Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cell Phone Solution

Chalk this one up under "Duh! Why didn't I think of this sooner?". As I passed a car going way too slow for my comfort, I glanced over, only to see the driver using a cell phone, leaning on the center console, looking way too cool; oblivious to the world around them.

As I turned left, using my finger to steer the car, the crux of the problem struck me! Driving is waaay too easy for all y'all! Being able to manipulate my steering wheel with only a middle finger helped me realize how easy and physically unchallenging driving is, thanks to the advancements in mechanical technology.

The drastic solution? Take away power steering from vehicles AND require all cars to have manual transmissions. "What's a manual transmission?", you ask. You heard me! Lets go retro, back to the days when 10 and 2 were not just a factored pair of 20, but were the required hand/clock positions necessary to maneuver a car; or so we were taught.

I'm aging myself; but as I look back fondly, those old clunkers we learned to drive, really required some muscle and mental skills to negotiate, even on the straightest of roads. Are you old enough to recall your left thigh and calf muscles bulging because the clutch was so hard to push in? Ever stall your car because your coordination was just a hair off? C'mon, fess up.

Do you really think you're a strong enough driver to use a cell phone without the assistance of power-steering? I doubt it. Wait, now that I think about it, this is the potential remedy for our American obesity problem too! Have flabby biceps and triceps? Is your six-pack a twelve-pack? Steer a car on a winding road, without power steering, for an hour or so.

So there you have it; I've solved the using a cell phone while driving problem, and found a way for people to exercise and lose weight too. Now, if I can just get President Obama's car czar to read this post, I might win a Nobel!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Doonesbury 10/11/2009

After a hiatus from writing based partially on an irrational fear of having nothing of value to post anymore regarding my deployment, I read the Sunday 10/11/2009 Doonesbury comic, and the will to write came rushing back. A chance occurrence on my birthday? With Halloween coming up, that's spooky!

All I know is, after reading the Sunday comic, I felt like "Wow, Trudeau nailed it!". The visual of: the relationship between the CIA/contractor and the Afghan informant, the reference to the 16th century (which I posted on before), the ubiquitous tea while doing business (chai sabz or chai cia?), to the hat, scarf, and appearance of the informant, the reference to a "drug lord", along with alluding to our enormous technology/firepower. It's all there, powerfully packed into eight colorful panels, with the beautiful Afghan mountains lingering in the background. I couldn't get the comic out of my mind. Not that I wanted to, it brought back a lot of memories. The simplicity of how Trudeau depicted the paradox of war, made me think, "Yeah! That's it, that's what we're capable of!" But, is it really?

I thought back to the days spent conversing with my friends, Afghan linguists, whose opinions about culture, and their fellow Afghans, really moved me to consider how THEY see the war; and like the Afghan informant in the comic, they usually posed a variation of the question: "I don't get it, how come you guys are losing?" That really struck me.

Since returning, I've followed the news, both good and bad out of Afghanistan. It's really heated up since I left, but that was expected. What comes to mind is how humane we (the US) are perceived to be by the Afghans...most of the time, to a fault and detriment.

Afghans are familiar with tribal justice that may include - the slice of a sword, hurled stones, whippings, and harsh death. They do not understand taking prisoners after a fierce firefight, then treating them humanely (What's the point?). They do not forget what the Talibs (and Russians) have done to their families. For Afghans, brutality rules, and they don't flinch. It's just their way of life. And this was imparted to me by the linguists, who in their own way were saying to me: 'We should be kicking Taliban ass!" It is war after all.

Teachers: Have students look up what "Rules of Engagement" (ROE) are. Researching the Vietnam war might help them understand what consequences the rules can have on war. What are the positive/negative aspects of ROE's? What are some of our current ROE's in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts?
What do your students think about the Doonesbury cartoon? What do they think Trudeau thinks about the war? Have them research his previous comic strips relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, and have them report on what they think he believes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Never Find a Hookah Here

While deployed, I enjoyed going to the weekly bazaar. It was a nice way to break the monotony of the daily routine. At the bazaar: I haggled with vendors (customary/expected), socialized outside of work, found some great deals, and as the days blurred, the bazaar helped indicate that it was Friday, again.

