Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Afghanistan I Know

So many have asked, and more have wondered, when are we going to Afghanistan? Are we still going? Well, we are going, and soon. We will be heading out later this month (it's so soon)! I have to admit that getting back into the mindset of preparing, both with stuff and mentally, has been really hard. I don't really know why that is, but it's been very difficult to find the motivation to get prepared, to go shopping for cold-weather gear, and to even blog about this upcoming adventure.

But I'm getting there.

Last week I bought my coat. It's bright blue. And puffy. But it will pack well and keep me warm, and let's face it doesn't everyone want to wear a bright blue jacket at some point in their life? I also have my gloves and all the clothes I think I'll need, although I'm still stuck on my shoes, but I'll figure it out. I've never needed an excuse to go shoe shopping.

And I'm writing about it. I started up my journaling again last week, and here I am writing a blog. So I'm making progress.

I still have a little money left to raise, about $300. If you had intended to donate, and forgot, or if you didn't plan on it but can, you can donate right now online here. Anything you can give is helpful to reaching the goal.

But here's what I really wanted to share with you: this video. So many people ask what it's like over there, and why on earth I would ever go there, and how I could possibly feel safe there (which I do). And this video, while not a prefect representation, will definitely give you an idea. It's called "The Afghanistan I Know" which is the perfect title. I believe the reason people ask these questions is because all they know of Afghanistan is what they see on the news, which is generally very bad. It's a lot of death and destruction. It's bombed out buildings and oppressed women. It's everything that you would expect a war-zone to look like. And while all of that is true, that's not the Afghanistan I know.

What people don't see are the sweet children. They don't get to sit with the women who are working so hard to change their country. They don't get to see the growth and progress that has been made over the last 5+ years. They don't see the hope and promise of the future. They don't get to see what I see.

So watch this video, and get an idea of what I see when I'm there, and why this place has captured my heart.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


We were supposed to leave early next week, but we're not. There are lots of reasons, and they are all great reasons, and the right reasons to not go at this time. But that doesn't always make it easier to wait. 

Unlike most of my fellow team mates who have been before, I have never been on a trip that has been delayed. One of them has had just about every trip she's been on delayed. But I haven't, and I still don't know what to think or how to process it. I keep looking at my fully packed suitcase. I open my fridge and am reminded by the lack of food that I'm supposed to be getting on a plane next week, but I'm not. I get texts and emails and words of encouragement from people and have to break it to them that we aren't going right now. And yet, it doesn't quite feel real. I feel stuck in limbo. But I'm not in limbo, I know what's happening, but I can't seem to move forward. 

And so I sit and look at the suitcase and wonder when I should unpack it. I have trips and other things before we leave that I will need to use it for, so the clothes can't just sit in it, they must be hung-up, put away, or returned. I think about the people I need to tell and how best to ask for prayer and support. I think about my wide open schedule next week, and I think about leaving town since I wasn't supposed to be here anyway.

But mostly I think about Afghanistan. I think about the women and children. I think about the staff.  I think about the stories that I will get to hear eventually. I think about the games that we will play. I think about the laughter and and joy that I will experience when I get to see that beautiful place and those wonderful people again. Even if I have to wait for it. And that makes the waiting a little easier.

Prayer requests: 
  • Our team as we process through this delay. 
  • The Afghan election process. That the recount would be finished, that it would all be calm and safe, and that whomever is elected is respected. 
  • The staff of SOZO. They are amazing and always put our safety first.
  • The Afghan people. They wake up every morning and go about their day. They take their kids to school, they go to work, they go to the market and do all the things we do, but they live in a world where safety isn't a thing and life could change in an instant. They are so brave.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Heading back...

Well, if you have subscribed to this blog - thanks for sticking around! I haven't posted anything in two years, and yet you're still here. Which means that you're probably related to me, but if not, you are a rockstar!

As you may or may not know, I am headed back to Afghanistan this fall for my fourth (!) trip. It's so hard to believe that it was 5 years ago that I first stepped foot in this amazing country, and I am extremely excited to go back. I am excited not only because I will get to see dear friends that I have made over the last few years, but because the focus of this trip is something that I think will have the ability change Afghanistan, in amazing positive ways, in the years to come.

