Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Wuliswahl And The Principals

I've posted twice today... things I wrote while I was downrange and brought back on my thumb drive.

We brought a few bags of HA (Humanitarian Assistance.) The bags contain small book bags with school supplies, which we have given to the ANP to distribute to the local schools. I have an enormous soft spot in my heart for Afghan children, one that is not wholly shared by the young MP's who accompany us to train the ANP.

My soft spot is functional; educated Afghan children are good for national security. I have seen lots of positive change in Afghanistan during my tenure, but the real change will come as the literacy rate rises and these children with expanded minds begin to take charge in Afghanistan. Every literate Afghan child lessens the chance of one of my sons dying on distant soil.

I'm kind of selfish that way. I am here doing what small things that I can do so that, perhaps, my sons will not have to do this. I am a cowardly parent, and cannot bear the thought of my sons' deaths, especially not here. Not like this. The very thought brings tears to my eyes.

The local Subgovernor, or Wuliswahl, is just back from the Hajj. In Islamic dogma, he is like a newborn baby, having been reborn by virtue of his pilgrimage. He has asked for me to appear in his office. I enter, and greet him in Pashtu. There are about seven other men in his office, and I greet them as well, shaking hands, exchanging greetings in Pashtu and Dari, hand over my heart in Afghan fashion after each handshake. He beckons me to sit next to him.

I present him with a portable radio, able to receive AM, FM, and even shortwave radio broadcasts and powered by either solar power or a hand-cranked dynamo. We feel that it's important for community leaders to be able to hear the news. He thanks me.

"Chai mikhori?" ("Will you drink some chai?")

"Bali, tashakur. Manana." (Yes, thank you. Thank you.") In Dari and Pashtu.

It becomes apparent that I need a terp. I call for one, and one of the men opens the door and echoes my call, "Tajimon!"

Sammy comes in and sits on the couch to my left, the Wuliswahl to my right. The Wuliswahl tells me that several of the men are school principals. I congratulate them, telling them how important that we feel education is. They smile, appreciating the praise.

"It is our duty."

The Wuliswahl goes on to tell me that we have made a mistake in our handling of the HA school supplies.

"We know our community. We know who is needy and who is not. You should let us decide where the supplies go. These principals know who needs supplies. We will make sure that the supplies go where they are needed."

I see his point. I am also aware of school supplies being sold in the bazaar after being donated to the school principles in some districts. We will trust them first and see how they handle it.

"I understand, and I agree," I tell him. "You know best where these supplies are needed. I just want to make sure that the Police are involved in distributing the supplies. It will be good for the people to see the Police bringing needed items."

The Wuliswhal agrees, and we sip chai and talk for a few minutes. Then my audience is over and we part with traditional Pashtu farewells.

We will try this in the coming week and see how well they deal with the school supplies. If they deal with it responsibly, then they will be a great conduit to get supplies out into the schools, improving the ability of the children of Afghanistan to keep my sons at home.


  1. Common sense/intelligence/heart=you.

  2. Please be careful, cautious and ever vigilant. Godspeed.


  3. You said, "I am a cowardly parent, and cannot bear the thought of my sons' deaths, especially not here." I would argue that that makes you nothing close to a cowardly parent but a parent who loves his children and is doing all he can in order to make their lives better and safer.

    I don't know how you all continue to make the progress that you do with all of the frustration and roadblocks do. Another testiment to the great Americans and Warriors that you are.

  4. The timing on this post coincided with my finishing the book "Three Cups of Tea" which is about one man's mission to build schools in Pakistan. If only half of his story is true, it is amazing. Your ideas about education are the same that he had and some of his adventures and misadventures in his building projects fit in with what you have posted. If you would like the book, I would be happy to send it to you on receiving your snail mail address. It is a relatively quick read (in paperback). Your insights continue to impress me. Stay safe on those starry, starry nights.

  5. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/04/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

  6. Excellent. Trust but verify. I wonder, where have I heard that before? ;)

    How are you doing today? It seems as though many of the people there respect you. That is good. I'm glad you still have your heart for the children. (My running person was ill for a month, so I had a very difficult time getting anything.) I'm just waiting for got it...the school supplies. lol. Would you prefer notebooks (the spiral kind) or single sheets of paper?

    Either way, you stay 'safe' and remember, there are people at home who care about you. :)

  7. I just wanted to drop a line and say thanks. Thanks for all you do in the service. As an Army Vet of Desert Storm with 4 years of service, I say thanks. Stay safe and I look forward to reading your blog each day. My nephew is serving in FOB Ghazni, in 7th SF group.

    Take care.
    John P


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