Kabul, Afghanistan, is a city built for half a million people, warehousing nearly 6 million.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
That fact alone says much about how former Kansas City Council member Teresa Loar lived for the past year and a half.
Yet the citys inadequate sewer systems and scarce electricity became minor inconveniences compared to the threat of sniper fire, suicide bombers and the isolation of living where being a Westerner can make you a target.
The progress is so slow, and the security risks are so high, Loar said.
Loar worked on communications for Tetra Tech International, which was doing work on behalf of USAID. She lived in a compound with almost two dozen other staff, isolated by guards and strict rules about venturing out.
After leaving public office in 2003, her experience in understanding the processes of development led her to be recruited by an engineering firm.
She stressed that it was not the Afghan people who were to be feared. It was the mishmash of Taliban and other insurgents.
She is busy keeping up with her new Afghan friends on Facebook.
The harshest of her experiences came when a 14-year-old boy in a suicide vest rode a bicycle near their compound. He was heading for the NATO headquarters, but other children crowded around him first. The teenagers vest detonated. Four other children under the age of 10 died.
Loar knew all of those innocent children. She thought shed try to help by guiding the surviving children to talk through the trauma.
She received the lesson.
One little girl pointed to Loars photo of one of the deceased children and matter-of-factly stated, Hes dead.
War is just a way of life for them, Loar said. They have seen so much death.
She said many Afghans have lost parents, siblings and whole generations, first through the war with the Soviet Union, then in more recent fighting.
Add in harsh winters where children routinely die of exposure, and life becomes fleeting. Widows and orphans are common.
Loar said non-governmental organizations are overwhelmed by the degree of need. She questions infrastructure projects that the Afghans have neither the education to maintain nor the security to safeguard.
Build some houses, rather than a bridge, she counseled. Build shelter and more hospitals.
And schools. Loar believes education is the way forward for a country with an illiteracy rate of 75 percent.
Returned to Kansas City, shes happily reunited with her son, daughter and two grandchildren.
Shes considering her next career move. Expect it to be informed by her experience with nearly intractable poverty, unaided by the workings of a well-structured society.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to email@example.com.