Tais 28 August 2014: What is Your Dream?

The school is supposed to start at eight in the morning, and to finish at twelve. But none in this Papua New Guinean coastal village have clocks. Including Madam Singai, the only school teacher in the village. Nevertheless, she knows perfectly when she should start her class. That is when she has finished the cassava cooking and baby feeding in her house, and when she believes the sun is high enough. She then roams around the village, shouting all her students’ names. Dozens of barefooted students then resemble a parade of obedient ducks, follow her to the school hut at the end of the village. Madam Singai also knows when to finish her school. That is when most of her students make so much of noise, crying because of being hungry, or because of her own stomach produces noise calling for lunch. After gathering the students, Madam Singai is ready for the class today. The classroom for the Grade I and II students. Centipedes disrupted the class. Of course once in a while Madam Singai thinks how much better life would be if she could split herself into two. She alone has to take the responsibility of all of the [...]

May 6, 2015 // 4 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Jam Istirahat | Rest Hour (Kyrgyzstan, 2006)

Rest Hour (Kyrgyzstan, 2006) School boys in Toktogul, a small town in Kyrgyzstan, are playing in the school playground during rest hour. Ex-Soviet countries generally have high coverage of education. Even the poorest nations have illiteracy rate next to zero. The rural school in Toktogul have somehow adopted international system, receive Peace Corps volunteers and aid from Soros Foundation from the States, and their students also often win national-level awards. Jam Istirahat (Kirgizstan, 2006) Bocah-bocah sekolah di Toktogul, sebuah kota kecil di Kirgizstan, sedang bermain di halaman sekolah pada saat jam istirahat. Negara-negara pecahan Uni Soviet umumnya memiliki pendidikan yang merata, bahkan untuk negara yang paling miskin pun hampir tidak ada penduduk yang tidak bisa baca tulis. Sekolah desa di Toktogul ini bahkan mengadopsi sistem pendidikan internasional dan para siswanya sering meraih penghargaan di tingkat nasional. [...]

February 27, 2014 // 5 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Bahasa Inggris di Dusun | Rural English (Kyrgyzstan, 2006)

Rural English (Kyrgyzstan, 2006) Satina is an English teacher in Toktogul, a very small town (in Kyrgyzstan standard) in central part of the country. The country is one among few Central Asian countries which accept Peace Corps volunteers from the States. Most of the volunteers were English teachers. Kyrgyzstan also received aid for education sector from the Soros Foundation. Every year or two, Toktogul receives one or two English teacher volunteers from the States, who then work together with local teachers like Satina. Their teaching material was imported directly from the States, full of up to date information and cultural background. America is no more too far away for them, even for those who live in forgotten rural villages like this one. Bahasa Inggris di Dusun (Kirgizstan, 2006) Satina adalah seorang guru bahasa Inggris di kota kecil Kirgizstan, Toktogul. Kirgizstan adalah salah satu negara di Asia Tengah yang menerima kedatangan relawan Peace Corps dari Amerika Serikat, mayoritas sebagai guru bahasa Inggris, dan menerima banyak bantuan pendidikan dari Soros Foundation. Setiap tahun, Toktogul menerima satu atau dua relawan pengajar dari Amerika, bekerja sama dengan guru lokal seperti Satina. Bahan materi pelajaran mereka berasal dari Amerika Serikat, lengkap dengan penjelasan budaya yang [...]

February 26, 2014 // 0 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Pelajar | Student (Little Pamir, Afghanistan, 2008)

Student (Little Pamir, Afghanistan, 2008) A Pamir Kirghiz girl studies Dari language in school tent in Little Pamir, which is the first school ever established in Pamir, in summer 2008. As there is not yet building and facility provided, the school is held in people’s tents and also nomadic following the movement of the nomadic tribe. Pelajar (Pamir Kecil, Afghanistan, 2008) Seorang gadis Kirgiz dari Pamir Afghanistan sedang belajar bahasa Dari di tenda sekolah, yang merupakan sekolah pertama dalam sejarah yang didirikan di Pamir Kecil pada musim panas 2008. Karena ketiadaan bangunan dan fasilitas lainnya, kegiatan belajar diselenggarakan di dalam tenda penduduk, dan juga berpindah-pindah mengikuti gaya hidup suku-suku nomaden.   [...]

