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 Post subject: SFL/Kabul, Afghanistan
Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 10:02 am 
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I have a 33 year old cousin who left for Afghanistan July 9, 2004 with <a href="http://www.shelter.org/index.htm" target="blank">Shelter For Life International</a>.
She has been keeping her friends and our family updated in a journal and sending it via -mail.
It is quite the experience reading her journal entries and, with her permission, I thought I would share them
with anyone who wants to read them.

<a href="http://www.shelter.org/index.htm" target="blank">Shelter For Life</a>(SFL) is a private volunteer organization established in 1979 with headquarters based in the USA.
SFL is incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization under Chapter 181 of the State of Wisconsin Statutes, USA.
SFL is also registered as a Private Voluntary Organization with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 10:03 am 
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5/13/2004 Heading for Afghanistan
Well, it looks like I will be doing quite a bit of traveling over the next couple of months. My husband and I are heading out to Colorado with my sister and her family on the 24th through the 31st. The week I return, the humanitarian aid organization that I am doing my graduate project with is planning on sending me to some training that happens to be in England... so that is very cool. That training is from June 6 through 9 and will be held at Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, UK.

After that, they are seriously talking about sending me to Kabul, Afghanistan for several weeks to head up the housing project. I'm a little nervous, not so much about going to Afghanistan, but rather that the scope of my project has gone from a planning/grant writing role to heading up the whole thing in the field. This means meeting with the ambassador and USAID officials and Afghan government staff and officials, and securing the $9.4 million grant money. Its all pretty overwhelming... its looking more and more likely but I will believe it when they order my airline tickets. However, the Executive Director told me to go ahead and apply for my Afghanistan visa. So I will keep you up to date... please continue to pray about this huge endeavor, I certainly need it.

5/14/2004
I am very excited and looking forward to working out the details. I just submitted a concept paper to USAID for a demo housing project that we are planning in partnership with the Federation of American Scientists. It will be introducting this amazing construction technology that is seismically safe, affordable, and energy efficient... it uses styrofoam at is core with a wire and cement coating to hold it all together. Since it is a demo project it is only about a $250,000 project, with the construction of 80 new permanent shelters and 20 retrofit/repairs to existing damaged homes. So if that goes through, which it probably will considering all the internationally-known scientists and engineers and academics who are involved, that will probably be one of the projects I will help coordinate, especially if I am in Kabul. Here is a link for more information (note the references to Shelter For Life International www.shelter.org ):

http://www.fas.org/main/content.jsp?for ... &contentId
=64

And then there is the big project... the permanent housing project which would be the primary focus. There is still a chance that the permanent housing project may not move forward... its really up to the USAID and the Afghan Ambassador as to who gets this money. But we are positioned very well to receive the contract. I already have all my shots because of my trip to Thailand last year (Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tetanus) and malaria pills you take during the trip along with any antibiotoc for stomach problems. My passport is current and my visa application should go in soon. So we will see what God has in store.
5/20/2004
Well, I am officially registered for the training in England and they are making my travel arrangements. It looks like I will be leaving Saturday, June 5th and returning either Thusday or hopefully Friday June 11th. I asked for an extra day to do a little sight seeing and I would pay for the extra hotel night. Another woman I work with is going to ask if she can go as well, which would be great. So I am definitely looking forward to Colorado and England... it will be nice to get away for a bit.
6/30/2004
Well, the big news is that SFL is making arrangements for me to leave for Kabul, Afghanistan as early as next week! We are putting together a three month consulting contract where I will spend about seven weeks in Kabul visiting with donors and Afghan organizations and then I will prepare a number of funding proposals. If things go as planned, I will be back by Sept 1 and will hopefully still be able to go to Colorado on the 2nd. Of course I will be a zombie but I am going to try to make it. After that I will have another month of contract work and then we will make some decisions about longer tem work. I'm very excited to go but not too happy about being away from my husband that long. :( But its such an amazing opportunity and I've been praying for God to open this door... so I am going to go. So we should be finalizing plans tomorrow and I will hopefully have an itinerary soon. I will post more info as things get sorted out... please continue to pray for me.
7/3/2004
Today I was out trying to find some decent clothes to wear for my trip... long pants, long sleeve shirts that cover your butt, super baggy everything, extremely modest, bland colors, and light cotton material. And some scarfs to wrap my head. Had a lot of luck at the import store... was getting rather worried because I couldn't find anything. Now I look like a proper Muslim woman minus the burka I guess.
7/4/2004
I wish I could wear t-shirts... only long sleeves that totally cover my wrists... no ankles either. The only skin that can show is my face (no hair), feet, and hands. I read that a reporter who had part of her hair showing had a rock thrown at her head.
7/5/2004
If you really want an inside scoop... I would encourage you to pick a up a copy of "Inside Afghanistan" by John Weaver. You should be able to find it at a Christian bookstore or online. He works for Shelter For Life in northern Afghanistan and was the only American to stay in the country after 9/11. An amazing story... very inspiring and one of several reasons I decided to shift into international work. Now I get to work with him... life is very strange sometimes, isn't it?
7/8/2004
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. I am in the final hours of packing and getting ready to head for the airport. Most everything is done and rest will just have to wait I guess. I have a pretty brutal itenerary ahead of me, so please keep me in your prayers over the next 48 hours. Love you and will miss you all... remember to check in on my husband. :)

