Thursday, July 18, 2002

Tajikistan - Relief Trip Experience

Learning more about what CADA does

Today was the day for the relief trip for Kelley, Angela and Ping. We were picked up early in two vehicles - Eric rode with Ping and Habib and Latif, Tajiks who work for CADA, and Angela and Kelley rode in a pickup with a driver and Sobir, another Tajik employed by CADA. Sobir explained some of CADA's work to us on the way up. He said that before Ping came, CADA focused mostly on providing relief freely to anyone they could. Unfortunately, this led to people abusing the system, or becoming dependant on the aid for survival. Ping started Food for Work and Clothes for Work programs, and he's really emphasized helping needy people find ways to support themselves. Sobir described the difference animatedly and was clearly excited about the improved approach.

Our first stop was at a huge area where there were many warehouses owned by the Ministry of Health and Medicine. CADA at one time rented four warehouses here, but because of lack of donations now only rents two. There is little food stored here now - it's primarily clothing and other supplies. There were some things stored there that CADA isn't sure what to do with - oodles of beef jerky, for instance. The people who've received it don't like it and don't know how to eat it - and it's very tough for them to chew. Ping talked about how much better it generally is to receive cash donations because the cash circulates in the local economy, and CADA is able to purchase items that local people can use best.

Sewing School

Once the truck was loaded we headed off. Our first stop was to a CADA pilot project - a sewing school. CADA is helping 10 or so young women learn to sew. They find or borrow their own sewing machines and bring them to a trailer-sized room where a sewing mistress (hired by CADA) teaches them how to sew. This is giving life skills and a source of income to women who would probably otherwise be destitute. The sewing machines we saw all seemed to be hand run - either by a wheel spun on the machine itself or by pedals underneath.

We next visited a school near the sewing training room. 700 students are taught in this building. The school had put in a request to Ping for refurbishing one of the classrooms for $100. Ping was open to the idea, but wanted an itemized list of what would be purchased with that money before he committed CADA funds. On our way out we realized that the women in the training school had set up a table and food for us near the door of the school. They were carrying bits of school furniture out to burn so they could make us French Fries. Although we were on a schedule, in Tajik culture it is very rude not to sit down, eat, and talk when you are offered food. So we had a lovely mid-morning feast with the Tajik schoolmaster (who left soon after he got there to get the list for Ping). The food was very good, although we avoided the vegetables. They were presented beautifully, but fresh vegetables are a prime way for delicate American stomachs to get sick in this country!

After lingering over tea and conversation (the Tajik way - although they probably thought it was hurried!) we moved on to a second pilot project. CADA hires another instructor to teach young men to be mechanics. So far this project also is going very well. No one has told them that their coveralls have girls names on them, and that's probably a good thing! While we were there Ping checked to make sure that the mechanics master was there and that all of the boys were present to learn.

The Relief Project... a little disappointing

We then moved on to the relief project. We stopped a community center where the distribution was to take place. There were no people there, though. Kelley and Angela went to have their first encounter with a squatty-potty, while Ping made inquiries. This was a clothes-for-work distribution, where people had worked for a specified time and were now due to receive clothing in payment. (Clothes are like cash here, so this is a great opportunity for them). Only the supervisor was here, and he told Ping that he could leave all of the clothing and that he would distribute it. Ping refused, because it is important to make sure that the individuals who earn it actually earn the clothing. He was very disappointed, because he had wanted to show us a distribution, but that simply wasn't possible with the situation as it was. He said that unfortunately, this kind of behavior is quite common in this work. We were disappointed somewhat, too, but realized that this was a chance for us to see how relief really works, rather than an idealized picture.

At this point the two vehicles parted ways. Habib went with the pickup back to the CADA warehouses to put the clothes back, while Ping, Eric, Sobir, Angela and Kelley returned to Dushanbe. We found a quiet restaurant where we could drink cold juice and water and rest from the heat and light for a while.


We then went to a mall that carries many souvenirs and items of Tajik culture. It was fun to ramble about and learn about the various items. It was great to have Sabir along, as he could tell us which things were truly Tajik, and which were more Russian, Iranian, or even Chinese. After purchasing a few things, we headed for home.

The Team Regroups!

