Afghans

I spend three hours or more a day in meetings with Afghans discussing security and all sorts of other issues. Sometimes we are just passing the time.  Typically, we sit in easy chairs or sofas arranged around the room walls.  The senior person sits farthest from the door, the most junior closest.  It’s kind of fun to talk with them about about this and that. Though sometimes given to drawn-out speechifying, more often they engage in a lively give-and-take that they seem to enjoy as much for its own sake as for its potential in solving any problems. They lean forward in their seats, with a gleam in their eye and a half-smile on their lips, as they hear each other out and wait for their own turn to speak. The formality of the seating arrangement aside, it’s very democratic. Folks from all stations and ages interject as they can in the conversation. Only at the meeting’s end, does the senior person summarize events and bring things to a close.

On a different note, the Afghans seem to have a different response to death and violence than Westerners do. Either the inshallah attitude or many decades of war seems to make their grieving process both muted and short. I’ve had the misfortune to notice this several times already.

The landscape here is both drab and stark, especially in the winter. Dirt and rock everywhere, with few cultivated fields or anything else to break the monotony of gray, brown, and tan. Afghan dress isn’t very colorful, except for the dresses worn by young girls. 80% of the cars are white Toyota Corrollas. The most extravagant things around are the long-haul trucks. Their drivers love to give them fanciful paint jobs and festoon them with plastic flowers and other adornments. We call them “jingle trucks.”

I’ll get some pictures up when I can.

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3 Responses to “Afghans”

  1. E Says:

    Here in America, grieving seems to be considered more of an exceptional thing. Death is definitely obscured and sanitized. I think the more natural response is “surprisingly” muted and short.

  2. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    I usually try to find something that I’ve seen or read to relate to your posts, but for this one I can’t think of anything! All I can say is, “Fascinating!” I try to learn something new everyday, so I think I’ll count this post as what I learned new today!

    Best,
    Chris

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