I recently weaseled my way into an Afghan governance capacity building junket. There was absolutely no good reason for myself to be there. But there I was butchering not one, but two languages of Afghanistan while sitting in on seminars, roundtables, chit-chats and whatnot. Oh, and I also did logistics, transportation and trouble-shooting for about 12 Afghans for 5 days in a foreign city that I have never visited. I will accept my Nobel Prize for awesomeness later this year.

At the end of one meeting at some bankers’ bank the group was given some gift packet. On the way out of the high security premises we opened up what looked like the most interesting (expensive) thing in the packet; a small cardboard box with the bank logo on it. I opened it and determined that it was….what the heck is this? It looked like a small jack knife. It had a small leather click strap that seemed to hold down a metallic cylinder top. My hands were full of city street maps and our itinerary so I couldn’t open the device.

Of course, one of the Afghans started to ask me, the “knowledgeable” person, about the mystery device:

Him: “It’s very nice!”

Me: “Uh, yeah.”

Him: ” How many is it?”

Me: “Oh, I don’t know much it costs.”

Him: “No, how many megabytes?”

Me: “Mekabeats?”

Him: “No. M-Bs. Megabytes.”

Me [Totally confused]: “Oooh! Megabytes. Namebinam. I don’t know.”

Back at the hotel I opened it up and figured out what it was when I saw what the cylinder top revealed. It was one of those computer memory stick things. I’ve seen it on the television. They may have another more technical name. I don’t know. I don’t know technology. I just got my first computer last Christmas. I wrote my grad school papers with a pencil and paper before writing the final copy on a computer at the university library. Somebody asked me for a “hard copy” once and I didn’t know what it was. I tried to buy one of those computer disks a couple of years back that hadn’t existed for quite a while. I gave up on trying to save files and just started emailing myself my word documents and whatnot. I didn’t know what email was until about 1999. So yeah, I’m sorta tech-backwards.

Later, on my [new!] laptop I showed some of the guys pictures of my hometown: Lots of mountains, farm animals, trees, village of 800 people, etc… Apparently life in my stone-age village did not prepare me well enough to interact with cosmopolitan Afghan technocrats. But they were a patient bunch and forgave me my rural eccentricities. On the last night I attempted to transfer the photos that I had taken on my brand-new, first-ever digital camera from my computer to theirs. Things did not go smoothly. I was invited, after some total lack of success, to sit in a chair and drink some tea while they would do the work “for me.”

Luckily, they did not see this pic of me at the old homestead down the hill from the family house.

Poor, poor ignorant khareji.

One the plus side, I think all my rural mountain ways will serve me well when I do my fieldwork in the villages of a certain region of Afghanistan. I’m one of those kharejis who is capable of watching an animal being butchered and then eating it two hours later.