My past few trips have focused on building relationships, which is one of the greatest values in Afghanistan. I have been able to get to know the SOZO staff very well, have been able to show love and honor to women and have spent countless hours having tea, chatting and laughing. These relationships are the foundation for what SOZO plans for the next few years, and we get to be part of the beginning of that. We will be doing a census! More specifically we will be doing a census of the families of the kids involved in the Kabul Street School that SOZO runs.

The Kabul Street School is specifically for kids who beg on the street for part of the day as a way to support their families. Many of these children have lost at least one parent, and some have lost both and live with extended family, but all of them are counted on by their family to bring home money so that there is some food to eat that day. The only opportunity for these kids to receive an education is through the Kabul School. In addition to an amazing education each kid at the school is fed a meal - quite possibly the only meal that they will eat that day.

Due to the lack of education during the wars of the 80's and 90's many of the caretakers of these children are uneducated and may not be able to read or write, which limits their job possibilities. Many of them have a skill which allows them to bring home a little money, but not much. The census we will be doing will find out not only familial events - deaths, births, children, etc. - we will also be asking about skills and education that they have. This will allow SOZO to develop education and work programs as well as build community among the families - all important things if we want to break the cycle of poverty. The long-term goal is that these families would become more self-sufficient, that the kids in the school would go to college and get good jobs that will allow them to provide for their families and make Afghanistan a prosperous country.

And I am once again inviting you to be part of this journey. Please be in prayer for this trip, my team, the country of Afghanistan and for me. Please read this blog. I plan to post something every week or so until we leave and then hopefully while we are away. And I also need your financial support. The cost of this trip is $3500, and I have been blown away by the support that I have already received, but I still have a ways to go. You can donate online here and be sure to select my name from the drop down menu. If you prefer to pay by mail you can send cash or a check made out to FCC with my name in the memo line to: Flatirons, 355 W. South Boulder Rd., Lafayette, CO 80026.

This opportunity is truly humbling and to have people like you come alongside me makes me stand in awe.

If you have any questions you can always comment or send me an email.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Heart is Full

Today was spent mostly in the guest house, which may sound boring, but was actually a wonderful day.  We spent the morning playing games and our constant laughter filled the air.  Some of the teachers form the Kabul Street school came over and we were able to teach them how to plant the seeds we had brought.  They each seemed so excited to be able to bring this back to their kids at the school because most of these kids rarely get a meal beyond what is provided at the school, let alone healthy fresh vegetables.

As we sat for tea with the teachers we started talking and they started asking us questions about American culture and such.  It is in moments like that that you realize how vastly different our cultures our.  They were baffled by us having pets, let alone loving them as children.  It is difficult for them to wrap their minds around single women over the age of 25, and that not being a negative thing.  Mary is over 60, married, but never had children by choice, but to them that is a very shameful thing.  You realize that the things that our cultures value are very different.

But there are also so many similarities.  They place a high value on education because they know that is the key to making Afghanistan once again a successful, thriving country.  They value family and relationships, often more than we do.  They value hard work and not settling for the way things have always been. And it is in those similarities that all of our differences fade away and we are just women and men joining together to make the world a better, more peaceful and safer place to be for those we care about.

We head home tomorrow, and while I miss my loved ones at home, I will also miss these amazing people once I have left.  I never feel ready to go, but I know that God has these people in His hands.  I hope and pray that I will see them again, and if I don't I hope my time spent here made a difference in their lives.  They are beloved and I am a better person for having met them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cause You Never Know When You're Going to Ride a Camel

No really, you never know.

Barek Aub is a village about an hour north east of Kabul.  We began working there in 2007, starting with building a well, funding the building of a school and clinic and then homes for widows.  My first trip there in 2009 Barek Aub looked like this

Now it looks like this

Upon pulling into Barek Aub on Saturday I was immediately struck by how much the town has grown in the last 18 months.  The clinic used to be the furthest building south, now there are many, many homes south of the clinic as well as a new girls school built by UNICEF.  There are many more homes and even new solar-powered streetlights.  Barek Aub has definitely moved from a village to a town with plenty of room to grow. 

The first thing we did in Barek Aub was to visit with some of the CW workers and thank them for the work that they do.  These women are one of the biggest reasons that Barek Aub is thriving.  Each of them visits 50-75 different homes each Monday to share health lessons and and build community with the women there. Because of them, the families in Barek Aub are healthier and happier.  We then visited the literacy class and gave those women gifts to encourage them to continue to learn to read and write. 

