The women of Farah Province waited impatiently in the Governor’s guesthouse for the arrival of Chiang Eikenberry, the wife of US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who was visiting Farah for the first time to attend a luncheon in her honor. “This is the first time I ever heard of a foreign visitor who wants to have a special meeting with Afghan women,” said Pari, a woman participating in ceremony. “I am delighted to see an Ambassador’s wife in Farah.”
When Mrs. Eikenberry entered the room, she greeted the women with the traditional “Salaam alaykum,” and each guest stood to introduce herself. Mrs. Eikenberry, wearing a gray dress with a white scarf, talked about how smart Afghan women are and how good they are at their work. “I tell Afghan men to be sure to see how beautiful the women are behind that scarf,” she told the group, adding that she was visiting different provinces in hopes that the women would tell her about problems they would not be comfortable discussing with a man.
The women told the ambassador’s wife one of their biggest problems is that the girls’ school is not big enough for all the students, and more than half of them must study under a tent, which is particularly difficult and uncomfortable in hot weather.
“In the summer, it is very hot in Farah,” said Homera Ayoubi, the school’s principal. “Sun beats into the classrooms, and the only way our students can cool off is with hand fans. In winter when it is raining, the classrooms are wet and wind whips right into the classroom, which makes it hard for the teachers and students.”
Mrs. Eikenberry promised the women that she would ask the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the governor of Farah to provide funds for a school building for women.
Then she told a sad story. “A soldier was killed in Afghanistan,” she said. “I went to the Bigram Airport to be there when his remains were sent home. The soldier’s commander told me that the young man arrived in Afghanistan last December. His wife gave birth to two daughters in February, and he had never seen them.”
The story shows that we all have problems, even those who leave their homes to come to Afghanistan to help us.