On Friday, we went to the U.S. military base near Kabul for some meetings and to collect the school supplies that Eternal Threads had shipped for the children in our village. Before we left I took a walk around the garden of our guest house and counted the rose bushes…35 of them…all ready to bloom. I can’t wait. I had seen so many roses when I was in Afghanistan before so I wasn’t surprised that they had them at the guest house, but I didn’t expect to see them in a more unlikely place. At the Humanitarian Aid yard at the base where we went to pick up our school supplies, Chief Lawrence has rose bushes in full bloom planted in crates at the entrance to the yard. Someone had recently demolished the gate to the yard when they hit it with their trucks picking up some goods. He said, “I can get the gate fixed, but I was more worried about my roses.” I love things you don’t expect in places you least expect them. Chief Lawrence and his roses might be one of those unexpected moments, but he was actually typical of everyone that we encountered that day. Our soldiers are an amazing group of people doing an even more amazing job.
We got to meet several of them working particularly with Cultural Support Teams to try and win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. The most amazing to me were the young women who are part of a new initiative – Female Engagement Teams. They are setting up sewing centers in villages for women. When they go to meet with them they remove their helmets and put head scarves on. (Oh, I forgot to say that the best part about being at the base all day was that I could take my head scarf off…I’ll never get used to it and it’s always falling off.)
We didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with them as I had hoped, but I hope to be able to learn more about how the initiative is going…what’s working and what isn’t. Our partner and I have laid out the plans to begin a sewing center in our village which will require purchasing some sewing machines and taking a sewing teacher to the village twice a week for a month at least or maybe longer for the women to become proficient. We developed several products this week that will be something they can produce.
We had to leave the base sooner than we would have liked, but our drivers were worried about getting back to late. We took a different route on the way back and it was spectacular. The base sits right up against the Hindu Kush mountains and as we drove home there were nomadic tribes on either side of the road with their tents, herds of goats and sheep and camels. I wish it was safer to be out in the countryside more.