Thursday, March 13, 2008

I guess he really didn't like me

Every day I walk a thirty-meter stretch of Kabul street heading to and from the military compound. By regulation I travel wearing body armor and helmet with my pistol loaded. My first day in Kabul I traversed this path a few times as I had several boxes and a few duffel bags to transport to my temporary living quarters. During one afternoon trip a slight Afghan man approached holding me while holding the hand of another male, a common sight here. What was uncommon, hopefully, was the movement of his free hand as he pointed to me and said firmly as he passed, "Sir, I hate you!"

Now I have walked the streets in many countries and on a few continents and I have heard many non-native speakers attempt a statement or two in English that failed to express the true feelings of the aspiring interlocutor. In fact, the evening after this incident I dined with an international group that included a French NATO colonel who approached us at dusk and bellowed "Good morning to you!" So I stand ready for liberal interpretation of the English of foreign nationals; but I think this particular Afghan expressed his feelings for me quite precisely.

I immediately thought of several reasons why he might experience acute displeasure upon sight of me. I was a foreign Naval officer walking along Afghan municipal streets in full battle uniform carrying a loaded weapon, and I was coming from a secure compound where international military forces enjoy an existence that is positively royal relative to the lives of most Afghans. While I conduct my business confident that appropriate financial remuneration awaits me at the month's end, most Afghans struggle to earn a few dollars each day. His government spends $1 per year on his health care, while mine provides me universal coverage.

He might have also thought, quite correctly, that if freed from my current military and environmental constrictions, I would be more than happy to drink and gamble and woo women as long as my stamina and wallet hold. These wanton pursuits are likely haram, or forbidden, by his religion. To me, they are the critical elements of a rejuvenating vacation.

If I spoke a bit of his language, at least as much as he knows of mine, I could have stopped him to ask more about his abject dismissal of me. But I was perspiring from the load I was carrying while sheathed in armor plates and I was tired from an overnight flight from Kuwait, so I didn't break stride when he addressed me; but I did mutter in Dari, the Afghan national tongue, the only phrase I know: tashak kur, or thank you.

1 comment:

Fat Robbie said...

Once the "Talibar" opens, he will be your first customer, no doubt.