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Rita's Trip to Afghanistan
I left Munich on 3/21/05 and flew to Dubai. What an amazing place. Wealth everywhere. I stayed in Dubai until the morning of 3/23 and flew with Kam Air to Kabul. Sitting in the airport in Dubai, I kept thinking I should be scared, stressed or worried about flying into one of the most dangerous countries on earth for foreigners. However, I never felt that way at all. Flying through the valleys of the Hindu Kush Mountains was so incredibly beautiful that it made me cry. Rock columns and snow right outside the plane's window. Looking down from the plane, one would never think of all the wars this country and its people have endured. It looked all so peaceful from the air.

Landing at the Kabul airport makes one think of war. Old tanks and other machines used in the war are still rusting away at the airport beside the single runway.

Dr. Foushanji and lots of other people waited for my arrival at the airport. On the way to the Marco Polo restaurant, we picked up Roqia, Dr. Foushanji's wife. We ate and then I was taken to the Royal Continental guesthouse, which was my home for almost 6 weeks. I did have an attached bath with a hot shower, sink and toilet. I would learn fast about the electricity going out almost daily.

It was a new experience to see open sewers beside the street and trash everywhere, since there is minimal trash pickup. It was especially difficult to see so many kids who spend their lives begging. I was shocked to see children and adults eating the garbage that was brought from restaurants by wheelbarrow to be dumped right outside the park. At nights I would hear dogs fighting for food in the same place and in the morning birds would be pecking at the garbage as well. Each day the cycle replayed itself. First the people eat out of the garbage and then the animals. I wonder where all those wild dogs go during the day? I never see one during daytime.

The poverty is really overwhelming to see, since I had never experienced poverty like that.
Trip to Mazar-E-Sharif
In the beginning of April, Dr. Foushanji took me on a trip to Mazar. He picked me up with a driver at about 8 am. The driver was crazy, smoking hashish while driving. When he was not smoking hashish, he was smoking cigarettes. As we got near the Salang Pass we noticed more and more cars and trucks stopped. The reason for the backup was a blizzard at the top of the pass. We waited for over 4 hours until we finally were able to start driving with hundreds of other cars and trucks. The driver had to put chains on the old Corolla station wagon. A link was missing on one of the chains so he just tore a piece of cloth from his head scarf and tied the chains with that. It seemed crazy to me, however, it held the chains until we got to the other side and he could take the chains off. We ended up driving about 3 hours in the dark to Mazar, which is considered a bad idea, but we had no choice.

Mazar is less crowded then Kabul. The Blue Mosque is very beautiful. Like in Kabul, lots of people are unemployed, the scars of war are visible everywhere and people are very poor.

On the way to and from Mazar I saw small towns and villages weighed down by poverty everywhere. Lots of field work is still done by horse, donkey or oxen. It reminds one of the way farming was done in the early 1900's.

The trip back to Kabul was less stressful. The driver did not smoke and was very nice.
Trip to Logar
Medical care is a huge problem in Afghanistan. Dental and optical care is almost non-existent.

Another doctor came with Dr. Foushanji to take us to the province of Logar, which is about 50 miles from Kabul. The countryside in Logar looks very much like Wyoming, where I live. The "hospital" was shocking to see. It was just some beds, no operating room. I am at a loss for words when it comes to describing what passed as a dental office. Patients are only seen when medications are available. The toilets are about 150 feet from the "hospital."

Logar desperately needs a new hospital with about 25 beds. The area draws about 50,000 people. If Logar had a good hospital it would also help the hospitals in Kabul. Logar patients could stay in their own hospital and not have to make the long trip to Kabul. There is no ambulance. I have no idea how patients get to Kabul. I guess by bus, taxi or private vehicle.

I had lunch with the governor of Logar, General Lodin. He is a very nice man, who wants the best for his people. He told me if I could find a way to finance the building of a hospital, he would donate the land to build it on. Money is such a huge problem in Afghanistan. Very few Afghans have money. I told him I could not promise a new hospital, however, I would send him hospital beds and other hospital equipment. He received these items in October 2005, donated by Isabella's Little Miracles.