Friday night, we were reunited with both the Hissor and Takob teams!! It was WONDERFUL! Everyone came to the team house (where Kelley, Angela, Misty and Kjirsten stay) for osh and other good food. A CADA cook came over with wood and made the food for us in the garage! Our main concern was that the Afghanistan border had been closed and the team that had been there for the past week would not be able to return that evening. We hoped that the border would re-open on Saturday (which it did) and that the team would be able to return safely to us (they were). It was fun to hear everyone's story. People had been healthy for the most part, although Jeremy was VERY sick for a full day on Thursday. He was feeling better on Friday and he came to the team house with the rest of the group.

As stories and pictures pile in, we will be adding them to the web site. Check back soon for more updates on the past week!

Inside one of the CADA warehouses. The bags to the left are all clothing. The computers on the right are awaiting distribution.

Outside of the same warehouse

Outside of the CADA warehouse. Those are bullet marks in the wall. During the civil war, Russian soldiers would execute Tajiks here.

The blue things on the left are diapers that were donated. Tajiks don't know how to use them, so CADA is trying to use them in maternity house.

Here's stuff that IS useful - medical equipment! Old dentist chairs, exam room tables, and crutches are all extremely valuable to this work.

Sabir, one of the Tajiks who works for CADA. He speaks English very well, so he was able to answer many of Kelley's and Angela's questions.

Young women sewing as part of the pilot project. Darkening the eyebrows is a trend from Uzbekistan that Tajik women have picked up.

More women sewing. Above them hang examples of their work. Many times they make children's clothing for practice so they don't waste material.

Outside view of the room where the women are learning to sew 
Inside a Tajik school near where the women were sewing. They are trying to replace the furniture with better quality stuff.

Silk worm cocoons. The fiber they pull from these pods is the silk. The season is done for now, but they gave us these to take with us.

Inside a classroom. They've asked Ping if he will give $100 to buy new furniture for this classroom.

Strawberry soda, nan, and Iranian candy sounds like a mid-morning snack to me! Later they brought out fresh vegetables, tea, more nan, and hot fries!

The young men's mechanics training pilot. The uniforms are donated from the States, so here Ping is arranging "Amy's" uniform while "Sarah" looks on.

Budding mechanics, now all set for the picture

Angela's shadow taking a picture of a squatty potty! Why don't we have more of these in the US?

Habib (another Tajik who works for CADA) gave Angela and Kelley each a flower. This garden is outside of the Community Center.

A Dushanbe mall

In the mall - Kelley trying on a hat that would be worn by brides.

Ping and Sabir shopping for the best teacup and saucer

Osh! (yes, that's grease!) Tajike food is very good, but VERY greasy.

Building in Dushanbe. Windows need metal grates on them for security, but notice how artistic and beautiful they make them.

In the "Millenium" market. Yes, you CAN get Pepsi in Tajikistan!

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Tajikistan - Wrapping up Kids Camp

The End of Kids Camp

Today we wrapped up the kids camp. It's actually a four-day program, but the fourth day, Friday, the kids will go to the mountains for a swimming day. Angela, Eric and Kelley will go on a one-day relief trip with Ping, and Andrew, Shannon and the Lovetts will take the kids to the mountains.

We began our time with singing. It was Andrew's first time playing guitar in front of people and he did very well. Kelley and Angela had fun leading the singing for the kids. Then we did a skit. Justin was a regular guy and Kelley and Rachel were bad guys that tried to distract him with many harmful things. Angela was a good guy who came to his rescue. The kids liked it - "I want to see it again!" I guess they're used to videos that you can rewind and watch repeatedly! Rachel followed the skit up with a talk about resisting temptation and making good choices.

Then we had time in our small groups. The small kids made salvation bracelets and then played with play-dough. We next went outside for lunch and games before heading over to the Lovett's for more trampoline jumping, cold-water dunking and movie junking!


Later the Hissor team (Forrest, Misty and Denny) came back for one evening, in order to give a rest to their host family (who had been graciously hosting a team of 9 teachers for the week!). It was wonderful to catch up and swap stories.

After a bit of catching up, we joined a bunch of CADA workers for an update meeting where we sang and heard them share. It was great to hear about the amazing things they're doing in many areas of the country. Prison work, water purification, teaching English, and much more. It was great to hear their stories and learn how to think about them in the future.

