Monday, August 31, 2009

Hello From Afghanistan

We've been blessed to be able to hear from Dad quite a bit. We are able to exchange emails frequently and occasionaly get phone calls. Isn't technology wonderful?! We love being able to hear from him so often and are so thankful he is doing so well. I've copied a few things from his emails so you can know what he has to say about his experience so far. The pictures and the emails from him come seperately and don't necessarily correlate. The pictures show some of the countryside, school children, and the village elders. It's a little bit long, but it is so interesting that I didn't want to cut any of it out!

"Lunch was rice, goat, flat-bread and melon (pretty much standard fare from what I have seen so far.) I love the bread and the goat is surprisingly tender and tasty. I think that they cook it in a pressure cooker to get it so tender. I will try and find a picture of one for you (the cooker, not the goat) they look a little bit like an old wine urn with a screw down top. They fill it up, screw down the lid, then heat it on the fire until done.
Things here are going well. We (the four person team I am working with) have found ourselves assigned in the eastern portion of the Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The location is very similar to Utah, inasmuch as we are located at the upper end of a very long high valley that is surrounded by several ranges of tall mountains (5000-10,000'+). The area has a large number of very small villages that have survived for many generations on an economy based around subsistence farming. They have had little opportunity to rise above their circumstances due both to the many years of war (this is one of the Provinces that led to the defeat of the Soviet invasion in the 80's) and also rampant corruption in the subsequent governments that have variously tried to control the country. The people seem industrious but not innovative, and their lifestyles today have changed little from what must have been the standards of thousands of years ago. The homes are built in extended family compounds surrounded by high mud/brick walls and house some 15-30 people. The families work closely
together, with the women shouldering the majority of the workload, carrying water from the river unless fortunate enough to have a well, searching for wood for cooking in their open hearths, and caring for the crops grown in small terraced plots cut into the mountainside. They grow primarily wheat (with winter precipitation) and then later corn and just a few simple vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes. They have no cold storage and anything not eaten quickly cannot be preserved. Modern conveniences such as automobiles and irrigation struggle to find a place in communities without roads, and in villages too small to field sufficient labor or organization to cooperatively build canals and reservoirs. Instead, burdens are carried by donkey, and water by buckets. While many used to be able to receive good educations, including degrees in engineering, the years of war have almost eliminated that, and now a "high school" diploma might only represent 8 or less years of sub-standard schooling.

Our role here is to support the local government and work to stabilize and secure the area. We are working closely with the Districts and Province to help them gain the respect and support of their populace. Some of the means we are using is development projects to build roads (a "road" sometimes being very similar to a dirt farm road wide enough to allow one vehicle as opposed to the single or double track trail currently in place.) We are also developing small water driven generator projects t
hat will provide limited electricity for a light or two and hopefully some means of cold storage. Another favorite is called "pipe schemes" in which water is brought from a spring or river through a series of rudimentary pipes to allow a single spigot on a 3/4" line to reach homes in the village. All of this work is done primarily by hand, including the road development, with the labor force consisting of men and boys of all ages. They have their own tempo also, and it is not too fast paced.

The FOB (Forward Operating Base) here has all the basic amenities with my favorite being the hot chow and the cold ice cream! Living and working from tents and sleeping on a cot is just fine and the Army has been nice enough to provide some rudimentary air conditioning which has brought the temp in my sleeping tent down into the 80-90 range. On the plus side, the guys working in the valley below us are enjoying temps well over 120 and reportedly reaching 140 in the month of August! We also have a small chapel here and believe it or not, enough of us to get together for LDS services. Last week there were three of us, and yesterday we found we had grown to five.
I hope to enjoy each day for what it is and for what it brings. It is not doing what we love, it is loving what we do and seeing and recognizing the Lords tender mercies that are all around us. The ways that He will touch our lives is endless and far exceeds our ability to appreciate.
With all my love, Russ"

1 comment:

  1. Jes,
    Thank you SO much for posting that. It's nice to get perspective on things and really be greatful for what we are given. Please tell your dad and your brother thank you for the sacrifices they are making. I know it has not been easy on your family.
    God Bless all of our soldiers!