Afghanistan - are we really going???
OK, I must warn everyone that this will be a series of posts because there is just to much to say at one time about Afghanistan and Women for Afghan Women. I'll start with… I have wanted to go to Afghanistan ever since I saw a report from Diane Sawyer about the conditions women and girls were facing under Taliban rule following 9/11. I talked about wanting to go, but had no idea really how to do it. Afghanistan seemed so distant and different and I just couldn't get up the nerve to get on a plane and make the trip. That is until I met Sunita Viswanath, founder, board member and volunteer extraordinaire of an amazing organization called Women for Afghan Women. I've written about them in previous blogs. They do work on behalf of women and children in the United States and Afghanistan - bear with me and I will give you much more detail in coming posts. So the possibility of taking this trip started to take root immediately following the Women for Afghan Women annual gala in the spring of 2013. We, along with Maris Segal (Prosidy Creative Services), had volunteered to help organize some parts of their gala. Maris and her husband Ken, actually helped produce the event. One of their live auction items was a trip to Afghanistan to visit their programs which got us thinking. Maris, who is crafting the social outreach and marketing campaign for our play, and I had talked about wanting to go to Afghanistan before but it wasn't until after the gala that the talk got serious. After several months and lots of discussions with Sunita and Manizah it seemed like the impossible was becoming possible - we might actually get to go to Afghanistan! Dates were selected (the beginning of October), visas were obtained, plane tickets purchased and housing arranged. Unbelievably there was only going to be three people taking this trip, Sunita, Maris and myself - talk about a personalized/custom experience. As the date grew closer, there was the ritual of packing and unpacking clothes to get the combinations just right, filling prescriptions for malaria prevention, prepping still and video cameras and purchasing last minute necessities (a pillow for the airplane was a must). Maris and Sunita came up with a great idea to create a photography program for the kids at the Children's Support Center in Kabul. While Maris crafted the programs, I gathered cameras and SD cards to bring and leave with the children. Finally, it was time to go. I flew from Los Angeles to New York, spent the night. With Sunita as our guide, we boarded a plane from New York to Kabul. This sounds simple but throw in a stop in Milan and one in Dubai and you are looking at about 24 hours of travel just to get there. The flights were filled with conversation, movies, books and eating. Lots of eating. Considering the length of travel, it went by fairly quickly. I would say the most difficult time was staying awake in Dubai (a five hour layover) waiting for the flight to Kabul but we were all determined to power through to try to avoid jet lag. While landing in Kabul we passed a United Nations plane getting ready for take off and a large grouping of military planes. As we taxied to the gate, two military helicopters swooped over the plane - we were definitely not in the U.S. anymore. After a slight delay at the airport, we were ready to get on our way. Why is it that airlines always lose your bags when and where you need them most? Lost bag with all your clothes in New York - no problem. Lost bag with all your clothes in Kabul - bigger problem. Of course prior to taking the trip, Susan had told me not to put the cameras in checked luggage. I, of course, chose not to listen so the bag that went missing not only had all my clothes but all the cameras for the children's photography class. Susan you were right. Fortunately, Sunita was able to arrange for a driver to return the the airport later in the day to retrieve my missing bag. Shopping excursion for clothes in Kabul averted. Next post - WAW programs!