I'll be emailing from Kabul soon.

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 Post subject: 7/11/2004
Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 10:04 am 
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7/11/2004 Greetings From Kabul!
Well I made it safe and sound to Kabul, which unfortunately is more than I can say for my luggage, which is still in Istanbul. I barely made it to my connection in Frankfurt Germany and literally arrived about ten minutes before the plane was about to depart. When I finally arrived in Istanbul, I stood at the luggage carousel for quite some time, while it slowly dawned on me that if I had barely made my connection, it was highly doubtful that my luggage did. And sure enough, no luggage for me. And here I had been so concerned about bringing appropriate clothing and packing the right things. I?ve decided that God definitely has a sense of humor, as I was going to enter ?the promised land? with only the things I could carry on my back.
So the plane to Kabul was on an Afghan timetable, if you can call it that. On my ticket it was scribbled in handwriting that the flight left at 1:30 am, but the travel coordinator at SFL told me to double check as soon as I got to Istanbul. While I was meeting with the airline rep regarding my missing luggage, she told me the plane was to leave at 11:30. Her other news? my luggage would not make it to Kabul until sometime next week, as there are only a few flights to Afghanistan. They gave me a hundred dollars and a bathroom pack and I then proceeded to wander around the Istanbul airport trying to track down the Airiana desk (the Afghan airline). Finally I found the desk back in the corner and asked about the flight departure. He was reluctant to give me a time and told me to be back by 9:30, which was only an hour and a half away. So my brief hotel stay was no longer an option, and I ended up hanging around the airport to people watch. Amazingly on my way through passport control I ran into one of the SFL staff who I would be living with in Kabul? she was on her way to Iraq. If I only could beat the odds like that in the lottery!
So a little before 9:30 I change into my long skirt, long sleeve shirt, and had my scarf ready. There was a long line of men who suddenly rushed as a herd over to another check-in desk. I am thinking? please may this huge sea of Persian testosterone not be my only flight companions. But alas, the Airiana ?Kabul sign came up and I reluctantly made my way to the back of the line, where no less than ten men obviously cut in front of me. For a few moments I thought I was the only female on the entire plane. Then I spotted a few women including some western women and some western men. So although still completely in the minority I felt a little more comfortable. I managed to chat with a few folks who looked American and found out there were several humanitarian aid workers on the plane.
So I waited, and waited, and waited to board the plane well after the boarding time. Apparently they couldn?t get the door to open, and no one thought to route us to a different door (only about fifteen feet away). Welcome to the non-western view of time! Finally we were picked up by the bus and taken to the plane. Apparently it was a free for all in terms of seating because people were clearly not sitting where they were supposed to? as the few westerners had their seats commandeered by Afghan men. I had an aisle seat and needless to say, no one sat next to the unaccompanied western female. Thus I had my own suite of seats? four to be exact. I tried to make myself comfortable and fought with the seat belt while noticing that there was actually duct tape holding the instrument panel together above my head. Time passed. The doors stayed open. A muzak version of Frank Sinatra?s ?I Did It My Way? played in the background. People wandered in and out of the plane. So much for security! The only air movement was the jet fumes wafting in from outside. Finally with some commotion the flight attendants and pilots decided it was time to go and we were off. The male flight attendants ignored me and passed right by me with glasses of water. So I stretched out and slept most of the way. Luckily the female flight attendant did give me breakfast later toward the end of the flight. I could see glimpses of sandy brown and soon enough mountain peaks through the airplane window.
