When I was repacking my little overnight bag this morning I came across this little battered ring, with it’s beautiful orange stone. It was given to me by a little Pakistani girl called Eshat, who together with her friends, Sumira, Bulchin, Amir, Ishti-ha, Sedirica and Shapira, won my heart when I got to know them in May 2013 on our visit to Wild Frontier’s charitable foundation school in Baleygon.
Here is my diary account of that day:
Dragging ourselves away from the Khaplu palace, with promises from Mr Abbas that he would let us come back to see the views from the roof when we returned, we set off mid-morning for Jonny’s WF charitable foundation school in Baleygon. The classroom has been built and supplied with wooden desks, but Jonny was clearly frustrated that progress at the moment is slow. Atta is his project manager – who Jonny tasked with finding an appropriate school in need of help a few years ago – and he is waiting for the authorisation he needs from the government, before the building work can be finished and two paid teachers employed. Seventy children greeted us with cries of welcome, and we entered the classroom where Jonny said a few words. I had the bright idea of showing the boys near me how to use my camera, and they took some lovely shots of each other.
When we went outside, I knew the moment was right to produce what turned out to be the highlight of the proceedings: Kit’s bottle of bubbles. As a friend of mine once said, the simplest solutions are often the best ones, and the bubbles were an instant hit, and a marvellous way for me to interact with the children. I sat on the concrete step with the girls all around me, and the boys swaying like the sea behind, and we took it in turns to hold the bottle and blow bubbles: the older girls, looking after the younger ones, and being quite gentle, whilst the boys were in too much of a hurry, and ended up wearing the liquid. I gave my camera to Riaz who had fun taking a series of pictures which I now cherish. I was deeply moved by the affection and trust shown by the girls, who put hair clips in our hair, and showed me how to tie my headscarf properly. We left the children and climbed a staircase for a picnic lunch in the house next to the school. When we came to say goodbye, Eshat, who early on slipped her hand in mine and hardly let go, insisted on giving me her little broken ring. It would be impossible to come here and not leave slightly changed, by the welcome we were given, by the buzz of the children, so happy to play like our children at home, willing to share everything, despite having so little.
Two years later Jonny is due to go back to Baleygon. I wonder if he will see my girls? I can’t wait to know how they, and the school is doing.
If you are interested in reading more about this spectacular region look no further than ‘When the Indus is Young’ by Dervla Murphy:
‘together (with her six-year old daughter Rachel) they make a mockery of fear, trekking through the awe-inspiring Karakorum mountains … they work their way up the perilous gorge carved through the mountains by the Indus, lodging with locals and eating, sleeping and bargaining with the Balts, who farm one of the remotest regions on earth’ Eland Press