Berkeley legal assistant plans journey to Afghanistan

This news will undoubtedly be met with "Only in Berkeley!" comments:

"As a legal assistant in a law firm representing East Bay taxi drivers, Jane Stillwater built friendships with many Afghans who drive cabs locally. She found them warm and hardworking, kind and unassuming.

"Stillwater, a free-spirited woman who has lived in Berkeley for 40 years, felt at home among her new friends. Slowly, she also started learning about their faith and, after years of research and study, she converted to Islam a year ago.

"’I figured it would be the one thing that I could do that would really (upset) President George Bush,’" she said with a slight laugh. In all seriousness, she said she accepted the faith because it meshed with her core belief that life is about trying to be a good person.

"’The way I look at it … life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds,’" the 63-year-old said.

"Now, Stillwater is trying to raise money to do some good deeds in Afghanistan. This summer, she hopes to take a ‘reality tour’ of the country and support people in their reconstruction and peace-building efforts.

"On the tour, participants will deliver humanitarian aid to Afghan schools, hospitals, orphanages and refugee camps. They will visit with women at Kabul University to learn about their hopes and challenges. They will meet with landmine awareness groups and talk with journalists about efforts to createan independent press. "’I want to make America aware of what is going on in Afghanistan,’" she said.

"Stillwater, who has written a blog since 2000, plans to post her story when she returns."