We wrapped up the evening with a huge meal of stuffed peppers and potatoes (excellent!) and more updates from the Hissor team.
Singing with the kids 
Andrew, Kelley, and Angela helping lead singing

Kelley and Rachel trying to keep Justin from seeing Angela

Those bad guys don't stand a chance!

Kelley and Pam, listening

Eric with his buddies Kieran and Menke

Rachel giving the lesson

Kieran as a hammock

How did Adrianne get such long arms?!

Playing "Statues"

Having fun with play dough

Play dough cosmetics

Group shot of Eric and Angela's group

Group Shot II (ok, NOW you can be goofy!)

Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish, how many people can you cram in a Land Rover?

Kelley with her small group

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Tajikistan - We should have been elementary school teachers

Cross Cultural Teaching Experiences

Today was HOT! Not sure how hot, but it was more humid than it's been, and it was quite toasty! The kid's camp team had another neat day with the kids. Once again, we met at a school in the morning and later in the afternoon went to the Lovett's. The kids are very fun and lively, but they're also well behaved. Several of us who have taught in the States have remarked how nice it is to give an instruction and actually have it followed right away! Overall, this has been a stretching experience for Kelley, Eric and Angela as none of us have much experience working with small kids. Situations frequently arise where more experience in this area would come in handy, but we know that your thoughts and the care of our father are helping us make decisions and do our best.

The kids are trying to teach us to count - in German and in Tajik! German is the native language of several families represented in our camp. It's very fun to have them patiently repeat numbers that are so easy to them and that trip us up so easily!! They want us to get those from 1-10 so they can move on to the teens, but so far we haven't been terribly successful!

At the school where we're meeting, a Tajik woman has a bunch of kids that she watches. They like to gather around and watch us when we come out to the playground. Today Angela was taking photos with a digital camera. She took a picture of several of the kids, and then showed them the photo on the camera screen. They thought it was so funny to see themselves right away like that that they laughed out loud!

Shannon spent the day at an Afghan school - we'll get more updates out here for her when we know more!

Making Lesson Plans

After the kids left, Eric spent some time searching the internet for a song we want for a skit tomorrow. Angela and Kelley worked with Andrew on pulling together music for tomorrow. The couple that's been doing music for the morning music time in the camp can't make it tomorrow, so Andrew said he'd play guitar if someone else would lead. We're going to see if we can add some "soul" to a rendition of "I Have Decided", but we're not sure how that will be received! Hopefully the kids will like it and get into it!

Angela and Kelley's electricity was restored during the day today, so for supper they invited everybody else over for dinner. They made an American-Italian meal Tajikistan style! Pasta with tomato sauce from Iran (very acidic!), salad with vegetables soaked in iodine to kill bacteria, garlic bread from nan made without a broiler or a garlic press and juice in boxes! Eric, Ping, Johannes, Rachel and Justin showed up and stayed to watch _The Princess Bride_. No one quite made it through the whole movie - Kelley and Eric fell asleep! But they said they liked the food, so the evening wasn't a waste!

Friday will be a differently-scheduled day, where the kids will be taken to the mountains for swimming. Eric, Angela and Kelley (Shannon and Andrew will be here the entire summer, so they don't need this opportunity right now) will be heading off on a different adventure, so it will be left to the Lovett's and the other volunteers to run the show that day. (Think of them!)

Eric, Angela and Kelley will be taking a day-long relief trip with Ping. We're really excited about this opportunity to see up close a different aspect of CADA's (and our dad's) work in the country.

Good News!

We heard today that the team going into Afghanistan made it safely over the border yesterday. This is not a small thing, so we are very grateful. Apparently getting into the country means an hour wait at each border and even then entrance is by no means a guaranteed thing.

That's all for now, folks! "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as you were forgiven... live a life of love!"
Tajik kids and their caretaker
Tajik girls
Eric with some of his kids
Ki Ann thinking
Kelley with some of her kids
More kids in the playground
Kids in the school playground. Their heads are shaved when they have lice.
View from the school roof
Hydration is a good thing! Eric and Jenny. You can see our guard in the background.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Tajikistan - Going Our Separate Ways

The Team Splits Up

Today was our first day of being split into smaller groups. Because the internet is not available to those who will be going to Afghanistan, Hissor or Takob, updates and photos from those teams won't be available until the team members return. The Kids Camp folks are based in Dushanbe, so that's what these updates will focus on for now.