Kabul
We landed (smoothly!) at the Kabul airport and I was anxiously waiting to set foot on Afghan soil, or dust, as it turns out. I climbed down the steps into the heat and this giant jet roars by not many yards off. As we are driving in the bus I notice groups of men with face shields and what looked like metal detectors just a few feet off the runway. De-mining crews? Right next to the runway? You have got to be kidding. But yes, they were a crew searching for land mines, as Kabul and Afghanistan in general are some of the most mined land in the world. I worked my way through passport control and headed right out since my bags were still in Istanbul. No sign of my ride since the plane was over an hour earlier. So I attempted to blend into my surroundings, which was not very easy considering my sunglasses, backpack, and no burka. Finally my ride came and off we went on my first trip through the city.
And what a city! The roads were teaming with cars, trucks, colorful buses, bikes, vendors, dogs, children, burka-clad women, donkeys, armed soldiers, countless men, herds of sheep, rickshaw type vehicles, horse-drawn wagons, a couple tanks, and every other form of transportation and life form you could possible imagine. And this was all set against a backdrop of the massive Hindu Kush mountains, a haze of dust and pollution, and bombed out buildings riddled with bullet holes. I have never seen or could have ever imagined anything quite like it.
I was taken to the guest house where I would be staying, which is quite modest but comfortable. We have simple bathrooms and bedrooms, a living room with satellite tv that works when the generator is on, and electricity at night until about 10:00 or so. The kitchen has an ?unfortunate odor? as my housemate explained, due to poor plumbing. The exhaust from the generator tends to come in with the wind, so it is actually nice when they shut it off. I crashed for most of the day in an attempt to recover from my thirty-two hours of traveling. I was awakened by the maid and her daughter, who smiled and stared and said some broken English and lots of Dari which I didn?t understand.
First Night
After visiting the SFL Kabul office and sending off some emails, we went to dinner and my first meal in Afghanistan was (ironically) a delicious Thai meal. We headed back to the house and I got ready for bed. At around 2:30 am I awoke to the sound of barking dogs. Not just a few dogs, but apparently a large quantity of wild dogs who awaken at night and roam the streets, barking and howling. Of course, during the day they are sound asleep, having led this secret but noisy night life. Then the roosters who apparently have messed up internal clocks joined in the fray? it was quite the chorus. Then at 3:00 am the Mosques began their morning call to prayer over their loudspeakers. They are definitely not on a western clock, because these calls continue for a couple hours at different points throughout the city. It is a combination of chanting and singing and the voices wail from near and far? beautiful yet spooky at the same time. So I never made it back to bed and the sun rose at like 4:30 and the morning was cool and calm? a pleasant mid-60?s.
So I am doing well and trying to recover from my trip. Today was spent at the office going through an orientation of sorts. We have a great cook who prepares our meals, a number of maids, someone to do the laundry, and drivers. And here I thought I was heading into this rough life! We also have two guards outside of the guest house? one who carries a revolver and the other has an AK-47 slung over his shoulder at all times of the day. I kid you not. It does get very hot and there is no air conditioning? today was in the low 90?s although it isn?t too bad because it?s a DRY heat (LOL). Wearing the same outfit for the next few days is truly a fabulous introduction to the field. So far, so good? I?m anxious to get down to work. Tomorrow I am going out in the field with T (one of my house mates and project managers), so I am definitely looking forward to that. Sorry this is so long but there is so much to tell. More soon! Please keep me and my luggage in your prayers. J

