We stayed at a different hotel than usual there. It was not very nice and had about 4 very loud Arab discothèques. No internet there. I went to bed at 9:00 PM at got up at 4:00 AM to catch the early morning flight to Kabul. So now its Tuesday evening here and I am running on five hours sleep since early morning Sunday.
Our KAM Air flight was an hour last leaving Dubai--arriving at Kabul around 11:00 AM. On the airport bus taking us to the plane on the tarmac, Fazel Karim Fazel noticed us and brought up the subject of Rotary in Kabul. We had met with him a couple of years in the past. He was a past president of the Kabul club and it came close to dying following his administration. He advised that he has now resuscitated the club will all new members. We mentioned that the club never officially died and we are in touch with its existing leadership regularly. He was surprised to learn this, thinking his club is the Rotary Club of Kabul. Ishaq met us at the baggage claim at the airport using his connections to get through all of the security checkpoints in place to prevent visitors from greeting guests.
We checked into the Park Palace Hotel recommended to us by USAID. It is a bit of a fortress and that is why USAID uses it. However it had no electricity and the generator was broken.
Abdul Hai from the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) met us at the Park Palace. We discussed briefly SDSU’s preliminary proposal to extend for several years the English capacity building partnership between SDSU and Nangarhar University (“NU”). He likes the idea and believes World Bank (“WB”) would look favorably upon this type of proposal but advises that any proposal of this nature will likely be considered by the (“WB) in the context of the MOHE making a request that involves several of the partnership programs they are administering with WB funding. We also talked about using some of the WB funds available to NU, to help support a proposal we are working on to upgrade the entire CDMA system (cell tower delivered internet system licensed by San Diego based Qualcomm) serving all of the City of Jalalabad to a system about three times as fast. He advises that the MOHE will support this as it relates to NU and believes the MOHE will be able to garner WB support and funding. (Later today I talked by phone with the NU Chancellor confirming the $150,000 WB/NU proposed commitment subject to conditions that should not be difficult to meet. If we are successful with our meeting with USAID tomorrow, the NU/WB funds and other funds and in-kind commitments we have obtained may be matched by USAID. No time to go into those details now. We also talked about administrative issues relative to running various programs out of NU’s International Learning Center we have previously built and furnished. At our requests MOHE has obtained $100,000 funding from WB to further equip the ILC and Washington State University (WSU), through USAID, is putting in another $100,000. This is all coming together in the next few weeks. We need to talk to WSU about overall administration of the ILC and work out a four party (NU, SDSU, WSU, Moini International Consulting) Memorandum of Understanding regarding this.
We then went to WB headquarters in Kabul joined by Hai and Mohammad Ishaq. We met with Joel Reyes and were later joined by Mostaeen Jonya. Joel is now the World Bank officer assigned to the university partnerships program. We gave the short version of our involvements in Afghanistan to date. We were very impressed with Joel. He seems to have a good grasp of structural issues. We talked in general terms of the value of having a comprehensive program in place at NU for its English department including the full implementation of the four year program, adding several Master’s level professors to the faculty, having one faculty position with a terminal degree (Doctorate) and building a Master’s Degree program within the department. He advised that all may be attractive but implementation of this will depend on providing WB donors with substantial information not readily available. Joel speculates that they will want case histories about the development and workings of existing partnerships presently being funded, they will want concrete evidence of sustainability when the funding eventually runs, out and they will want what he calls systematic developments throughout the system of delivering higher education throughout Afghanistan. In fact, WB hopes to convene a conference in Kabul in the spring of 2009 where world experts will be brought in to discuss different models to run a comprehensive system of higher education for a particular jurisdiction. I think they may well be interested in the Cal State and/or University of California model.
Following that meeting we returned to the Park Palace Guest House and learned that for “security reasons” we could not hold our Rotary meeting there scheduled to take place in about two hours later that evening. We also still did not have electricity in the room. We decided to checkout the Kabul Inn where we had stayed in the past and held meetings. As usual, they were accommodating in agreeing to provide a meal for twenty and meeting space on two hours notice. We decided to move out of the Park Palace as our guest house and stay at the Kabul Inn. Once we checked into the Kabul Inn the Rotary meeting had been scheduled to start in less than two hours. I called a couple of the members and they advised they would let the rest of the membership know of the change of venue.
As Rotarians started to arrive I was called over by a small group who advised that they were part of the Rotary Club of Kabul but were meeting on a different date, at a different place and had different officers. They also advised they were not part of Fazel's group. I quickly concluded that there were three groups calling themselves the Rotary Club of Kabul functioning independently of each other. I also remembered that I had invited to the meeting member of the Rotary Club of Logar which also has competing sets of officers. Thus, it looked to me like the meeting that was about to start could result in a major Afghan Rotary food fight with no place for Fary and me to hide.
I started the meeting handing out the ABC’s of Rotary translated into Dari as well as Rotary Basics also translated. I acknowledged the hard work and personal sacrifices of Dr. Hamid Bayat and San Diego member of our San Diego~Jalalabad Sister Cities Committee who had taken on the lion’s share of the work and spent considerable personal funds to make this happen.
I then address the three club issue and multiple officers holding the same position issue but stated we would not use this time or place to attempt to resolve the issue. I explained how Rotary procedures to resolve issues work in this context. But some of the Rotarians insisted in explaining why their position was the correct one. Fary also was quite vocal in expressing her dismay as to the fact that in Afghanistan these types of issues and accusations always seem to be the focus of discussion rather than the good work of Rotarians. But after all was said and done, it looks like there is an excellent chance that the leaders of the two clubs present will be able to combine efforts. There were 20 people present and a combined club could quickly have about 30 Rotarians with strong dedicated members. I closed out the meeting reflecting on the likelihood of a very strong combined club and the potential it would have for assisting Afghanistan as we enjoyed an Afghan dinner prepared by the Kabul Inn. The folks from Logar RC never showed up. Also no one had much of a suggestion as to how to deal with Fazel’s rogue Rotary Club of Kabul which was not represented at the meeting.
During the course of the day, I had a chance to talk to Abdul Hai regarding his read on the present security situation. He advised he thinks it is improving. Apparently there are well founded rumors of unofficial talks with some Taliban leaders. But of course the Taliban do not speak with one voice and there are various factions made up of people who are part of the “Taliban” for differing reasons. Those in El Quida and hate the West can not be reckoned with but there are other groups where there is more opportunity. Some Taliban are joiners because they have no hope, nothing to lose and can get a salary as a fighter. They have no ideological commitment to the movement. Others are leaders but willing to lay down their arms if there is some legitimate role for themselves in Afghan political structure expectable to non-Taliban leadership. Abdul Hai is hopeful for progress on that front. This could result in isolation of the El Quida Taliban reducing their effectiveness and local support.
I also asked Abdul Hai if the recent bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan might turn out to be its own 9/11 wake up call for Pakistan. He definitely believes that to be the case and that the Pakistani government will be put to task by the Pakistani people to get better control of the situation. He believes the bad developments in Pakistan will actually advance the security situation in Afghanistan.
I should also mention that on our flight from Dubai to Kabul, it was made up about 95% non-Afghans and probably at least 75% Westerners. The plane was close to full so it must have had over 80 Westerners including a few women and children. Once here, life goes on. Some roads are better surfaced but traffic is very heavy. We will continue to take our security precautions as we always have. USAID has arranged for us to fly from Kabul to Jalalabad Thursday morning although the locals say there have not been any problems on the road except for the occasional blowing up of a tanker truck heading for a US base to supply fuel. So no tailgating of tanker trucks by us.
10:00 PM—time for bed.
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