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The death of Pat Eliot leaves a real hole in the world

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The death of Pat Eliot leaves a real hole in the world

The death of some people leaves a real hole in the world.  The death of Pat Eliot leaves just such a hole.

Although I have lost contact since I moved to Bodega Bay, I haven’t forgotten the effort she put in during our mutual stay in Afghanistan to improve the lives of the Afghan women, when theirs was a most difficult role.  She and I were in Afghanistan just before the Russians came. The 70’s were days of hope for the emerging country.  Little girls skipped down the sidewalk on their way to school.  Little boys played kick the can in the street in front of our house.

Pat Eliot realized that there was a huge visitor population during this period, and that none of the benefits were getting to the poor. Afghan women are excellent at handicrafts, but they had no way of contacting the large groups of European and American tourists that flocked to this largely-unknown country.  She got the expatriots to start a handicraft venue, where visitors felt safe to visit and to buy the unique handicrafts produced by the Afghans. She realized that they needed help marketing their excellent product. Since most of them lived in tents, yurts or very crowded homes, they had no way of laundering their wares. A beautiful white linen tablecloth needs to be laundered before putting out for sale.  This was very difficult when the women lived in small areas heated by bituminous coal, which left a dark residue.  Pat jumped in and set up a way for the women to bring their product to the staff house, or to the UN outpost, and get their product laundered safely and prepared to sell to the foreign community.  Only Pat really understood this unmet need, and jumped right in to remedy it.

Her husband, Ted Eliot (who was one of the best Ambassadors the US ever had—to ANY country) gave her support, but basically just stayed out of the way.  Since he had learned Farsi, he was invaluable in dealing with women who were not used to having men treat them with professional courtesy. Pat developed this market so well that tourists like the French would immediately ask to be taken to the shop with the beautiful handicrafts.  We bridged the gap of the various languages (the Russian embassy employees had no dollars so we worked out an exchange of Russian dolls, ceramics and particularly children’s clothes (they had no access to western children’s clothing—but had beautiful ceramics to exchange.) Pat set this all up.  Our world needs more like her.  I truly believe she could have handled Putin. The women would have worked it out. We will miss her.

 Joan G. Poulos, Bodega Bay