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 Post subject: 7/13/2004
Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 10:05 am 
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July 13, 2004
Yesterday turned out to be quite an adventure, especially considering that I?m still struggling with jet lag, culture shock, and a healthy fear of Afghan food. First thing in the morning, T (one of the project managers and my housemate) was running around the office preparing to head out to a field project. I jumped in and asked if I could come along, as she had made this offer to me earlier. So off we go in the truck, and T begins explaining that we are going out to an NFI distribution (non-food items). We will be meeting up with her field staff to follow the supply trucks to the site. Today?s distribution will include quilts, plastic, kerosene, and lanterns and will serve 75 families, who were selected through an assessment done previously. The distribution will be completed in District 12, on the far eastern side of Kabul. Without batting an eye, T explains that District 12 is a dangerous area of the city, as there have been attacks on humanitarian aid workers here in the recent past. There are two routes, the back roads and another way which is patrolled by ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). She asks the driver to follow the safer route.
I have to say it was one of those moments where I caught my breath and my adrenaline kicked in. But honestly that is just a nice way to say that a wave of fear washed over me. Up to this point I had felt relatively safe and now here we were heading into an area where I felt more like a target than an aid worker. This fear of violence or danger is a relative thing. In the United States we grow accustomed to certain types of violence. For example, we are not afraid to drive on the highways everyday even though deaths occur regularly right in our own cities. We do not refuse to enter a neighboring city because there was an armed robbery or a murder. It?s a familiar danger. But when we think of violence in a country like Afghanistan or violence committed against us by Muslim foreigners, our fear levels spike through the roof. The awful thing about fear is that one must first do the action of which she is afraid, and then the courage comes afterward. So onward to District 12 I went, praying silently and focusing on the lives that we had come to serve.
District 12 is flat, hot, dusty, and absolutely miserable. Dust cyclones dotted the landscape, kicking up debris and dust and then breaking up into nothing. There was no shade in sight as we drove over the never-ending, bone-jarring, bumpy road. Occasionally ISAF tanks and personnel carriers would roll by, with armed soldiers standing with guns ready, scarves tied around their faces to keep out the dust. The poverty is unbelievable? the per capita income in Afghanistan is around $250 per year, a lot less than the international poverty rate of $1 per day. Most of the city is in ruins, and these poor people try to make out a life in the middle of it all. When we arrived at the distribution site, there was a line of people sitting up against the wall trying to fit into the sliver of available shade. Women undoubtedly sweltering in their blue burkas, some holding infants, and young children milled about in the 95 degree weather. The children flocked to us as if we were celebrities? keeping some distance but staring wide eyed. We set up our ?office?, which consisted of a rug and a couple of cushions leaning up against the wall. Field staff began collecting ids, photos, distribution coupons, and fingerprints. T explained that the identification process is very thorough, as bribes, corruption, and lying have become commonplace among this desperate people. The worst part was that we were only there to help 75 families that day, and everyone was in need far beyond my privileged, western comprehension.
The distribution went well, despite several arguments over who was eligible or not. The local community leaders, or wakils, were there to certify that people were who they said they were. T explained that some of the wakils were warlords and held a lot of power and authority within their gozar, or district. She said that they have had several meetings with the wakils where there had been a lot of yelling and fingers pointing at her. Finally she threatened to pull out of their gozars unless they could guarantee SFL?s safety and help with the distribution. They all came to an agreement and thus the distribution went forward. It was heartening to see T clearly in a position of leadership, making decisions and dealing in a fair but tough manner when necessary. I had to wonder what the women and young girls thought of this white foreign woman instructing Afghan men who culturally should have status over her in all things. The majority of Afghan men will not even shake a woman?s hands, and if they are a strict Muslim it is considered to be defiling.
One little old ancient lady made her way over and sat down next to me against the wall. The wakil started yelling for her to move on, but T said no, she was old and needed to sit in the shade. After awhile she started speaking in Dari to me and then reached over, grabbed my head, pulled me close, and kissed me on the forehead. I wish I knew what she had said, but her eyes seemed to express overwhelming gratitude. And here I had been afraid to come to this place, and it turned out to be this blessing disguised in heart-breaking, horrible poverty.

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 Post subject: 7/16/2004 Culture Shock
Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 10:06 am 
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7/16/2004 Culture Shock
Everyone experiences culture shock in different ways, and sometimes we don't
even realize that this is what these feelings of discomfort or anxiety
really are. For me the shock of being in Afghanistan is not so much a
matter of adjusting to a new landscape, food, language, sights, smells, and
sounds. although this is certainly a part of it. These things seem exciting
and exotic and adventurous, which are all characteristics that I consider to
be positive. What I have found to be the most shocking to my system is the
horrendous poverty and the way that women and children are treated. I have
experienced this social anxiety of sorts while out on the streets of Kabul,
an anxiety that is based first on my gender and second on my status as a
western Christian minority. Living in a country where women are covered and
objectified by the burka and essentially survive as a sub-human entity has
certainly had an effect on my normal confident attitude. At times I have
found myself understanding why women continue to hide under the burka, as
becoming this anonymous and faceless figure also can provide a sense of
security. A woman on the street with an exposed face is considered by some
to be free game for all sorts of offenses. A few the the female Afghan SFL
staff still wear a burka to and from work. When asked why they continue
even though other women are beginning to cast them aside, their response is
that they just wouldn't feel safe in the streets without it.

