Lighter Side


And it would make me homesick if I lived in Afghanistan too.

Oh diaspora Afghans. Especially the German Afghans. This is both so diaspora and so Afghan.

Afghan = Groups of Afghan men calling each other up just so they can laugh and sing.

Diaspora = Instead of meeting up at someone’s house, they meet up in a shiny restaurant in their European clothes.

You watch this video while I go do the attan in my little living room. And no, I have no idea what they’re saying.

2 jeribs = 1 acre.

I had a conversation with some mid-ranking Afghan government workers from various ministries and one of them ruthlessly interrogated me on my father’s profession, my lack of a wife, why I did not marry my ex-girlfriend (yay!), if I was Catholic or Protestant, what the differences between Catholics and Protestants are, and how much land and livestock my family owned. It went like this, halfway into the conversation:

Me: My family has a house in a small town. But I do not live there, I only visit sometimes.

Interrogator: How much land does your family own?

Me (not sensing the significance of this question): 20 acres.

Interrogator: How much is an acre?

MRRD guy: 2 jeribs.

Interrogator: Do you have animals?

Me (not sensing the significance of this question): Three horses and 20 cows that belong to our neighbor graze on the land.

Interrogator: You do not have any animals?

Me: No, not anymore. It’s too difficult without any children living at home.

Interrogator: Yes, that is true.

At this point I was rescued from the interrogation by a tailored suit-wearing Western educated guy from one of those ministries where everyone seems to have visited Dubai recently. He was highly amused with the conversation and the questions directed by his comparatively “rustic” counterpart. The gist of the whole incident was that, out of a group of ten, one guy had, in his mind, ranked me socially based on my family’s land and livestock ownership. Or maybe he was just politely making conversation.

At the suggestion of Q. A. Shah I took a look at an article about Australian skateboarders teaching Afghan kids to skate. You can read the article here.

kabul skateboarding

The groups organizing this is Skateistan. Check them out at Skateistan.org.

Afhgan skater kid

And finally, you can check them out on video as well.

Lake Qargha to the immediate west of Kabul is a veritable cesspool of all things ‎imaginable -a little like the primordial soup. ‎

Of the non-living variety, the bottom of the lake is awash with pointed rocks, wires, ‎deflated soccer balls, discarded plastic bottle, broken glass bottles with unforgiving sharp ‎edges, silverware and other kitchen/household needs, artificial flowers, items of clothing ‎and footwear, various forms of ordnance and ammunition, dumped vehicles and ‎television sets, assorted printed material, electronics, and the occasional valuable such as ‎watches and jewelry along with many secrets. ‎

Of the living varieties, there is an abundance of organisms thriving on the rich nutrients ‎of the lake’s water which also lends it an overall greenish look. When you wade into the ‎water, the rocks, already round and smooth in texture, are rendered even more slippery by ‎algae growth and plant life, making it hard for one to stand on them. There is sure to be ‎some fish and amphibian life in the depths of the lake away from the shallows, and ‎perhaps the occasional aquatic serpent. Brown crabs of a particularly hostile variety are ‎rumored to roam the lake.‎

And then there are the other non-living but still organic residues that are dissolved in the ‎lake’s water and make up an integral part of its biodiversity. These are the decomposing ‎or long-decomposed bodies of drowned swimmers (of which there have been many, what ‎with the absence of life-guards and rescue facilities and the nonchalant attitude of the ‎visitors- although all unfortunate incidents are invariably attributed to the supernatural ‎and mystic qualities of the lake), dogs, birds, tree-trunks, watermelon peels, spongy Naan ‎bread, urea, and assorted bodily fluids. ‎

The lake is one of Kabul’s few weekend getaways, and certainly its most accessible and ‎closest. This proximity and the scarcity of other nearby picnic areas, plus the fact that the ‎population of the capital has been bulging cancerously for the past several years only ‎adds to the color, texture, and the molecular diversity and richness of the lake.‎

The lake may have the unique and dubious distinction of being the only freshwater lake ‎in the world that contains all things except fresh water. As such, there is a possibility that ‎the life forms and the ecosystem supported by the lake are neither of the marine nor the ‎freshwater typologies, but altogether new and perhaps as yet undiscovered. ‎

In point of fact, if the lake is to be stripped of all its living inhabitants and made into an ‎entirely self-contained closed system, given enough time on an evolutionary scale, it ‎could witness the return of life through the many possible combinations and re-‎combinations of its ingredient molecules, thereby giving rise to the first nucleic acids and ‎thereafter self-replicating chromosomes and mono-cellular organisms. ‎

As such, the lake has an important -albeit unacknowledged- future role to play in the ‎event of a catastrophic collapse of all life-forms on earth as a spawning ground for ‎organic life and a return of the human and other species and the very continuation of ‎earth as a living planet. Because of this, here is a proposal to sanctify the lake Qargha as a ‎mother-ship, a launching-pad, a regrouping ground for future life, including human life, ‎in an ever approaching post-apocalyptic world. This massive and organically rich petri-‎dish should be given the due attention and respect it deserves, and it should be opened up ‎to the world that will one day owe its life on this planet to the lake. ‎

I am planning to discuss this proposal with the current operators of the lake lest they get ‎any crazy ideas about ‘cleaning’ it up without realizing its existential significance. In fact, ‎once it is opened up to the world, a sanctifying ritual dip by visitors of all races, colors, ‎and creeds should be made mandatory so as to add to the richness of its contents. Further, ‎my plan proposes sealing off the small stream that lets out a couple of cubic feet of its ‎water now, thereby letting valuable ingredients go to waste.‎

I took my own purifying dip in the lake this past Thursday. Although I jumped in and ‎swam the lake on a dare -which at the time I thought of as a rather stupid thing to do- in ‎retrospect, I am glad it happened. How else would I have realized the vast richness of the ‎lake and its potential promise of life preservation on our green little planet? In fact, in the ‎larger scheme of things at stake above, even the pain in my ears and the burning ‎sensation in my eyes do not bother me anymore.‎

This is an exchange I had with my computer screen when I received this email, sentence by sentence:

Hello Prospective Employee,

How presumptuous!