There was much to be had at the bazaar, depending on your preferences. Beautiful Afghan/Persian rugs, gemstones/jewelry, Afghan clothing, Russian artifacts, antique rifles, and... hookers, oops, excuse me, wrong spelling, I mean hookahs. My apologies to nor-easterners; same pronunciation, different meaning.

Hookahs, are prevalent in the Middle East, and are used to smoke tobacco, herbs, or marijuana/hashish/opium. It is a culturally and socially acceptable smoking instrument in those parts of the world. Guess I could have bought an authentic Afghan hookah if I really needed one, but I don't smoke. And, I don't think a colorful, multi-user hookah souvenir, prominently displayed, would go over well with our military/educator circle of friends. Never knew anyone who used a hookah, until a few days ago.

Recently, while searching for computer cables in my cable-stash drawer, I happened upon a hookah, apparently hidden. "What's this?" I thought. Had my wife taken up smoking pot to deal with the stress of my absence? Nah! She did well while I was gone. But if not her, who then?

Seems my 18 yr old step-son bought the hookah online while I was gone. Mama found it, and confiscated it amid great consternation. The official story relayed to my wife, according to my step-son/daughter, was that the hookah, a trendy instrument, is used by young adults for smoking "trendy" blocks of tobacco.

Uhhh, after thinking back to high school/college, I paused, contemplating the fable. I paused some more, then proceeded to believe their incredible story (it did smell like tobacco). These kids are just not the type. Tobacco experimentation, yes, marijuana, no.

Nonetheless, the hookah was officially confiscated. They took a hit (so to speak) on their much needed teen dinero, it was their money, not tobacco, that went up in smoke. I had to find another place to put it until we decided what to do with it. But where?

After some thought, using finely honed parental skills. I put it where they'd least likely think to look, a place where teens are notorious for never venturing, hidden in plain sight...Duh! I put it with the cleaning supplies, under the bathroom sink; no chance of discovery there!

Teachers: Seriously, the hookah does play a prominent social role in many cultures, and it is not always associated with the use of illicit drugs. Have your students research this centuries old implement, and report on the positive, and negative aspects of how it is used.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

From Insurgents to Pre-Emergents

It's interesting to observe how life has shifted from one focus to another now that I'm home. An example - for six months, it was all about Afghanistan insurgents. But now, it's crabgrass pre-emergents. So, for peace of mind, I set out to find similarities between the two that might help make my mental transition easier, and more meaningful.

As I considered a pre-emergent for the lawn/garden, I found an article from the Ohio State University, Extension entitled: Pre-Emergent Herbicides Effective for Weed Control. Here are some bullets from the article:

Marestail, giant ragweed and lambsquarter remain some of the most challenging weeds to control for several reasons:
• They become more difficult to control with increasing size and age.
• They are some of the first weeds to emerge in the spring, and marestail grows quickly in size, making proper burndown treatments a must to control them.
• Avoid making post-emergence applications during periods of adverse environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, extended cloudy periods, and drought.

Here's my take on this useful information, uh,... I mean intelligence:

Taliban insurgents and their radical fundamentalist followers are the most difficult to control for several reasons:
• They become more difficult to control with increasing size and rage.
• They are the first to emerge in the spring/summer, and their numbers grow quickly in size, making appropriate engagement/elimination a must.
• Avoid engaging insurgents during periods of adverse environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, extended cloudy periods, and drought.

Is it a stretch to equate Taliban insurgency with out of control weeds? Mmmm, you tell me. But if any of you pass by my house and see me vigorously eradicating/eliminating weeds, via airborne or ground assault methods, please consider that my conduct is easily explained by the psychological term - transference.

Transference: "the redirection of feelings and desires; especially of those unconsciously retained from war, toward a new object." (For you psych majors, I replaced the word childhood with war. Sorry, it makes sense.)

Teachers: Have your students make the connection for me - How is an insurgency like weeds? What conclusions can we draw from the similarities? The differences? Are these similes, or metaphors? Discuss the differences between the two, then have students write a paragraph on a topic using similes and metaphors.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Man's Home is his Depot

As we approached our house, I mused, "Ah, a man's home is his castle", relieved to finally return home. According to Answer.com, this old English saying means - "A proverbial expression that illustrates the principle of individual privacy, which is fundamental to the American system of government".

