Days 12-13 – Jirga Lockdown and Working Blue, 4 June 2010

It’s Friday. The jirga ends today but we are still locked down. Security is awaiting for information that will let us travel. Friday is everyone’s normal shopping and restaurant day. But as they say, discretion is the better part of valor.

1. SUICIDE BOMBERS. I had a conversation with an Afghan about poverty. He mentioned that a relative or a friend was involved in a suicide bombing years ago. The bomber didn’t believe in or support the Taliban. He was desperately poor and the Taliban offered him a great deal of money to do a suicide bombing. It was the only way he could envision taking care of his family. I guess this is why we need to attack poverty.

2. FLIP FLOPS. I use a shared bathroom. I am pretty much the only who uses it but there is often water on the floor and I can’t always trace its origins. So I went to the Finest Supermarket to purchase a pair of flip-flops/sandals. (For you New Yorkers, I was hoping it was an old school Finast but it’s not.) There are various sandals and flip-flops there but nothing in an 11 1/2 or 12. A young clerk came over to help me and said, “This is impossible, sir. You have very big foot.” I bought a size 10.

3. BBQ PARTY. We had a nice TAIT (Thank Allah It’s Thursday) BBQ on the roof last night. The treat was hamburgers and buns. But even better were some outstanding lamb chops. Never mind I that I supposedly gave up lamb. (AJC: You and your family’s influence.) It was also the first time I had lettuce since arriving here. They do a chopped vegetable salad here similar to an Israeli or Lebanese salad. There was good camaraderie and I had my first three beer evening in Kabul. I loaded up some party music on the iPod and one of my colleagues had one of those speaker systems where you can drop your iPod directly into a slot and it plays. All in all, it was a nice time. Back in the gym today.

4. BANNED WEBSITES. As you might expect, any sort of objectionable Internet content is banned in Afghanistan. I was on the Sports Illustrated website. I clicked on the swimsuit issue link. Banned. Hmm… sexual image. OK, I get it. There was a link to a site offering free downloads of Kid Rock music. Banned. The site was sponsored by Jim Beam. OK, I get it. Rock music and alcohol. Then I clicked on a link about former Giant WR Amani Toomer’s father operating the scoreboard in Oakland. Banned. I don’t get it. Football? No, you can click on NFL.com. Scoreboards? Amani Toomer? Diva wide receivers? Technical glitch? Who knows?

5. MANGOES. Mangoes are very popular here. They are imported from India. They don’t slice them here like we do. They knead them until they are very soft, cut off the end, squeeze the mango, and suck out the contents. If you have ever watched an Afghan man work over a mango, it’s like he’s squeezing … well … a part of the female anatomy. The kneading process often takes them quite awhile. Either there’s a lot of satisfaction or pent-up frustration in mango eating.

6. BRINGING A RATED-R PEACE TO AFGHANISTAN. I will preface these remarks by saying that I fully understand that I sound like a sexist. (Debbie might say if I sound like a sexist, then …) Thinking about the extreme poverty, the mangoes and the banned websites, I was chatting with some of my colleagues about the situation here. Over a few drinks, we surmised that maybe what would help here is a little more skin. Life is difficult. Food is hard to come by. Alcohol is banned. There are very few pleasures in life. If I were a Taliban, I’d be angry too. Maybe a few more scantilly clad ladies would make life tolerable. Most men are not angry when enjoying the visage of a woman. Do you really want to go to the Promised Land and meet 72 virgins when there are attractive ladies in the here and now? If every woman was in a burqa, I’d be ready to do something crazy too. When I was getting my medical exam for my trip, my doctor suggested that the US Government buy a couple million iPods, PSPs, etc. and deliver them to the Taliban and the young people. His feeling was that these people need fun in their lives. Diversions. If we take those iPods and load them up with a bunch of FHM and SI swimsuit issues, between the video games and the ladies, these guys would be a lot more chilled out. (-;

7. ERRATA
– So far, my stay has been OK. I am flattered that several of my colleagues who I socialize with have asked me to request a long-term assignment here. When I tell them that I have no interest in a long-term assignment here, they look at me like I am crazy. Good money, limited home responsibilities, no expenses, all the basics of life (food, laundry, housing, etc.) are taken care of, etc. I’m glad they’re happy but it’s not for me.
– We don’t have screens on the windows and the flies are about to drive me insane. They don’t bite but they are buzzing around everywhere. They are the little fast ones too. Not the big, slow ones.
– Weather is beautiful if a bit dusty. Warm but not hot in the day. Cool and breezy at night.
– 8 1/2 hour time difference is great for watching American sports. I woke up at 7:30 AM and watched the second half of Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers series.

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