It’s About Time

Filed under: — lana @ 9:50 pm

Another week has gone by. Perhaps more. Really, you lose track of time around here, mostly because you are either really busy or incredibly bored. I spend a great deal of time somewhere in between, most often both. Bored while busy. Honestly, an adventure in and of itself.

Several days ago I continued my quest to modernize the children of Afghanistan. I now have an entire community of villages near the city which has learned not only devil horns (with the accompanying cry of rock and roll), but also high fives, both courtesy of myself and a military policeman both with once again no mission, as well as pounds from another girl who was with us. The entire school was surrounding us yelling “Rock and Roll! High Five! Rock and Roll! High Five!” and then performing some sort of odd hand gesture that we deemed a mixture of the three motions and called it a day. Since we left the compound with no mission, we deemed this event mission success, since it annoyed everyone else on the mission with us…

Tragically, however, I had to say good-bye to another very good friend a few days ago. He was going on leave, gallavanting off to Germany or some such to go to a music festival and beaches and hotels and some other super fun and exciting adventures. Meanwhile, Nazi gold is out there for the hunting and I remain in Afghanistan… I have concluded that there is no Nazi gold here, primarily because there really isn’t much of anything here outside of the dust and the pistachios, which admittedly keeps the donkeys content, but leaves a bit to be desired on my end. Point being and ignoring the rambling tangent, I will be out of the country by the time he returns, with a small bit of luck, and so I will have to wait a few months until he returns home, at which point it will be incredibly awkward because it has been months of sporadic e-mails since the last time we saw each other face to face, and really we only knew each other a few months prior.

That is probably the most interesting thing about the Army. People talk all they want about Army Buddies and all, but in all honesty, most of the people you meet you will never see again, might talk to for a few months or years but eventually you lose track of each other and that is the end of that. True enough, there are quite a few people that I am happier than a clam (and how happy are clams, when you get right down to it?) to never hear from again, but there are some I do wish I could mosey off and see for a weekend once in awhile.

Digression is the key to success, and I do it well, so I hope the fortune starts rolling in soon. All tickets to Nazi gold should be sent in direct e-mails, and sunken pirate treasure treated in the same manner.

Speaking of pirates, I have picked up a noticable limp after our most recent Army Physical Fitness Test. A common reaction, thanks to Army medicine, but regardless of such not a grand situation. My chain of command will deal with it as they do best, I am sure. I love having a chain of command. I like to call it my chain of shirking responsibility for anything that happens to me and anything I accomplish or fail to accomplish. A long name, to be sure, but really much more accurate when you get right down to it.

In other news, our replacements are in country, on ground, I think right now sleeping in a room somewhere on this compound. Wonderous event. That means we should be moving sometime in the next few weeks, and then shortly after heading back to a land where flush toilets are not such a novelty and there is a socket for every light bulb. The small joys in life will become common again very soon… back to my mission of teaching my cats chess, or at least checkers, and other important tasks that need attending to back in civilization. The advancement of the Afghan people in terms of learning high fives and rock and roll will have to be continued by another, but I have corrupted enough Americans that I am sure the task has fallen to good hands.


Mission: Nonexistent

Filed under: — lana @ 6:56 pm

Something I love about the Army: the further away you are from where the trouble is, the exponentially greater your knowledge is about the subject. We were sent on an emergency must-get-up-there-or-everyone-ever-will-die mission about a week ago, which was fun for me because I am always the last to know so I had just put some laundry in when I was told we were leaving in 20 minutes (boy, does moldy laundry smell fantastic when it’s been sitting in a wet pile for six days or so. They should bottle that stuff).

So we head up there, but the key is that the way my job is, we couldn’t really conduct our mission because we were short a critical resource, which those that sent us on the mission (I believe the one who finalized the mission was over 1000 miles away…) knew when we went. But we go, knowing that our thumbs will get a great deal of twiddling practice, and thus starts the adventure of finding things to do in a town with maybe five people who speak your language left in it because everyone else has scattered like humanitarian organizations in gunfire (oh wait. That’s what happened.)

So we occupied our time, aside from occasionally doing our job, with the following: making donkey sticks and swapping cultures.

The donkey stick. An invention, so to speak, of the Afghan donkey farmer (herder, whatever…). It is a stick stripped of bark, sometimes with leather binding or something, that they use to gently slap the crap out of their donkey to guide in the direction they want them to go. If you lead a horrible life of looting, pillaging, and other fun things, you get reinarnated as an Afghan donkey.