Are you looking for a career in the Intelligence World?

Umm…

Would you like to work for a fast growing company with lots of advancement potential?

McDonald’s?

[Not McDonald’s] has been providing foreign language and intelligence support services to the United States Military for more than a decade. In addition to stateside services, we provide support and training across the world, including, but not limited to Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.

I’ll never work in Germany! Never!

My name is [stereotypical WASP name]. I am Project Coordinator at [my little north Virginia venture]. At this time, I am seeking an experienced TS/SCI Uzbek Linguist. This position has availability in Bethesda, MD and St. Louis, MO.

Uzbekcha gapira olmaiman!

The period of performance is from July 6, 2008-July 5, 2009. All candidates must possess the following criteria:

Limited working proficiency of the following languages (one for each FTE). A minimum proficiency skill level 2 for Reading is required as defined by the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Proficiency Levels or the equivalent that meets or exceeds the ILR skill level 2. For award qualification, testing must have taken place within two years prior to the date of this SOW. After award, and, at vendor expense, linguists must maintain a two year currency at level 2 or higher verified by test results submitted to the Government.

Level 2? Haha! You guys are screwed!

[blah blah blah] Arabic, Dari, French, Indonesian, Kurdish, Pashto, Uzbek and Farsi

French? Are Algerian terrorists still speaking French? That’s just so…..uh, so something. The French have a word for it.

Basic knowledge:

Familiar with computer operations

Knowledge of data retrieval/storage and generating reports

Computer skills? I know how to use Youtube. Does that count?

Demonstrated time management skills

I’m blogging instead of finishing my research proposal. That should give you a perspective on my time management skills.

Knowledge of computer programs:

Common office software i.e. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and e-mail

What is Excel? No seriously, what is Excel?

Basic knowledge of geography, cartography, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS):

Basic knowledge of geography

Basic map reading skills

Skills, Knowledge and understanding of GIS applications (i.e., ArcGIS or GeoMedia Pro)

Create and edit GIS datasets then import and export datasets between GIS software and Microsoft Excel

Are you still speaking English? I didn’t understand any of that.

NGA specific/unique training may be required

Sounds ominous. Is that like Marine Corps boot camp?

Basic knowledge of research gathering:

Internet search tools

Search query: “girls of the Big Ten” + free photos. Does that count?

Library functions (query, ordering, etc.)

Some of the foreign male students at my last university would watch pornography on the computers in the library research stacks because they didn’t have enough money to have their own computers in their dorm room to watch pornography on. The inequality made me sad.

As an employee of [War Profiteering, Inc.], we offer you an excellent salary of $112K. You will also receive 10 paid holidays and 12 paid vacation days. Please do not miss a great opportunity to work with an accelerated company. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

You liars. You shameless liars. You do not pay that much. You, and every other company lie about how much you will pay translators. You then knock about 45% off of what was initially promised because translators are weenies who don’t stick up for themselves. Contractors are truthful to the guys who are hired as security because they are former marines who will pistol-whip their employers if they get lied to about salary/wages. Translators, on the other hand, go to some yuppie-ish northern Virginia/DC lounge and get drunk while complaining about how they got screwed by their employer.

Anyways, this is the first email that has come without my name at the beginning. You guys are getting lazy. But the best email by far said that the anonymous company would pay for my moving expenses to Guantanamo Bay. Really, who doesn’t have their moving expenses to Gitmo pre-paid?

So this periodically happens, I am minding my own business and I get bothered by strange (i’m assuming) young Afghan men. It used to happen more often but not so much anymore. Someone will get my email address, deduce that I am not that creative and my ‘chat’ name is the same. I get messages from that someone who thinks it would be possible that I would like to chat with a stranger. If it’s obvious that it’s not someone that I know, I automatically delete it. But the following was a longer exchange because of his incredibly feminine name – so I thought, maybe it is one of my female cousins? And wouldn’t it be nice if they found me online? Alas, no. Out of the kindness of my heart, I am hiding his identity.

I also think I this may be from a job applicant and wouldn’t that be funny, if I ran across his resume later?

Behold:

tulips_roses*: hello and good morning
Oh so polite HiK: Hello. Who is this please?
tulips_roses: this ‘so not a girl
Sighing deeply but still so polite HiK: I’m sorry, I don’t think I know you, have we met?
tulips_roses: why
Irritated HiK but don’t you think she’s still so polite?: I’m sorry, I don’t chat with strangers. Goodbye
tulips_roses: what do you think am i stranger
tulips_roses: sorry to say befor know some one you can jage him’
tulips_roses: if you want to know me ask me any question i will ans it
Concerned HiK because did I mention that someone sent me poetry in Dari via text this morning (and no, not Mr. Namzad, he knows I can’t read that well. Though he has just very sweetly assured me that it’s quite good): Where did you get my contact information?
tulips_roses: go ahead
Irritated HiK: Where did you get my contact information?
HiK wanted to say something about his sister chatting with strange men but refrained: As I said before, I don’t chat with strangers and only want to know where you got my information so I can remove it in the future.
HiK SHALL block you: Anyway, since you won’t answer that. I will block you. Goodbye

*Sure, I changed his tag name but seriously, it was way more feminine than this. Wouldn’t you think that’s a girl too?