After the NFI distribution we realized that we had missed lunch. T and
Jawad (one of the Afghan field staff) suggested that we grab something to
eat at the bazaar. I'm thinking. wow, a great opportunity to step into the
reality of an Afghan social environment, unfortunately also an opportunity
to be living in the bathroom for the next three days. With visions of
salmonella dancing in my head, I agreed since I couldn't pass up the chance
to go to the bazaar. After struggling through the insane traffic our driver
dropped the three of us off in front of an extremely crowded market area.
We jumped out onto the street and made our way along the cars to find the
opening to the sidewalk, as the length of it is divided from the street by a
metal fence. We crossed over the open ditch along the side of the road,
which is used throughout the city to collect sewage, garbage and every other
sort of imaginable bio-hazard known to humanity. Of course this makes what
should be a leisurely walk into a violent assault on the olfactory nerves.
and imagine me, with my sensitive nose!

Once we were on the sidewalk, I started to feel uneasy. There were throngs
of people around me, with men staring and pushing up to close for my
comfort. At the same time I was trying to keep my scarf securely around my
head while attempting to avoid stepping in the nasty sludge and dragging my
skirt through the toxic green puddles that line the pathway. It was way too
crowded and the thick smoke from the shish-kebob vendors was pouring into my
eyes and throat and I could barely breathe or see. The 95 degree afternoon
sun was causing sweat to drip down my face and the excessively long clothes
were tripping me up and sticking to my skin. Tanya was up ahead and the
other male staff member was somewhere behind me and I started to worry about
losing my way. At that moment I looked down trying to avoid stepping in the
disgusting muck, and it was at this instant that I saw an image that will
forever haunt me. Below me in the middle of the pedestrian mob was this
young boy, maybe four or five years old. His lame legs were curled up
unnaturally under his body and he was pulling himself along the ground with
his arms and hands, dragging his torso through the filth and sea of legs.
My stomach lurched in horror as the crowd pulled me along, while this little
boy continued on in the opposite direction. No one stopped to offer
assistance; no one even seemed to notice him. Almost in a panic at this
point I struggled forward to keep up with my group, when we abruptly turned
into a dark restaurant.

Inside I came to a quick halt, looking around the room to assess the
situation. With a sinking feeling I realized that Tanya and I were the only
women in the entire room. I felt sick to my stomach and pulled my scarf
over most of my face, as all masculine eyes turned to stare at the two
western women intruding where we clearly didn't belong. Soon we were
ushered to the back corner of the room where we began an ascent up a steep
spiraling stone staircase. My heart pounded as we reached the second floor
and passed through a filthy curtain to emerge into a smaller back room.
Seated at table after table were women with their burkas pulled back to
expose their faces, talking and eating with their children and the
occasional husband. We sat down at a table near the back of this women's
room and I took a deep breath, trying to calm my shattered nerves and regain
my confidence.

Attempting to momentarily forget all standards of hygiene and sanitation, I
watched as food was brought to our table. flatbread, some raw vegetables,
and our main entr?e. The dish consisted of rice with some bits of
vegetables and a giant slab of mystery meat which wobbled and glistened in
the center of the plate. Eying the dirty pitcher of water at our table, I
desperately asked for a 7-Up, which to my relief arrived in an unopened can.
I cautiously ate bread and a little bit of the rice along the edge of the
plate, trying to avoid the hunk of meat and its juices which had undoubtedly
soaked in. T, who will eat anything, laughed and told me to say the
prayer of her friend. "Lord, bless this food and please may it not make me
sick." Indeed. As is customary, after the meal a towel was passed around
for everyone to wipe their hands. Unfortunately, it appeared that it was
the same towel that everyone in the restaurant had been using for the entire
day. With a sigh, I dabbed my hands into the dirty rag while longing for my
antibacterial lotion and trying to remind myself not to touch my face until
I could find some soap.

