In the Shokh Dara Valley lies beautiful Roshtqala.  I took two day trips out to Roshtqala and it’s a pretty easy and cheap commute from Khorog.  The first trip I took was with Kame and we IMG_0118traveled in a horrendous and uncomfortable ChangHe Motor furuida special.  These wretched makeshift mini buses fly by in what seems to be first gear along the roads leading in and out of Khorog busing people to and from villages.  Some pay, others don’t I couldn’t wrap my head around how the system works.  I saw a boy not older than 10 driving one of these around Roshtqala.   Roshtqala means Red Fort and we trekked up to the ancient fort overlooking the ramshackle village.  Some locals decided to be our guides and showed us up trying to explain with charades what the fort was all about.

It was a stunning setting with the autumn bloom and we wandered about the village smiling at locals.  We were invited in for chai by a lovely family who treated us with such warm hospitality.  It felt like second nature and how things should be.  Why can’t we walk around a city and have people welcoming us in for lunch?  It was great to be fit and healthy again after being so violently ill in Khorog for a week.  I was so glad to see Kame again after he reappeared in Khorog at the guesthouse.  He had an adventure trying to hitchhike to Khorog, it sounded nightmarish to me!  He helped me get back on my feet and popped in to check up on me and feed me.   We brainstormed about doing the Wakhan Valley and Kame mentioned going through to Afghanistan…

The second Roshtqala trip I did was much later on with new found friends Hillary and Lauren.  Both bright and bubbly full-bright scholars were doing some field work in the village and after we met in Khorog I decided to accompany them.  This time we had the Aga-Khan Foundation Land Cruiser at our disposal and we headed for a local school in Roshtqala in comfort.  Being a teacher, I was naturally interested in the project on offer.  The US embassy was funding a project to run extra -curricular English classes after school to a select bunch of scholars.  Hillary and Lauren were interviewing candidates for the class.  We had a wonderful start to the day by greeting the candidates and English teacher.  We played some ice breaker games in the schoolyard.  It was a beautiful and cold day, there had been snow overnight and the school was pretty freezing.  We held the interviews and Hillary thankfully spoke Russian which facilitated things.  I tried to add my two sense worth, being in ESL for sometime now I could offer some guidance as to what level the students were at.  A few kids had really good English skills, but the majority had either none or had rehearsed their presentations too well.  When it came to question time, most had to answer in Russian.  The girls kicked butt, there were some strong candidates who seemed pretty good at English.  It was heartbreaking to hear the answer to some of the questions.  Most children had parents working as migrant laborers in Russia, so they lived with aunts and uncles.  Some hadn’t seen their fathers in years.  To think about what sort of work these desperate parents have to endure in Moscow is a horror story all together.  There seemed to be little motivation in terms of career choice, with most boys wanting to be taxi drivers, work abroad or farm.  The girls all wanted to be journalists and move to Dushanbe but mentioned they had to marry young.  At least there is access to tertiary education at the university in Khorog, where girls are encouraged to study alongside their male scholars.  I had a peek at the university and it’s first world stuff and an incentive for schoolchildren to at least further their education.


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