Saturday, October 4, 2014

I Feel Like Weeping For Joy

I am in Mumbai, in the middle of my current trip, taking me to four countries and several worldwide cities and villages. To Dubai and Mumbai and New Delhi and Kabul and Yawkawlang and Sacheck and Punjab and Lego and Oozmuk and Nilli and Dayaroos, back to Kabul, on to New Delhi again and Sirsi and Phandheri and Nawghawa Sadaat and Kuderky and New Delhi yet again, and Lucknow and Hallour and Lucknow again and Mumbai again. I leave today for Colombo and Nurelliya, return to Colombo and Mumbai again, then return to Sanford via Dubai and Chicago mid October insha’Allah. Quite a mouthful, no?

The following is a short narrative on the Afghanistan trip only; hope you enjoy it:

I am in Afghanistan; Aliakberbhai Ratansi of AICT Mumbai or RK (because he has an uncanny resemblance to the late Raj Kapoor of Bollywood, grey eyes and all) and Sohail Abdullah (SA) a CAI Trustee from New York join me this time around. This is my 27th trip to this badbakth country in the last 7 years and much has changed since then, but yet again, a lot remains the same. Kabul has greatly improved of course (except for occasional bombs that explode and kill or maim the innocent), thanks to massive foreign aid money; airport services are prompt, the streets are nicely paved and power cuts are not as frequent. The local CAI team receives us at the airport and we are whisked away to the comfort, superb Afghan hospitality and relative security of Wasi’s home, CAI’s Country Manager in Afghanistan. While RK and I are seasoned visitors here, SA is a rookie, full of awe and tons of bewildering questions.

Rural and remote Afghanistan, where the bulk of CAI operations are in progress or operational, is where the world changes back to the Stone Age, literally. SA sits next to the pilot, his IPhone constantly capturing the sights and sounds as we are transported to Yawkawlang in a teeny-weeny Kodiak single propelled aircraft. SA’s greatest concern is for the healthy looking American pilot to survive a medical emergency, such as a heart attack.

SA will share a wonderful photo-blog of the trip with you shortly so I will spare you the intricate details of this tough adventure. I will, however, tell you this:

I feel like crying for joy and hugging a sparklingly white commode when I see one at the Golden Tulip Hotel room in Lucknow. I have delicately, carefully squatted and balanced over a hole-in-the-ground toilet, clutching a lotta in one hand and a torch in another, bearing the humiliation of mosquitos and flies feasting on my exposed behind the last 12 days. I feel like weeping with joy when I get to use a bathroom toilet tissue after having to finger my bum the last 12 days. I feel weepy when I finally get to sleep in a soft comfy mattress inside a centrally air-conditioned room, not having to squat tormenting flies away or wistfully watch a sated mosquito full of my blood elude my attempt at its murder. I feel emotional when I take a hot shower with abundant water, not having to worry about pneumonia should I have to use frigid water in an emergency. I get relief when I blow my nose instead of rudely picking it publicly, since the thin Afghan mountain air made all secretion into a hard crust that was very uncomfortable to keep for long and bled my nose every time I cleaned them. I am delighted I can smell my old self and not the revolting odor of not having washed for days on end. I close my eyes in ecstasy when I take a sip of real hot chai after being deprived the last 12 days. I feel like crying for joy when...

These joys are short lived, of course, when my thoughts return to the misery and hopelessness of the people CAI help left behind. My discomfort and hardships are transitory; these people I am so fortunate to help a bit will be without all the fancies I take so much for granted.

In Afghanistan this trip, CAI commissioned the following:

1.   A water distribution system in Yawkawlang that benefits over 3,000 people which will provide clean, potable water for the next 25 years at US$27 each.
2.   Monitoring of operational Sacheck Medical Click – a wonderful modern custom built clinic that can rival any in a Western country.
3.   The opening of a 400 student elementary school, CAI’s 15th in Punjab.
4.   The due diligence of another elementary school, CAI’s 17th (16th already under construction in Kajraan) in Lego.
5.   Monitoring of the operational Oozmuk Medical Clinic and commission the construction of a tailor made modern all-purpose clinic. The current one operates from mud brick – straw house that freezes in the winter and is highly inefficient.
6.   Commission of one water-well benefiting 120 people costing US$1,400.
7.   Monitoring of operational Dayaroos Medical Clinic. Construction of a modern facility for this unit awaits funding.
8.   Participating in the wedding celebration of 100 poor couples sponsored by CAI donors at Nilli.
9.   Distribution of five each milk and ewe producing sheep to poor widows in Nilli.
10. Monitoring of the new SGH 60 girls orphanage / 300 girls school project under construction in Kabul.


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