Today is my 11th day here in Bamyan. It’s 8:35 in the morning and a beautiful day here. I have packed everything and sitting on my bed in my hotel room. I am leaving for the airport in half an hour. When my colleague and I were coming to Bamyan we booked round trip tickets with Partners in Aviation and Communications Technology (Pactec). They have flight to Bamyan on Sundays and Wednesdays. The problem is that I am going to participate in an innovation lab in Islamabad, Pakistan. After I bought the round trip tickets for flying back to Kabul on the 26th, I found out that my flight to Islamabd is on the 24th from Kabul International Airport. I tried to change my flight with Pactec to Sunday the 24th but I couldn’t do so. Then I met this lady from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) here in Bamyan and she said that I show up at the airstrip today in about 30 minutes to see if she could get my on an Embassy Air flight. It’s a funny way of flying somewhere. When I go to the dirt airport of Bamyan, I need to talk to the pilot and tell him about my problem and then they’ll decide whether I can get on it or not. I know it’s funny but if I get it it’ll be my first time in a helicopter. If couldn’t get on this Embassy Air then I will have to take the dangerous road tomorrow to make it to my Islamabad Innovation Lab on the flight the following day. Now I need to ask the hotel manager if I can bum a ride to the airport which about 10 minutes from my hotel. I hope I get on the helicopter flight today.
This is a convenience store owner right across from Bamyan University. Drinking tea in his “Love” glass.
Last Friday, Una and I went to Shahr-e-Gholghola which means the city of scream in Dari. It’s a beautiful old city ruins on top of a hill with a wonderful view of the whole city of Bamyan. We hiked to the very top of the hill and met a family. An old man came to visit Shahr-e-Gholghola with his children. He was a policeman who was stationed on top of this hill a few years earlier. Then on our way back down on the other side of the hill we came across a bunch of the cutest and very fun kids. They were all shepherds who had left their sheep behind and came to run down the hillside with me. The little kids were so tough that they ran down these really steep hillsides that Una thought that I shouldn’t try to run on as an adult. The screamers showed us around and explained to us the different parts of the Shahr-e-Gholghola. We explored some caves. We went into this one really deep and very dark cave where we couldn’t find the end of it. We saw a dead dog at one point and then made a U-turn and came out. They accompanied us all the way through to the end of the old city ruins. At the end the screamers asked us to bring them hard copies of the beautiful photos that we took with them.
They had told us that they would be by that hill whenever we come during the day. These kids take care of their sheep all day in a pasture by the hill and they never go home for lunch or anything. They have breakfasts and dinner. They are all one team and very fun together. They play together, run together and lead their groups of sheep together. They were wearing too little clothes in this harsh season in Bamyan. A couple of day later, Una and I printed the photos for them and took back to the city of screams where we had met and promised to meet again.
Una bought them a couple of blankets to keep them warm when they are out in cold. She also brought them some juice and cookies. We came to the city of screamers with all the stuff. We couldn’t find the screamers. I screamed the screamers names in the city of screams. I found one of them and then a couple of more. We gave them their photos and everything and said goodbye until next time.
From the plaque:
Shahr-e-Gholghola (“City of Screams”) is a fortified urban site dating from late Sassanian (6th c. AD) through to the Ghorid period (12th-13th CC.). The citadel on this hill site was the heart of the Islamic city of Bamyan following the decline of Buddhism here from the 8th century AD.
Shahr-e-Gholghola is believed to have been destroyed by the Mongols under Genghis Khan, who invaded it in 1221 and massacred all the inhabitants. The site’s name is said to date from this massacre.
When my colleagueUna and I arrived in Bamyan University (BU hereafter), we met with the deputy chancellor of the university in the afternoon since the chancellor had been to Kabul for his health checkup. As I explained in my earlier blog, we did a needs assessment survey of BU back in April of this year and then we were able to raise some funds for their internet, solar power and computer labs facilities. We arrived here on October 12th, 2011. The following day, we presented a more detailed overview of the following 10 days of training and equipment installation to the university staff and the students. Since I am giving a training in the open source, OpenStreetMap and Crowdmap, I presented a little information about those two. Una is training the university students and some professors in social media. She talked about what she plans to teach the trainees. Today was the 16the and the second and last day of OpenStreetMap training. I enjoyed teaching the students and professors to use smart phones to collect gps data and to work around OpenStreetMap. It’s 11:05 and as I am typing I am sitting in the restaurant of the hotel that I am staying in (for better internet connection) and Una is working is putting finishing touches to her presentation on social media training for tomorrow. After 2 days of social media training, I will have another 2 days of Crowdmap training with the university students and professors.
This is from Thursday at Bamyan University. We are making an inventory list for the equipment that we have brought with to the university in our Bamyan University project (more details in my previous blog). Professors Joya and Motamid are helping me with it. Professor Joya has got his master’s degree in Education and Language Learning from Indiana University. I love working with Bamyan University staff.
