It was a long flight to get here, but I landed here on time on Monday morning. It was a pretty uneventful flight. In Istanbul I had the opportunity to visit the Turkish Airlines lounge. I do a lot of flying, and so I have access to those lounges run by Star Alliance airlines. Many readers will have been to one of these, such as the one run by Air Canada in Halifax. This does not prepare you for Istanbul, where the lounge (by itself) is the size of Charlottetown airport. Truly! It’s amazing – when you arrive, they give you a map so you can find things – the library, the cinema, the pool table, the vegetarian food kitchen … All rather different from what I’m used to in an airline lounge.
My first impressions of Kabul are of a large and vibrant city. There is a lot of building going on, as roads and buildings are being repaired or reconstructed. The streets are teeming – cars and trucks of all descriptions, taxis and buses, bicycles and pedestrians, all somehow moving along without running into each other. Imagine the Hillsborough Bridge, all the lanes jam packed, vehicles moving at around 30 kms/hr, people walking across the lanes, bikes weaving in and out of the cars. Now imagine a hundred streets like that, all day, every day. This is Kabul!
The first night sleep came early. I am staying in a guest house run by a Canadian and his partner. On Monday evening our dinner was roast turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables and cranberry sauce. Somehow, in the midst of everything else, they had managed to conjure up a proper Thanksgiving dinner. It was a much appreciated special touch.
Today we made the rounds of some key people, visiting the Canadian embassy, the CIDA office, the Teacher Education Division and the Minister of Education. These are all people who will contribute to the success of our project. I was especially struck by a comment made by Minister Wardak:
“People say that things are not safe. They are wrong. It is not safe not to have good schools. We are not waiting for security, we need education. We are building schools in very difficult areas, but we need them. The children are coming to them. And now we need teachers, well trained ones. It is only through teacher education that we can achieve this.”
I hope that our work will help to make a difference to education in Afghanistan.