October 18, 2013 // 1 Comment

#1Pic1Day: Menggapai Harapan | Grabbing Hopes (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006)

Grabbing Hopes (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006) School children from an elementary school in Langar are happily exercising in the school garden. Despite the isolation and economic backwardness of the GBAO province, education is always on top priority of local governments. The literacy rate is almost 100% and little primary schools are available in main villages. Menggapai Harapan (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006) Murid-murid sekolah dari sebuah SD di Langar, GBAO, Tajjikistan, sedang bermain di halaman sekolah. Walaupun provinsi GBAO terisolasi total dan tertinggal secara ekonomi, pendidikan selalu menjadi prioritas pemerintah daerah. Tingkat melek huruf hampir mencapai 100 persen, dan bangunan sekolah dasar tersedia di desa-desa yang terjauh sekali [...]

September 27, 2013 // 1 Comment

Kabul – School Inauguration

The President himself innaugurates the school A school inauguration in Kabul is attended by the President Hamid Karzai. In the situation when suicide bombing is rampant in the capital, violent attacks are getting common on Kabul streets, and foreigners are kidnapped, there should be something special that the Afghan President decide to inaugurate construction of a high school building. The Ghazi High School was among the oldest, famous, and historical schools in Kabul in its time. The school was originally built in 1923, just 4 years after the independence of Afghanistan from the British control. The civil wars in Afghanistan destroyed the school. In 1994 the school turned to be ruins with empty hollows and walls scattered by bullet holes. The school, the alma mater of current Minister of Higher Education Dr. Dadfar, hibernated. Today, American strip and stars flies proudly next to Afghan flag over a tablet written: “Ghazi High School – The foundation stone of Ghazi High School was laid by H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on 21st August 2007. The school was constructed through the financial assistance of USAID.” The costs of the reconstruction of the Ghazi School is millions of dollars [...]

August 21, 2007 // 0 Comments

Ashgabat – The Golden Age

“It is not real gold. Every year, in January, workers have to replenish the color. Is that real gold, then?” -Jeyhun, A student from Turkmenabat The Golden Man At this hazy day with some degrees of rain, the Ashgabat train station was full of people queuing for tickets. It was messy. There were 8 counters, all with a horde of people trying to be the first in front of the small window, where behind the glass, a Turkmen lady – the ticket seller, shouting harshly to the people. It was typical of ex-Soviet service. The ticket sellers are the kings. The buyers should be nice to be served. There were lockets for same-day departures, and pre-booking. I was queuing in front of a locket just to be told I should go to another counter for pre-booking. Another 30 minutes were wasted. The ticket lady said that all tickets for Turkmenabat for day-after-tomorrow departure were already sold out. Not gave up, I went to another counter for last try. I was worrying though, as the closer it was to Navruz – the Persian and Central Asian New Year – transports were hard to come by. The third ticket lady told me [...]

March 17, 2007 // 1 Comment

Kara Kul – Get Me Outta Here!!!

It;s beautiful. It’s surreal. But I wanna leave! I really regretted to refuse yesterday’s offer to take the truck lift to Kyrgyzstan. My Tajik visa is going to expire tomorrow (November 4) and I just found on Fridays (like today), transport is extremely difficult. The day is very cold and windy. I have to stand next to the main road, waiting for any vehicles. The first truck passes at 12 and it was full of passengers. The next two hours there was no vehicle at all passing the highway. Khurshid takes me to local stalovaya (canteen) and asks the girl to give me the best food. Khurshid promises to treat me, ‘a poor spion (spy) without money who has to travel on trucks’. I asked how much. The girl said, “Beker! Beker!” I jumped as I was surprised. This happened to be a fatal language misunderstanding. In Tajik Persian, the language which I understand, it means ‘no penis’. I explained to the girl that I had, but she only speaks Kyrgyz, and doesn’t understand my Tajik. Later I understood that it means ‘free of charge’ or ‘no cost’ in Kyrgyz. Khurshid laughed and ridiculed me, “I paid already with my [...]

