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The state of Herat

PRT Herat | Day 28 – I love my father and the embroiled conversations that erupt between us sometimes. I cherish the moments where we disagree and we go back and forth on various facts and ideals. I haven’t always listened to him, but over the years I’ve learned that we may not always agree, but his opinions are always based on some founding principle. 

Since being out in the field with Ken, I haven’t had many opportunities to talk with my father. The time we did get to chat he told me how he had to disconnect himself from this project because he felt as though he was getting too involved. I assured him I wanted him to participate as much as possible in this project, but to also learn from what we are learning out here and not to get stuck in the mud. I’ll admit, the one trait that flows through all Gallahans, is being stubborn. We’ve mastered it.

One of my father’s hallmark arguments against Afghans is he doesn’t understand why they don’t stand up and fight for themselves. Why don’t they build their own country? Why don’t they take the initiative as early Americans did and kick the Taliban out? As much as I would like to copy and paste our conversation on these topics, it’s very lengthy and filled with politics, which aren’t the purpose of this blog.

I learned something today, which I believe answers why Afghans aren’t building their own country. The answer is simple; In Herat, they are. I learned today the Afghans built their own industrial park next to the airport, although there’s an Italian provincial reconstruction team in town, which pumps more than $46 million a year into various projects around the province. They didn’t ask anyone for help, they didn’t look for money, they just built it. There are around 80 businesses in there.

The Herat government is also about to issue guidance asking everyone to buy and sell only Afghan products. They don’t want businesses to sell products from other countries anymore. They want Afghans to buy Afghan products, since they are available and help build the economy. Will this guidance immediately affect the local markets? Who knows, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The lesson I learned from this is given security, Afghans will work to build their country. It’s the whole security mess that needs to be brought under control and then I believe the rest of Afghanistan will catch up to Herat.

I also learned Herat isn’t perfect. The areas filled with huge pine trees, beautiful gardens and big houses are in the minority. A lot of the city is still slum like. The electricity is from Iran and Turkmenistan and there are only a few areas with sewage systems. Most of the city still uses a crude system where a truck comes by every now and then and people dump their presents inside.

There is hope though, an Afghan man told me water is readily available and I saw people on the street repairing sidewalks and there were road signs posted everywhere.

When I was talking with him, I notice he was wearing a soccer jersey so I asked about organized sports. He said he loves volleyball, but there aren’t any intramural teams or leagues within the city, but he plays all the time with his friends. When we first arrived, I saw a soccer match with teams in different colored jerseys, so the game must have been hosted by a school.

I had the opportunity to talk with him because Ken and I were traveling around with the Italian PRT. We went to check on various projects they’re managing and attended a ground breaking ceremony for a women’s business center. I keep hearing about the mosque in town, Herat Castle and minarets. I asked whether the PRT goes down there so we could talk about them a little bit, but they aren’t while we’re here. An internet search would bring up some great information though. One of the greatest aspects of this country is its rich history.

Tomorrow, Ken will have an incredible vlog for you. It's going to be a powerful story and one that I have thought long and hard about double covering. For as badly as I want to express the stories of those intimately involved, I know how powerful seeing the story can be and I want to give Ken room to really flex his story telling muscles. Plus, there's something I've been wanting to write about and tomorrow sounds like a great day.

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