We then headed over to the new girls school.  UNICEF did an amazing job building this school, it is absolutely beautiful!!  It is so wonderful to know that the girls in Barek Aub are receiving a great education in a great building.  We delivered gift bags of clothing, food, school supplies and toys to each of the girls.  They always get so excited to see us, probably because we bring them gifts many times, but just to see their absolute joy is wonderful. Because of the rain on Saturday we decided to return on Sunday.

Today we again headed out to Barek Aub, but the scenery was much different. Yesterday was incredibly rainy while today was a beautiful, warm day full of amazing sunshine.  We started the day at the boys school.  Part of the goal of this trip was to introduce the seed project.  We wanted to distribute seeds and teach people in Barek Aub and Kabul on how to grow them so that they would have a more well-rounded diet.  We took pea, bean and squash seeds as well as seed pots to each classroom and taught them how to plant them and what they look like when they harvest them.  We did the same at the girls school.  The students and teachers were so very thankful for this lesson.  They said that this will help them to become more self-sufficient and to lead healthier lives, which will benefit their entire community and the country of Afghanistan.  

Because the drive to and from Barek Aub takes a little while, the conversations are always interesting.  Today one of the staff members asked us on the way out if we wanted to ride a camel, to which we responded, "of course." He said that if we saw a camel during our drive we would go ride it, and I'm quite sure he never thought that we would see one.  But on the ride home Hillary spotted two off the side of the road, and we immediately turned around.  We did some negotiating on price with the Kuchi (nomad) people and 6 of us rode the camel, Layla, around the field. Like I said you just never know when you're going to ride a camel.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beauty in the Broken

As you turn off the main road to start heading up the mountain it's like taking a step back into a more simple, laid-back life. Shepherds with their herds of goats and sheep and farmers working vineyards by hand is all you see between the clay boundary walls of homes. Everything becomes greener and more lush as the hustle and bustle of Kabul city life drains away and you head up towards the city of Istalif.

Istalif is much like Estes Park: Up in the foothills, lots of trees and beautiful landscapes, with a river running through it.  It was once the crowning glory of Afghanistan, where people would go on holiday to rest and enjoy some time away.  Today it is well on its way to being that once again.

We visited the clinic there, which sits up on top of a hill, nestled in a large grove of trees. We toured the clinic and learned about everything they do there.  The clinic is more like a miniature hospital: They have a female doctor who lives on site and is available 24 hours for delivering babies (about 20 babies a month are born in the clinic), a vaccination center (Polio is almost eradicated!), lab testing, pharmacy, leischmeniasis (a disease caused by a fly) clinic and a dentist. They also have an ambulance that can transport people to the hospital in Kabul if their injuries or medical needs are too much for the clinic to handle. The clinic has made such a difference in the lives of the people living in the mountain villiages and they are so thankful to have such great medical care near by.

We had the opportunity to sit and eat kabobs down by the river. It was like a little picnic and a little slice of heaven.  And when you follow such a nice lunch up with shopping, it doesn't get much better.

Joy Made Visible

There are always certain days during the trip that you know will live with you forever, yesterday was one of those days.

Yesterday we were able to go to the Kabul school.  This school is for street kids who need to get the basic skills before they can move on to education in the public schools.  There are currently 222 students at the school in 6 different classes. We spent the day going into the various classes teaching them english and songs. One of the highlights was watching Megan, one of my team members. She is a PE teacher and she spent hours, in the sun, foot juggling soccer balls, kicking balls with kids and playing volleyball. In Afghanistan girls are discouraged from playing sports.  For part of the day I was teamed up with her to help teach the class.

When I started playing with the girls and throwing the ball for them to kick, they were at first reluctant.  But all it took was one brave girl and they all wanted to play.  Each time I would throw the ball to them and they would kick it they would instantly all start to giggle, and the pure joy at being able to play with a ball was visible. Later, after we had been playing ball for a few hours, the boys all went inside and we were left with the girls in the courtyard.  I had one little girl come over and sit next to me and all she wanted to do was cuddle.  She never said a word, but would not leave my side for anything.

Other little girls would bring me flowers and she would take them and put them in my hair. It wasn't the most beautiful hairstyle, but will always be one of my favorites.  As I sat there with her, I wondered how often she gets loved on and hugged at home.

I never did learn her name, or really anything about her, but she will forever live in my heart.