I'm happy to report that I did not get sick from the meal and so far have
thankfully remained bug free. However that night before falling asleep I
couldn't help but remember that little boy. I thought about how scary and
demeaning it had felt to be sent up to the women's room because it was not
considered appropriate for the men to eat in my presence. I recalled the
faces of those women who normally would be hidden away from view. That
night I cried, not only as part of the process of dealing with my own
culture shock, but also for the suffering of the impoverished people whose
country has been destroyed by twenty-three years of war and who faced
hunger, disease, and death as a daily reality. I cried thinking about the
extreme oppression and silencing of the beautiful and persevering Afghan
women. Even if my work here only improved the life of one woman or one
crippled child, I was convinced that my moments of fear, anxiety, or
discomfort would be a preposterously cheap price to pay to ease their pain
in any way. As I fell asleep in the comfort and safety of my bed, I knew
that I was ready for the challenge ahead and would readily embrace it no
matter what this country of Afghanistan had in store for me.

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Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 11:08 am 
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Iris - please keep sharing - this is great reading


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Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 12:13 pm 
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Great stuff keep it coming. As a returned Peace Corps Vol the images and perceptions ring true and almost universal in some ways. BTW "culture shock" really isn't the shock you experience when you go someplace else, it's the amazing shock you receive when you return home with a whole new perception on your own culture. I hope we get to read the whole experience as she works, becomes more comfortable with the culture and way of life and then returns home to this incredible culture and country.

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All I can say is....wow!!!!

Thank you so much for sharing.

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 Post subject: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 00:08:19
Post Posted: Jul 18, 2004 11:12 pm 
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Dear Friends and Family,

You will probably hear on the news that there was a missile attack on Kabul
Sunday night by Taliban related forces. The news is reporting that one
rocket landed in the city center and killed an Afghan female civilian, and
that another two rockets landed north of the airport. Everyone here at SFL
is fine, in fact I did not know of the attack until a co-worker mentioned it
to me this morning. SFL regularly attends UN security meetings and we
receive several updates each day as to the security threat level here in
Kabul and across Afghanistan. We have the best information available and
under a heightened threat would evacuate the country.

Please do not worry, but rather continue to pray for the safety of SFL and
the Afghan people as the security situation may continue to grow worse as
the October elections draw near.

Blessings,

A

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Post Posted: Jul 19, 2004 7:56 am 
Thank you Wildiris for the update. Glad everyone is ok.

I admire them for their willingness to serve in such an unsettled area.

They are in our thoughts and prayers.


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 Post subject: Afghanistan in Context
Post Posted: Jul 20, 2004 8:12 am 
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July 19, 2004

Afghanistan in Context

To begin to understand Afghanistan is to first realize that things were not
always the way they are now. Afghanistan has a long, rich history and its
unique location amid the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Central
Asia placed it at the crossroads of the known world. These land routes
passing through the mountainous country enticed conquerors from all parts of
the globe. As a result, the people of Afghanistan have withstood military
invasions throughout much of its turbulent history.

In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, thus beginning the country's
twenty-three years of war from which it is only now struggling to recover.
The Soviet's, undoubtedly expecting a quick victory, found themselves in a
protracted conflict against Afghan resistance fighters. Historically,
Afghans have been known to be fierce warriors, and this proved true as
factions in the north rose up to fight this occupation. These freedom
fighters, or mujahidheen, were eventually aided by the United States as part
of its fight against the spread of communism during the Cold War. The
Soviets were never able to gain total control over the country, and in 1989
with the collapse of communism they completely pulled out. Along with the
Soviet withdrawal, American aid and support were also terminated. As a
result, a civil war ensued to determine who would regain control of
Afghanistan. The conservative Taliban were one of the original factions of
the mujahideen that were aided by the United States during the Soviet
occupation. With this civil unrest, the Taliban formed their own militia in
1994 and eventually seized control over much of the country.

The Taliban imposed an extreme form of Islam, enforcing strict and harsh
laws under the threat of violence and death. Women who were once doctors,
lawyers, and teachers were forced to wear the burka, a full veil covering
the entire head, face, and torso with a small screen of mesh to provide a
limited field of vision. Women and girls were not permitted to receive an
education or even leave their homes without being escorted by a male family
member. Almost all recreational activities were forbidden. even kite
flying. Most books, art, and ancient objects were destroyed. Men who did
not grow their beards long enough were thrown into prison until they grew to
an acceptable length. Women caught wearing nail polish had their fingers
cut off. And far worse punishments were imposed for more severe crimes.
The Taliban inflicted public executions, amputations, beatings, stonings,
torture, and prison time as terrorizing punishment for the long list of
offenses to their strict moral code.

