CHAPTER ONE: THE HINDU KUSH
Off in a taxi and made the usual switch in Puli-Khumri.
It was an uneventful ride until we came to an avalanche just before the Salang. –Jo Carter
Jo set her bag in the dust, among blades of grass worn thin by countless footsteps. A spindly row of trees cast elongated, early-morning shadows across the taxi bazaar, but already, passengers were queuing up.
A driver waved her forward. “Kabul?” He raised his eyebrows and nodded reflexively, eager for one more fare and a full payload. “Zut zut shodan!” —Hurry, hurry! “I have one seat left.”
Jo had done this a dozen times. It was another routine trip, but a reprieve nonetheless, a welcome break from teaching five and a half days a week. She climbed into the back seat of a sedan, a dusty, Russian-built Volga.
Three Afghans immediately crowded in after her, and she slid all the way across, to the far door. Three more Afghans fit themselves into the front, the one next to the driver wedged tightly against the gear box.
At least there was no one in the trunk. No last-minute traveler had pushed his way through the bazaar, shouting above the noise and confusion to get the driver’s attention, wanting to haggle for a reduced fare. Jo had seen it often: passengers climbing into the shadowy recess, their grins reminiscent of a Cheshire cat as they grabbed hold of a little handle on the inside of the trunk lid and pulled it down. But not today. No one was interested in riding to Kabul in the trunk of a car. The trip was five hours at best, and temperatures would be freezing in the high mountain passes.
An American Volunteer in Afghanistan…a nursing school for Afghan girls…the Cold War…life before the Taliban…and a story that rivals the excitement, intrigue, and suspense of any novel.
Jo’s narrative is a reminder of when our country was truly great;
when generosity, sacrifice, and acceptance were part of our national vocabulary.
Little Women of Baghlan:
The Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban
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