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.


Run! Run for your lives! Run گاوماده, ruuuun! It’s Operation Beef Jerky!

I’ve herded cattle before, but never with a helicopter. I prefer on foot actually, because horses hate me and I have general feelings of disdain for an animal that probably doesn’t earn its keep. The closest I got to helicopter-herding was using a motorbike once. Somebody gave me a little 80cc bike and an electric cattle prod to move 60 head a few miles. I never used the cattle prod once. I’m a humanitarian, as you can see in this photo:

Say no to heli-cow-herding!

OK, some serious information: the photo at top is not photoshopped. It was taken in Nuristan and was part of a US Army press release (pdf):

Flying through the clouds soldiers from the Afghan National Army and Task Force Saber air-assaulted onto landing zone Shetland July 19 during Operation Saray Has. The landing zone is located in a large meadow near the top of a mountain in Nuristan. Local Afghans use the area as a grazing pasture for livestock, while Taliban insurgents often use it to stage attacks against Task Force Saber.