Kelley, Shannon, Angela and Eric are the team folks on the kids camp project. Anna, a girl from England who's here for two years and just came this spring is involved and Andrew, a North Carolina dude, is here for a month, so he's helping as well. The purpose of this "camp" is to help kids of international workers here in Dushanbe. The kids here haven't had an event like this put on for them before for them, so we don't have any precedents to follow (which can be good or bad!) In this case, it's fun and it sort of adds to the challenge of the project. We met with Rachel, Dave and Justin Lovett on Monday to discuss plans for today's planned activities. Rachel (Dave and Pam Lovett's' daughter) is the main coordinator for the week. Our theme for the week is "Duct Tape the Coo-coos" Ask a team member sometime to explain that one!

More on Shannon's Luggage

Shannon went to CADA during the day today to work more on tracking down her lost luggage. SHE FOUND IT!! It had been on at least three separate flights - one of them to Siberia - before arriving in Dushanbe. Thank you for your thoughts regarding her!! She was very relieved to get her clothes back.

Kid's Camp

For the camp we are meeting in a school that's not being used for the summer. We met the kids (about 22) there and got started for the day. The day included singing, a skit, a talk by Johannes, a time where the kids were divided out by age group, lunch, fun/play time, and a wrap-up meeting in small groups. Eric and Angela were in charge of the smallest kids, Kelley took one of the older girls' groups, Rachel took the other one, and Andrew took the older boys' group. It was all a lot of fun. Play/fun time was at the Lovett's, so the kids had a blast playing on the trampoline, in the pool (the water was VERY cold!), and doing a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt included a few team building activities including a trust fall and the knot game - everyone putting their hands in and getting tangled up, and then working to get themselves untangled. It was neat at the end of the camp time to meet many of the parents of the kids when they came to pick them up. As you probably imagine, the folks who willingly live out here long-term are interesting and come from a variety of backgrounds and countries.

We ended the day with a wrap-up meeting and a discussion of tomorrow's activities. Our skit tomorrow will be about different ways to talk to our best friend. We were exhausted at that point (how do you teachers do this every day??), so we had about an hour and half to rest and take it easy. Kelley, Shannon, Angela, Eric, Johannes, Rachel and Justin then went to a Korean restaurant for soup and had a great time being goofy and probably making the Tajiks there really wonder about us!

Starting to Fit In

It's been really incredible to see, in a bit clearer focus, what life is like for Dave, Pam, Rachel and Justin every day. The circumstances aren't the easiest, but they still are filled with joy and love for the people around them. Dave and Pam just had 22 kids tearing about their place and were able to join in, help out, supervise, and support the efforts of Rachel and the rest of us.

The Team House, which was shared by Kelley, Angela, Misty and Kjirsten, is now just Angela and Kelley's as KJ and Misty have headed off on their projects. Our phone isn't working properly (you can hear a dial tone, but it doesn’t pick up signal as you try to dial out. And you can hear it ring but you can't answer it!), and from around 7:30 this morning to the present (10:10 PM) the electricity has been out. The house is well equipped with candles, so it seems to be a fairly frequent occurrence! We're told that that's just the way things are in Tajikistan, so we're rolling with it (but also hoping it comes on before tomorrow morning so our milk is cold!

We are grateful and blessed to be here and to be having these experiences. Thank you once again for your thoughts - we can tell that you're thinking of us and it means a lot! Until tomorrow....
Rachel leading the kids camp
...and things aren't looking good
Kelley's group is all tied up in knots!
Ah! KiAnn found something!
Now David and Adrianne from the US and Ki Bahm from Korea are in hot pursuit of the next clue!
Joanna from Germany, Ki Ann from Korea, and Menke from Holland are looking for clues!
Now Shona from England does the trust fall!!
During the scavenger at the Lovett's - a trust fall!!! Joanna from Germany is giving it a shot!
Heading to the Lovett's, packed in the back of the Land Rover. Justin is obviously excited about the situation!