November 3, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – Life in Murghab

A morning greetings from Murghab Murgab (Murghab) was promising when it was built. It was a new Russian settlement built as frontier city of Pamir. The highway connecting the isolated mountains to the lowland towns was supposed to bring wealth to the nomadic community. Life had changed ever since. A town was built on the top of mountains. People were educated. Frontier military checkpoints were enforced. But how is life now, after Tajikistan gained independence from the USSR and civil war took place in the new country? The hope of the future had turned to be a bad fate. I had got a chance to know Gulnara, a 54 year old woman working as a primary school teacher in Murgab. Gulnara is the younger sister of Khalifa Yodgor from Langar. But the last time she saw him was 2 years ago. “It is too expensive to go there,” said her. Langar is not too far from Murgab. It is around 250 km only, but the public transport there is very rare and expensive. At present, Murghab-Langar cost 50 Somoni/pax. Gulnara’s salary is only 80 Somoni per month. She hardly manages to feed her family with that money, needless to say [...]

October 31, 2006 // 0 Comments

Alichur – Kyrgyz Community

The steppe of Alichur Actually I planned to stay for some more days in Langar, but I have heard that the transport onward to Murghab would be very difficult to get. This was caused by the high oil price, so people couldnt afford anymore to travel, and instead of going to smaller and hopeless Murghab they opted to bigger Khorog. Suddenly, even when I was not prepared yet, there was a passenger jeep going to Murghab on 27th. The khalifa told me if I didnt take this car, the next transport might be a month after. I had no choice but to leave Langar. The road continued to east along the river bordering Afghanistan. Afghanistan on that side of the river had no more motorable road as it already entered the Big Pamir area. Sometimes caravans of Bactrian camels were visible along the dirt road on that side of the river, while we were travelling in a russian jeep. World differed more than a century in the two sides of the river, which was very shallow and narrow in winter. It should be very easy to cross the border illegally here. The camel caravan must be the Afghan (Pashtun) traders [...]

October 28, 2006 // 0 Comments

Vrang – Life in Vrang

Green, peaceful, and lazy … Vrang Travelling in Tajikistan side of the Wakhan Corridor was as difficult as in Afghanistan side. Public transport was rare, the oil price got higher as the altitude got higher. It was 3.50 Somoni per liter of petrol here. No one was sure when the coming transport would come. And even when it came, it was often full, no space to share. It was indeed luck to be able to travel according to what one has planned. I was patient enough even though I worried about my short visa. Dr Akhmed was a doctor in Tughoz. I was waiting for transport to Vrang, 5 km away from tughoz, in his hospital. As the main doctor in this village, he earned only 50 Somoni per month. You would go nowhere with that amount of money in Tajikistan. But everybody was optimistic with his life. Working with little income was still better rather than begging on the streets. I have heard beggars in Jakarta could earn at least 60 dollars per month, about 280 Somoni, or 4 times higher than Dr Akhmed’s income. You need a lot of money and bunch of patience to travel in Tajikistan. [...]

October 25, 2006 // 0 Comments

Ishkashim – Bodurbekov Family

Alisher (a.k.a Muhammad Bodurbekov) with his cousin “Now you are not guest anymore. You are part of our family. Welcome!” – Muhammad Bodurbekov Since the first minute I arrived in Ishkashim, I was impressed by the hospitality of the people in the Wakhan Valley. I was invited by Muhammad Bodurbekov, 29, to his house in the village. Muhammad, alias Alisher, worked in Dushanbe in Aga Khan’s NGO, MSDSP. He had classes in Khorog and he then had chance to see his family in Ishkashim. He spent a month in the UK for his higher education, and he still maintained his British accent. Alisher was an educated professional and he had so many things to discuss. So before starting, let’s sit on the ‘kurpacha’, the guest welcome matress, which Alisher laid between the pillars of Ali and Muhammad. Sitting on the kurpacha symbolized the acceptance of the welcome gesture from the host. In this house there were Alisher’s father, mother, sister, and some nephews and nieces. Alisher sister was married already but she was staying in her parents’ house. She was married to a man from Shegnon and according to the Shegnon tradition, the first child should be born in the [...]