In response to September 11, the United States joined forces with
Afghanistan's Northern Alliance and began air strikes and military attacks
on the country when the Taliban refused to hand over bin Ladin. By the end
of 2001, the opposition forces had forced the Taliban regime out of power,
but the years of war have left the country destroyed. Certain areas of
Afghanistan are still under Taliban influence, and isolated violence and
terrorist attacks continue even to the present day. The people of
Afghanistan have somehow survived these twenty-three years of war and
conflict, and are now struggling to rebuild its collapsed social, political,
economic, and educational institutions along with its destroyed
infrastructure. Today Kabul seems to be rising out of the ruins, as new
construction ascends from the rubble, as shops open up on the ground floors
of bombed out buildings, and as displaced families return to their property
to rebuild a life among the wreckage of their former homes.

Amid the overwhelming poverty, the ingenuity and perseverance of the Afghan
people is evident everywhere. Walking through the remains of one
neighborhood, the residents showed us a small agricultural area with a
series of irrigation channels dug in the ground. Men had set up a generator
and were pumping ground water up into a cement water trough which ran down
the street and would eventually provide water to the gardens. The clean
water was flowing abundantly and the children happily played in this version
of a river cutting through the dry, dusty ground.

Entrepreneurs have set up shop in about every place imaginable. stores
operating out of tents, shipping containers, junk vehicles, and structures
cobbled together with bricks, corrugated steel, wood, and plastic tarps.
The bazaars are absolutely packed with vendors of every sort. Families have
constructed homes out of any available material, with extended families of
ten or fifteen living in cramped, make-shift houses. Buildings that teeter
on the verge of collapse also are used as homes, with various materials
serving as roofs, windows, and filling in the jagged holes left by missiles.

Although unemployment is rampant, the people here in Afghanistan work hard
to sustain their lives. Some men serve basically as pack mules and pull
impossibly heavy wagons loaded with large water canisters. a full day's hard
labor for about $1.50 a day. Women whose houses are located up on the steep
foothills must trek a full three hours everyday to fetch water for their
family from the wells below. One women recently visited by SFL staff
explained that she was forced to leave her infant locked alone every day for
the three hours in her sweltering mud-brick house while she hiked to
retrieve water for their survival. Laborers mix cement and form bricks by
hand out of water drawn from deep wells and combined with the never ending
supply of dust, sand, and crushed rock in order to rebuild a home for their
families. Teams of Afghans donning face shields and metal detectors creep
across the most heavily mined land in the world searching for land mines and
unexploded ordnance to clear areas for agriculture and development. It is
commonplace to see children as young as three and four alone on the busy
streets carrying bread and vegetables from the bazaar, pumping and hauling
water from the communal wells, or tending to younger infants and toddlers.

So despite the poverty, disease, and suffering there are glimpses of hope,
unbelievable perseverance, and a better future for Afghanistan. Currently
there are about 10,000 foreigners working in Kabul, bringing humanitarian
aid to help move forward the process of rebuilding and restoring these
shattered lives. Funding comes from government sources, private businesses,
foundations, and ultimately the individual donors and taxpayers who support
them. But there never seems to be enough money, and here my job is to
persuade others to give thousands and sometimes millions of dollars to help
in this effort here on the other side of the globe. Sometimes it feels like
the help provided is just a drop in this massive and overwhelming sea of
need. But indeed, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for
good men to do nothing." So I'm here, trying to do something, even though
it feels like it can never, ever be enough.

A

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 Post subject: Another rocket attack!
Post Posted: Jul 21, 2004 8:28 am 
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There was another rocket attack yesterday... eveyone here at SFL is fine.
Good thing I am generally not a fearful person, and even with the thought of
bombs dropping out of the sky life continues as "normal" here. We actually
have a really good time, with lots of laughter. Most of the people at SFL
are wonderful and it is a joy to be here. I figure that my chances of
actually getting hit by a random missile in this big city have got to be
pretty slim. :) Please continue to pray for the security situation here
and our safety.

A

Date and Time: 20 July 04, 2050Hrs
Location: Yakatut area, Kabul - Jalalabad main road, District 9 on the
eastern side of Kabul City
Type of incident: Rocket Attack

Two Rockets (BM1) were fired from a south east direction and impacted close
together (within 20m). One rocket hit the Kabul Jalalabad main road and the
second exploded on a open field. No casualty reported. It must be noted that
this is the second rocket attack in 2 days.

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