So we sat there, found branches, took out our combat knives, and got to work. I put some cord around mine to make a crafty handle. The rule now is that we are not allowed to make any improvements to our sticks unless we are outside of our compound walls, which is harder for me because I only have a short time left (I hear the angels singing…). But my stick even has a crook at the end so it makes a good poking stick as well. My teammates are thrilled…

The other activity was cultural exchange. The Afghan National Army is a wealth of knowledge of colloquialisms in Dari. I learned how to say things like Bad Ass, Kick Ass, Dog Poo, What’s Up Dawg, Butt Pirate (though that one was hard, because in a landlocked country that hardly understands an ocean much less a ship much less yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, the word for pirate isn’t easy to come by), and an awful lot of words that might make some people a little offended. In return, I spent all of my time in town teaching the local kids how to give high fives, but that was only when I got bored trying to get them to flash the devil horns and yell rock and roll. I got a few horns from some of the more rockin’ kids, but rock and roll is a little foreign.

Total casualites on this trip: Four blown tires, Six jump starts, One headlight completely removed, and I think I got a mosquito bite.

Sadly, this all had to be done with the help of a new force protection team, because our buddies who were on the compound with us left a week ago, on their way home. Awesome for them, but a bummer for us. The new folk are fun, particularly the team we went with on this mission that was not a mission, but it was nevertheless a bit empty without my adventuring partners and knowing that when we returned we would know no one on the compound. A good time was nevertheless had, and I will see those other crazy kids when I get home in a few weeks (I will believe it when I am on the plane over the Atlantic)…


The Importance of a Man

Filed under: — lana @ 11:29 pm

It is a phenomenon the world over that a man is judged by the size of his entourage. A low man on the totem pole will have his yes-men to back him up. Next level up will add his no-men. By the time you reach some of the people I have met out here, you have his maybe-men, his possibly-men, his definitely-men, his I-will-look-into-that-men, and so on. Plus, the Afghans have to add their would-you-like-some-tea-men and their sit-on-the-carpet-and-stare-at-the-foreigners-men.

Take some of the people I have met out here. You want to, say, do your job as a member of coalition forces and help round up some weapons. Well, first you go to the place where they are and talk to the guy responsible for guarding them. He tells you that he can’t release them without his superior’s written notice (his superior, by the way, lives in the city that you just came from, about an hour and a half away). His superior will not send a message (via what, donkey-post?), he must actually sit down with you, have tea, and decide that you have asked enough questions about his wives and the weather to deem release of illegal arms. Also in the room is everyone on the compound. These people don’t necessarily bathe every day… in fact, some may have gotten a wash when a car drove through a puddle last week, and that was good enough. A roomful can make you dizzy… or queasy… or, most likely, both.

But today was an exceptional demonstration. A very important person from the coalition forces decided it was a good time to pop by, so he travels out… with almost ten people. Keep in mind, a few days ago someone about two ranks below him decided it was his turn out here, but he only got to bring four. Point established, but yet to be fully developed. Patience, young grasshoppers…

Those on the ground were not to be outdone. The coalition forces here had their own huge representation. Saddle up, folks… time to waste a few hours you will never get back at the airport. But they weren’t the only ones… the local Afghan police also turned up, held a formation, full force… not like they do much anyway… the traffic cops just sit in the middle of the traffic circles and occasionally smile and wave at the Americans driving through as the cars dodge pedestrians, bikers, motorcycles, and other cars in the crazy maze of this wacky city. So the whole force came out and lined up, demonstrating that they must be the most important. So begins the Entourage Wars of Afghanistan 2004. Meet the governor, see how many people he can pack in a room. Is it more than Coalition forces can cram into a convoy?

It would be, of course, if we could do it the way Afghans do. Average counts: A walker is usually one, sometimes two if someone is piggy-back. A pedal bike is most often two, occasionally three. A motorcycle carries three plus. A four door sedan is up to eight adults, from what I have seen. Mini-vans can fit full villages, and one of the busses that they make double-decker by people climbing up to sit on the luggage could probably tote around a full district. Coalition forces didn’t stand a chance. They fought a good fight, but lost in the end to the local custom of cramming people into tight spaces…

Thus ended the Battle of 7 June, but the war is not yet over. All we need are some real high-ranking foreigners out here, and we can show these open-sewered people who really runs this show.


Afghan Humor

Filed under: — lana @ 10:33 pm

Allow me to present a joke for the audience, told to me by a local today:

An Afghan man is very ill. He goes to India for treatment. The Indian man assesses the man and his illness and knows just what to do. He presents the Afghan with pistachio nuts [Interjection: for those who are unaware, many regions of Afghanistan have a main crop of these nuts, which are a cash crop of the country. Very famous. I don't much care for them.]. He says for the Afghan to eat three nuts a day for ten days, and counts out thirty nuts for him.

The Afghan eats them all at once.

Get it?

Neither do I. The man who told it to me, however, could hardly tell the punch line because he was laughing himself silly.

Comedy clubs (comedy mud huts?) are still a long way off in this country, thank goodness.

Powered by WordPress