We were sending all these equipment from the capital Kabul through Parwan to Bamyan which has been a very dangerous way lately. There have been several kidnaps and robbing. I have a smart colleague who put all the 40 laptops and smart phones and internet modems in these metal trunks and locked them all. We rented part of this big Russian truck that regularly makes trips to Kabul from Bamyan and brings back supplies to the stores of Bamyan Bazaar. They put all these trunks in the back of the truck under other supplies so that any potential robbers on the way wouldn’t see it. Everything made it to the university alright and before us.
We labeled all the laptops and the smart phones and recorded their serial numbers on a spreadsheet. I asked Professor Abidy, our main contact at the university to get batteries for the label maker. He brought the AAA Chinese batteries with a brand name of SQMY which looks like Sony with the first glance. The life of the batteries was from turning the label maker on to typing “A-1″ and pressing print button. They died. We had to walk to Bamyan main bazaar, about 10 minutes from the campus to get good quality Energizers.
One month ago less than a dozen of Taliban attacked Kabul city.
Look at all those bullet marks on one of the buildings that they hid in in the first photo. They were firing out of this building. This building is still under construction. It’s already very popular all over the country and worldwide. Nice name for the building. KabulAttack Plaza! They don’t need to rename it or do further marketing for it . Here is an interesting link: Taliban and NATO-led forces engage in war of words on Twitter.
When you are hiking in Afghanistan, don’t always rely on the white painted rocks. You should use your own bomb deters, too. Una and I were hiking at this supposedly demined area near the Buddha in Bamyan when we saw an unexploded bomb half buried in the dirt. Only the tail was sticking out and I almost almost stepped on it. It was twilight and I gave the nearby police a shout. They didn’t bother to come at first. Then Una took off her yellow sock and put it next to the bomb. Then we walked down to the police and told them about it. They said, “we’ll do something about it tomorrow.”
Back in April of this year, my colleague, Una and I came to Bamyan for a needs assessment survey at Bamyan University (hereafter BU). The university is located in the provincial center. The number of students as per last April was over 1700. Its academics are faculties of Education, Social Sciences, Agriculture, Geology. And faculties of Computer Science, Journalism and Health to open in 2012. We took a tour of BU’s old and new campuses. BU’s new campus that was under construction in our last trip is the most remote university I have ever seen. My colleague visited the girls’ dorm since I a man and not allowed into the girls’ dorm. Photo of thermal water heating system at the girls’ dorm: I was impressed by the young and talented faculty members of the university. They have been extremely helpful and friendly. The aim of our visit was to assess the electricity situation at university and then see how we could help. The university has big generators but the the donors who donated these generators to them did not think about the fuel costs. One of the biggest challenges for the university is their fuel costs for the generators. They have very limited funds for it and they can’t run them more than four hours a day. They need to run the four computer labs they have for the university students and the faculty from at least 8am to 4pm. Insufficient supply of electricity. Another mistake that the previous donors have made is that they donated desktop computers to them which require a lot of electricity. In addition to noting their electricity problems, we noticed that they needed more computer labs and internet for the overwhelming number of students. The new campus had no computer lab or internet when we visited. Another great challenge of the university was lack of local IT expertise. At the end of our 5-day survey at BU, we shared our findings with our big bosses in Washington, DC. Luckily, they were able to fund two computer labs for the university with a total of 40 energy efficient laptops, a complete solar system for the two computer labs and internet for one of the two labs. My colleague and I were also able to raise some money to finance two professors from Bamyan University and a few more people from other organizations to attend a 2-week intensive training on website management in the capital, Kabul which ended last Friday. Here we are again we arrived in Bamyan yesterday morning. We came here a few days ahead of the solar engineers to train the university students and the staff in a bunch of tech tools, social media and mapping tools and apps. There was also money budgeted for 15 smart phones that we purchased in this project. It’s important for the students and the professors of social sciences department and others to learn how to use them when they are training in social media and mapping. We had a brief meeting with the deputy chancellor of BU late afternoon yesterday and we’ll discuss our schedule for the training and an overview of the plan with them in more detail later this morning. They will also help us to identify students for the training today. My awesome colleague asked them to keep in mind gender balance in identifying the trainees. They’ll be trained in four different things: 1. Starting on the 16th, 2 days of OpenStreetMap training which I will be giving (Bamyan on OSM will hopefully look like Jalalabad on OSM one day). 2. Then 2 days of social media and blogging training that Una will be giving. 3. After that 2 days of training in Crowdmap (an Ushahidi initiated platform for disaster response and reports). 4. And finally when the solar engineers arrive on the 21st of October, we’d like the trainees to be present there and see how they install the solar gear and the computer lab. It’s 2:45 in the morning and I need to get some shut eye. But please look at the photo blog of Una about our yesterday’s wonderful trip: Transitionland.wordpress.com/back-to-bamiyan/
I was in Dara-e-nur district of Nangarhar yesterday. It’s a very remote district in the middle of nowhere. All mountains. I saw this guy who was riding on his motorcycle along with three other friends. I asked them, “why are you four people riding on one motorcycle?” They said, “it’s democracy.” You do what you want and feel like doing.