In April, Regina and Rudolf Jaerschky spent three weeks in Afghanistan at their own expense, operating there for Empor. The trip began in Kabul, from there by car through winter conditions over the Salang Pass to Kunduz, further on tracks leading east to Kechem in the mountainous region of Badakhshan and then into the Tagab-i-Kechem district. The last destination was Mazar-e Sharif. From there we drove back to Kabul, supplying information and suggestions for Empor's work, filled by impressions of country and people, and somewhat exhausted. During the whole journey Wali Nawabi was accompanying us, Empor's representative who lives in Kabul, and by his brother-in-law, who is most familiar with the area of Badakhshan, knowing many people there.
Rudolph Jaerschky is getting informed by Wali Nawabi on the work of the orthopaedic workshop. In Kabul the orthopaedic workshops were our main interest. We visited the workshop of Wali Nawabi and witnessed the operation of the Kabul Orthopaedic Organisation that is cooperating with Wali Nawabi. We were impressed by the commitment of the staff and the quality of their work.
In Kunduz, we tried to advance project Green World, the garbage disposal in the city centre. The financing is still hanging in the air, the GTZ (the German Agency for Technical Cooperation) that should pay the main share has not yet given any conformation.
In Badakhshan, we were informed about projects of the Maihan Rehabilitation Foundation that is committed to the development of a future infrastructure for this (scenic) mountain region. We will see if Empor can take a sub-project.
In Mazar-e Sharif, the last destination of our trip, we gained more impressions of country and people, feeling the winds of history in a city that is more than 4000 years old.
The voyage helped us to better understand the country, with the aim of efficiently aligning Empor's work and our projects. Despite open questions about the positive development of Afghanistan, and personal security, we intend to travel again in this interesting, beautiful and often enigmatic country.
On 1 April we departed to the east, had a 6-hour stopover in Dubai and landed at 2 April in Kabul, full of expectations and also with a little heart beating.
What did we want there? "It's too dangerous ... there are so many beautiful places in this world ... why does it have to be Afghanistan?" Of this kind were many comments by affectionate friends and relatives. Well, we wanted to learn to know that country for which we were committing ourself in the framework of Empor, and get a first-hand view of the possibilities and limitations to the activities of our association.
The travel warning from the Foreign Office in Berlin let us hesitate. The more we learned about the country, inter alia from a thick photo book, a new American guide and a booklet on Afghan history, the more grew our desire to visit that country full of mystery and contrast. Very important for our decision was that Wali Nawabi, Empor's representative in Kabul, would all the time accompany us during the voyage, and that he had promised to guarantee our security, together with friends.
One week we spent in Kabul. We visited the orthopaedic workshop of Wali Nawabi, where he is working with a few employees in two well-equipped rooms, making orthoses and prostheses, and the workshop of Kabul Orthopaedic Organisation KOO, cooperating with the Wali Nawabi. Here, 40 employees are active in several departments. In the course of discussions with a number of organisations working in Afghanistan - including the German Embassy, the Goethe Institute, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the International Organisation for Migration - we collected information on the situation in the country and ways of cooperation.
We had a simple hotel in Kabul whose charm was marked by the very beautiful and quiet gardens. Otherwise, the days in Kabul were loud, dusty and because of the chaotic traffic more often hectic than Asian-style slowed.
From Kabul to Kunduz - with pitfalls!
The snow storm on the 3,300 m high Salang Pass across the Hindu Kush, and problems with our car - a borrowed Toyota four-wheel drive - spiced up the voyage more than we liked.
In Kunduz, we took care of the Empor's project Green World, committed to waste disposal in the city centre. Breakfast with the mayor will remain in our memories - the atmosphere, the discussions and the many meat skewers. In the outpost of the German Embassy in Kunduz and with the GTZ our main topic was the required funding. Here more difficulties showed up than was anticipated from previous talks.
North of Kunduz, not far from the border with Tajikistan, we visited shepherds and their families in the steppe. This is dotted with tulips in April. Outdoors, on a large carpet, we drank tea and watched as the glowing red sun disappeared on the horizon. It was a marvellous and peaceful view.
Badakhshan - the mountains in the north-east
On tracks in sometimes desolate condition we reached Kechem, after a delicious and plentiful lunch that we took sitting on the floor, we went further up the Kechem River, reaching a village where the Parliamentary Commissioner for the area has a small adobe house. In this we spent the night, deep in the mountains, remote from the common facilities of civilisation, such as electricity, drinking water from the pipe, transmission of information through radio, TV or mobile phone.
Discussions with people in the area to whom we were introduced - clergy, teachers – focussed on ways to develop the land.
There is the ambitious project plan of the Maihan Rehabilitation Foundation for a future infrastructure in the Tagab - Kechem district, whose chances for a realisation, however, can be seen only on a long time scale. We will check whether Empor can support a part of it.
Our last destination was Mazar-e Sharif. In the legendary city we plunged into the prosperous goings of countless bazaars, through whose veins life is flowing 24 hours a day, and we felt a touch of more than 4000 years of history. From Mazar-e Sharif, we drove back to Kabul, where we prepared for the voyage home - full of colourful and contradictory impressions, and a bit exhausted.
Back in Germany
In a slide show in the hometown Poing we reported about the voyage.At home, we were confronted with the unrest in Afghanistan, first in Kandahar and then in Kabul. Did we assess the situation incorrectly and in too good faith through rose-coloured glasses? The country is puzzling. We point out that we have talked during our trip to many Afghans, and while we met curious interest in our work and friendly acknowledgement, there never was any aggression against us or the Western world. And we mention this: The country has suffered 22 years of warfare, the average educational level of the population is low, and many people are poor. Thus they are easy prey for unscrupulous or fanatical soul claimsmen.
Especially in view of the vast current difficulties, the country needs Western - and our - aid and attention, more so, even if the path is thorny. 'The earth is hard and the sky is far' an old proverb from Central Asia says. This also applies to our actions in the context of Empor..
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