Dis & Dat
July 9, 2007

 
I've participating much more of late in online communities focused on Afghanistan... which I think I've mentioned in a recent blog... and, as you may recall, I've been waiting for the you-don't-know-what-you-are-talking-about email to come any time now, per my online community activity and my Afghanistan blog. Well, today it came, on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum branch for Afghanistan. And I shouldn't let it bother me... but it did, because it's unbelievably personal - about my age, my weight, my education... You'd have to read it to believe it. I can understand someone criticizing me with facts and quotes and contrasting experiences... but to say what this person said was just downright mean. I was going to allow you to all share in my humiliation, but Lonely Planet seems to have deleted it.

Last Thursday, an Afghan co-worker came into our office just before lunch and said that he was taking a group to the lake, to treat them all to lunch per his recent promotion, and did we want to go? Heck yeah! So the reporting officer and I blew off the rest of the day and went to the lake with about 20 Afghan co-workers. It was great. I was disappointed that no other internationals came. It was such a wonderful opportunity to break down that wall that separates us in oh-so-many ways, from our language to where we live to our lunch habits. We road in the back of a co-workers car, moving around to the Bollywood music when no one on the street could see us. Near our office, I happen to glance at what is now a cell phone tower, and it was just completely pocked with bullet scars. Amazing.

Just before we got to the entrance, we (the two western women) tied our headscarfs tight and tried to look down as much as possible, to see if we could get in without paying the foreigners fee. And we did! Although that may have had more to do with our co-workers never really stopping the car and holding out the exact change for four nationals as we passed the entrance guy.

We had a pavilion to ourselves, with the men sitting down on carpets and pillows on the ground, while the women were up on our own raised platforms. It was a gorgeous day by Western standards, but the Afghans told us they consider a great day for the lake to be a very cloudy day with little sun. Then we all piled into a little boat and went for a spin around the lake. By the end, the men were all drenched from their intensive water fight. I was so scared one would fall over - many Afghan men, and the vast majority of Afghan women, cannot swim. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me...

I love this young, tiny Afghan middle class that's emerging, I really do. They dare to dream. And they dare to have fun. And the young men dare to say things like, "I really hate the burka. I want to see women's faces!" They are observant Muslims, and they don't want to be exactly like the West (Bollywood, on the other hand...), but they *do* want what's best for their people and themselves. I think they look at Muslims from Jordan and Egypt and say, hey, why not be like that too? Muslim, educated, rational, respectful of our history and culture but also embracing modern health and technology...

I so don't miss having a TV in Kabul - with good Internet access, I'm always entertained. I read the comics via Yahoo: Dilbert, For Better or Worse, Doonesbury, Non Sequiter and Over the Hedge. And Bloom County, which is currently being re-run from 1983; I have laughed myself hysterical over *exactly* the same comics I did 24 years ago. I remember being so relieved to find out someone on earth had the same warped sense of humor as me. BBC Radio via the Internet has become a regular ritual. Each morning, I listen to the news live. I listen to BBC instead of NPR because BBC has much better world news - as does pretty much any news organization outside the USA, even NPR, I'm sorry to say.

On Thursday nights and throughout the day on Friday, I listen to various shows on BBC2. Most especially:

These shows are great - and besides, where else would I ever have heard Clint Eastwood singing "Rowdy"? (and it's not bad, really as a cowboy song!)

And when any of that bores me or I've gone through it all, there's always This American Life archives. If the web site is working...

My friend Sonia, former co-worker at UNV who is here working for another UN agency, who I rarely see any more because she's got a fella, has a web site of her own. She's had quite a life, eh?

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