October 22, 2006 // 0 Comments

Istraravshan – The 2500 Years of History

The 2500 years of history, Istaravshan Tajikistan has to dig up very deep into its glorious past to emphasize its identity. Tajikistan had to leave behind its historical luggages, as the Persian Tajik civilization centres, Samarkand and Bukhara, were handed to Uzbekistan by the Soviet government. Among what was left now, it was Istaravshan to testify to glory of this tiny country’s past. Istaravshan is located about 280 km north of Dushanbe, after passing two high passes of Anzob and Ainy (Shakhristan), both are higher than 3700 m. The passes are covered by snow in winter, making it’s impossible during the period to travel overland from Dushanbe to Khojand – the second city of the country. The only possible transport by that time is by flying. Along the way there were many Chinese workers on road and tunnel construction projects. They navigated the tractors, measured the parameters, and broke the stones. I did really wonder why it was so necessary to have all Chinese workers to do the projects. “Tajikistan doesn’t have sufficient technology,” said fellow passenger in my taxi. But is that essential to have international workers just to break the stones with hammers? Maybe the Chinese contractors didn’t [...]

October 14, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – A Night in Student Dormitory

Rainbow in Tajikistan I went early to the Kyrgyz embassy just to find that the embassy only opened one day in a week, that is on Tuesdays. The embassy itself is well hidden in the alley, long way from the city center. It is next to a medicalcampus of the university Teby. When I was asking direction here and there, I met this boy. His name is Alyourov Bakhriddin. He is a medical student in the second year. He is an Uzbek boy from the northern town of Istaravshan, about 200 km away from Dushanbe. Bakhriddin has a Russified Islamic name. The names of Uzbek and Tajik were following the same pattern as those of the same ethnics in Afghanistan, but since the Russian occupation, the names of the people also consist of 3 parts: imya (name), otchestva (fatherly name) and familia (family name). The father’s name (otchestva) has ending –ovich for males and –ovicha for females, and the family name or grandfatherly name has ending –ov for men and –ova for women. Thus the Tajik president, Imamali Rakhmanov Sharifovich, hasname Imamali, is the son of Sharif and grandson of Rakhman. The Russians follow the pattern: imya – ochestva – [...]

October 9, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Tajikistan, First Impression

Just across the river border, even the grilled meat looks very different, despite of the same name, kabab. Oh, it also gets a Russian name here, sashlik. Before actually physically stepped on the country, I had heard, and seen Tajikistan when I was still in Afghanistan. It is the country idolized by many people in the Badakhshan province. It is the country of freedom, flourished by goods, electricity, and public services. It is the country where women can walk on the streets freely without fear of not covering properly. Now, I am in Tajikistan, seeing and experiencing what man of the northern rural Afghans dreaming about. But for me, Tajikistan is not about dream. According to a reference, the average salary of the people in the country was only 61.81 Somoni (US$ 19.93/month, 2005) and average pension was as low as 16.92 Somoni (US$ 5.23/month, 2005). Life cost is not cheap at all, at least in Dushanbe, compared to the low income statistics. Long distance transport was incredibly expensive, comparable to Afghanistan, as oil costs almost 1 US$ per litre. 93% of Tajikistan’s land is mountains, making it only 7% inhabited and potential for agriculture. It has distinctive four seasons [...]

October 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Ghazni – From the Glorious Past

The glorious past has gone, forever The glorious past has gone Ghazni is the capital of province of the same name, located north of Zabul province on the Kabul – Kandahar highway. The altitude of slightly more than 2000 m guarantees the temperature in Ghazni is cool. At this moment, Ghazni is among the riskiest provinces in Afghanistan, where Taliban attacks happen in regular basis in the districts of the province. But as everybody tried to convince, the city is a safe place. Shehr Ahmad Haider is a Pajhwok journalist covering the news of the area. His office is a tiny office in a hotel near the bus station to Kandahar. There are two computers in his 3 x 5 m room, and his main weapons of getting news are: two sets of mobile phones and a desktop phone. He never meets Taliban, despite that most of his news dealing with Taliban. Interviews are done through phones. But he is not idle. In fact, to get at least five news per day he has to make many telephone calls and some visits to the Internet Cafe, the only one in the city and costs beautifully at 70 Afs (1.40 US$) [...]

