Today I turned 48 years old. To mark my birthday, my email is 48 reasons to spend your birthday in Afghanistan. So, a reason to spend your birthday in Afghanistan is to:
48. Understand how people can use religion to try to subjugate the most basic human values.
47. Visit the first country alphabetically. Now, all I need to do is visit Zimbabwe and I will have gone A-to-Z.
46. Learn racism and subtle racism is everywhere after watching dozens of TV commercials for skin lighteners on Afghan, Indian and Pakistani TV.
45. Realize if you’ve had Montezuma’s revenge, Pharaoh’s revenge and Ceausescu’s revenge, there is no sense missing out on Osama’s revenge. (The corollary is: Appreciate modern plumbing.)
43. Gain undeserved respect and sympathy when you return home and say, “I just got back from Afghanistan.” (Side story: I had a friend who managed to get a baseball cap from the USS Cole, the ship that was bombed in Yemen. He never served on the Cole but he wore the cap and spoke of watching his buddies die during the aftermath of the bombing at local watering holes in the hopes of gaining sympathy “liaisons” from young ladies. I was single once but that might be beyond the pale.)
41. Be amazed at the beauty of language. I don’t understand a word of Dari (similar to Farsi) yet enjoy hearing it.
40. Chuckle when I realize that all the Nestle ice cream vendor cart umbrellas are from Israel including the Hebrew inscription of G’lida (ice cream).
39.-11. Hope your family and friends realize that you wouldn’t really bore them with 48 reasons.
10. Continue to be perplexed how people live by rules that they don’t really believe in.
9. Be glad that you’re not spending your 50th birthday in Afghanistan.
7. Gain satisfaction in finding common ground with people with whom you have nothing in common — whether it’s explaining how a sales letter works or talking about the World Cup.
6. Refresh your cocktail party stories.
5. Receive text messages like: “Update: 12:00 PM. Ref. explosion, no casualties reported (all staff accounted for), remember MoFA road is off-limits for movement.” (That is a text message I received today. There was an explosion near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. None of us work there.)
4. Earn a living. Work is work.
3. Have the opportunity to send your family and friends self-indulgent but highly therapeutic emails in which you can share your experience, political opinions, cultural observations and insane ramblings … and hope that they will still speak to you when you return.
2. Try to have a positive impact that will improve someone’s life.
1. Remind yourself why you married your wife and had your kids.
P.S. USA! USA! Tonight’s the big World Cup match with Ghana..