I would love to be able to finance the building material for a hospital; however, itís difficult to get big money donations.

After lunch, we heard a huge explosion. The next day I discovered that at that moment 4 Americans got killed when their vehicle hit a land mine. Logar, like most places in Afghanistan has many land mines everywhere. Westerners can't be warned enough about the risks of leaving the road.
Trip to Panjshir Valley
We took a trip to the Panjshir Valley, driven by General Dil. What an amazing and beautiful part of Afghanistan. The river, decorated on both sides by small villages, runs between the mountains. There is only one road which, like most roads in Afghanistan, is full of pot holes. The small fields looked so beautiful, framed in by stone walls. Because it was spring, all the fields had different colors of green, the future harvest, sprouting from the dark soil. We also went to visit the tomb of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, who was murdered on 9/9/2001. He was a friend of Dr. Foushanji's. Dr. Foushanji was the head orthopedic war trauma surgeon for the Northern Alliance.

The Panjshir Valley would be a great place for rafting or kayaking the river or hiking and mountain climbing. The big problem, like everywhere else in Afghanistan, is the horrid land mines. Anyone leaving the road risks death or mutilation from land mines.
Dr. Foushanji and his Family
I felt very welcomed by all the people in the family. There was always lots of hospitality, conversation and great food. His wife, Roqia, is an excellent cook. His four kids are very good kids and the 3 boys, who are in school, are very good students. Hadia, his 3 year-old daughter, just likes to play, like all kids at that age. She has cousins near, since her grandparents, uncles and aunts live very close by.
Dr. Foushanjiís Free Clinic
He shares a room with a pharmacist. He has in his area, about 5 feet by 10 feet, 2 chairs and a bed. He actually does surgery in this area, even though there is no running water within this building and the lighting is poor. When he needs to have an X-ray done on a patient, the patient has to cross the 4 lane road and walk to the hospital on the other side. At times, Dr. Foushanji even pays for the x-ray himself, since most of his patients have no money. He never asks his patients for money, he only takes it when offered. Nobody in the US could imagine receiving medical care like people in third world country receive.

I also want to thank Dr. Foushanji and Kamela Sediqi for all their volunteer work for Isabella's Little Miracles. I could not do this work without you.

Afghanistan has a mortality rate of women during pregnancy and child birth of about 15%. Itís difficult to think, 15 women out of 100 will die because they have problems with a pregnancy/delivery.

The child mortality rate is 25% before the age of 5. Hardily a family in Afghanistan has not lost a child.

Every 37 minutes a woman dies in Afghanistan due to TB.
Leaving Afghanistan
I flew back to Dubai on May 1, 2005. Itís amazing to think that in less then 2 hours of flight over incredible mountains and deserts, I left one of the poorest countries in the world and arrived in one of the wealthiest countries on earth.

The next day on my flight from Dubai to Munich, I looked down on Iran, hundreds of miles of bare brown mountains. Now and then I would see between those mountains small villages of 5, 10 or 15 houses. No road goes to those places. How many of these people are born, live their lives and die in those villages without ever seeing a TV, listening to a radio or even ride in a car. I was wondering if they are more or less happy then we are in the West? I guess they donít miss something they never had. They have no idea what a PC or email is. I also wondered if they look up and see my plane slowly moving across the sky, do they think about us on board? Do they wonder where we are from and where we are going?

This trip taught me to be very grateful for all that my family and I have in the West. We have medical, dental and optical care when we need it. We have sewers, electricity and running water. We have good hospital facilities and a 24 hour ER. We can call 911 and an ambulance with trained personal will arrive. Most places in the world donít have this luxury.

I want to thank Dr. Foushanji, his family and all the kind people I met in Afghanistan. Also, I want to thank the guards at my guesthouse for their kindness. I always felt well protected. I want to thank all of those who have helped me make Isabella's Little Miracles possible.

I feel that by building bridges to other people in other countries, those who have contributed to Isabella's Little Miracles, have helped bring a greater hope of peace among all people on this planet.


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