July 16, 2006 // 1 Comment

Peshawar – Afghanistan Miayam

The guys in Afghan consulate in Peshawar My trip in Pakistan is about to finish, the six months of time, seemingly long enough, is still not enough for me to visit even all of the provinces of Pakistan. And I still feel very hard to leave this country in very near future. But the journey has to go on, and the next trip is Afghanistan. Afghanistan Miiayam, in Farsi means Afghanistan, I’m coming. I have got the visa easily from its consulate in Peshawar. It cost 1$ per day, and I applied for three month visa which cost me 90$. Mr Rasuli, the visa officer, said that the visa started from the date of issue, but it seems that after confirmation with other traveller, the visa started from the date of entry and not the date of issue. I think that there is even miscoordination between the government and the visa officer of the country. I picked my visa at 3 pm. There were to Afghans sitting, also waiting for their passports. One of them thought I was from Afghan (I dressed in shalwar qamiz) and the other was sure I was foreigner. Then to make confirmation they started to [...]

June 5, 2006 // 2 Comments

Umerkot – A Failed Nation?

May 15, 2006 Giving understanding to the people and the leaders is a main task for the development programs here Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat is a small NGO in Umerkot dealing with the welfare of the people in the rural areas of Umerkot, bordering with the vast Tharpakar connecting this interior Sindh with Rajasthan and Gujarat in India side. This part of Pakistan had quite a substantial amount of Hindu people, and especially in deep desert, the rural villagers were mostly Hindus from the lowest caste. Umerkot itself had a glorious history as the birthplace of a Mughal king, Akbar. The town had a very ancient fort, but not much was left from the ruins. Parkash, a friend of mine, was working in this NGO with a teamwork which consist of people from the two religions: Muslims and Hindus. They work together without any problem. Religions had never been problem here, as people from both religions respect each other and live harmoniously. Beef was even not served in restaurants here, as about half of the population were Hindus and the Muslims respected their diet choice. Neither pork (as everywhere in Pakistan). The NGO was planning to held a health session [...]

May 15, 2006 // 0 Comments

Bahawalpur – The Christian Community

May 7, 2006 Father Nadeem Joseph That morning, 28 October 2001, just few minutes before 9, the Christian Protestant devotees were just finishing their weekly mass. The church was a Catholic curch, St Dominic Church, in the Model Town area, a well-to-do area in Bahawalpur. The Protestant were allowed to do mass here, with the concession with the Catholic fathers. They were given the morning shift, from 8 to 9. The mass has just almost finished, the pastor walked toward the gate, and the people following him, ready to receive blessing. Suddenly two strangers with machine guns came through the door, splashing the bullets from their weapons to all directions. The hungry bullets flew to the breasts, legs, chests, women, children, men, everybody. The casualties was not few, 16 people killed by the firing. This was the first in Pakistan history of brutality against Christian minority. But it was not the last. The church is a small building, very simply decorated, with only three rows of benches in both male and female quarters. Most of the spaces given to visitors were matrass. The devotees sat on their knee while delivering their prayers here. In Urdu, church is “girjah”, sounds quite [...]

May 7, 2006 // 0 Comments

Noraseri – From the Rubbles

Tent school February 27, 2006 The discussion about Playboy magazine somehow had brought strange dreams to me. I dreamt of some Indonesian girls wearing traditional transparent kebaya dress, unbottomed, half-naked, and … . Hmmm …. Somehow, living too long time in Pakistan had made me more wilder in sex fantasies. Next to our camp there was a rubbles of collapsed school building. There was another blue tent with huge Chinese characters: For Disaster Emergency Use. This is the temporary school tent for the students. The students started their class at 8:45, singing a chorus outside the tent, and then got into the big blue tent. Today I started to visit the project of the NGO with Mr Ijaz Gillani and Mr Manzoor. Our NGO, an NGO from Denmark, bearing the name ‘Danish’which might be hated by the fundamentalists due to the red hot Danish cartoon issue. We prefer to spell ‘Danish’ as DUN-NISH, to avoid misunderstanding, as ‘Danish’ with this spelling is a popular Pakistani name as well. The NGO project is to build 500 shelter homes in these mountainous areas. Now some projects were finalized and our work was to make documentation of the homes. The track up the [...]

February 27, 2006 // 0 Comments

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