After imparting this age-old proverb of wisdom to my 8 yr old son, he replied without skipping a beat, "No papa, a man's home is his depot" (as in Home Depot). Caught completely off guard, I busted-up laughing. He had never heard the expression before, and thought Home Depot was what I really meant to say.

I lovingly reached over and rubbed his shaggy head, and told him his interpretation was extremely funny, music to my ears, and that Home Depot marketers would probably pay a fortune for his "out of the mouth's of babes" observation. And so started the reunion with my family after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

I've been home for two weeks now and it's time to write. The urge to write again, I'd liken to the anticipation of reuniting with your spouse; a lot of pent up thoughts, words building up, waiting to explode into a, a ... a blog post, so to speak. Who would have known?

I've had fellow bloggers mention that many soldiers come home from deployments, and for whatever reason, abandon their blogs. That is certainly their prerogative, and I completely understand; but I have no such inclination, there is too much to say.

So reader, was it good for you too?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Number One with an F

Sat with linguists at lunch today and an Afghan gentleman stopped by the table. We all did the Salaam Alaikum shtick, I mean greeting. Once the pleasantries were exchanged, and the gentleman left, I told my lunch mates I had met this man a month or so ago, and that he had an interesting background.

When we met, he asked if I could help him get reassigned to another job, because he was not happy with his current position. He worked with detainees. He proceeded to rattle off his resume, and told me that in Afghanistan, he'd worked for the government in the 70's as a young man, before the Russians invaded. His résumé sounded pretty impressive.

When I shared this with my lunch mates, they looked at each other knowingly, smiled and said, "Almost all (linguists) claim to have worked with the Afghan Government; they tend to embellish their résumé so as to look good".

With that, the linguist asked if I had heard one of the reasons why Afghan-Americans think they are the best. I replied, "no".

He proceeded to share a story about an older Afghan couple who lived in the US. They purchased a car, something they could never have done in Afghanistan. So the old man drove their car from San Francisco, CA to Vancouver, Canada, to visit relatives.

After the trip, the wife was bragging amongst Afghan friends, and shared that her husband was a "number one" driver. When asked to explain, she said that on the trip to Canada, people who passed their car, constantly raised their middle finger at him, signifying he was "number one", which in their minds was an indication that the husband was a wonderful driver! I choked down my pie, nearly spitting it out! Again, these linguists and their sense of humor! Very solemn, serious and matter-of- fact usually, then BAM! out of the blue stuff like this.

When I return home to driving, and am on the road, I will henceforth associate the American middle finger "salute" with that old, proud, Afghan driver and his wife.

Teachers: How many times on your way to work, have you been given the "number one" salute? What a great opportunity to speak with your class about driving habits around the world. The insane vs. the sane. If you are working with HS age students, talk about requirements for driving throughout the world. What age can one start driving? Is there insurance in that country? How much do cars cost? What kinds of cars are there to drive? With the popularity of Social Media, consider having your class track down foreign students in other countries and ask them the above questions. Let your students do the research, and have them report their findings to the class.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NATO Night Fever, Stayin Alive, Stayin Alive

Many linguists, hired as contractors, previously held important positions within Afghanistan before their families fled. Some were university professors, some were doctors, others were government officials; it runs the gamut. It's very interesting to hear about their past Afghan lives. From my observations, there is a subculture of linguist hierarchy on US bases, based on their prior Afghan status, and related to their present status. For example, translators who work for Generals, Colonels, or are considered the primary translators for high profile meetings with Afghan Ministers, Governors, etc., hold greater status than other linguists down the food chain. Think in terms of an unofficial military rank, civilian style. Makes sense right?

Well, an acquaintance has taken to referring to his fellow Afghan linguists, by nickname. You know, like we use "Bubba" and "Dawg". He has christened three linguists in particular as SuperZ, ZZ, and EZ. Their first names begin with a Z, so I was impressed by his use of humor and creativity in coming up with these nicknames. Each nickname is designated for its own reason that only he is privy to.

We were recently having a discussion of a serious nature, solving the war and all, and talk turned to Afghan linguists. With a serious tone, he said, "You know, EZ is a member of NATO". I paused, feeling honored to be let in on EZ's status. I've seen EZ around so I know who he is.

EZ is a self assured middle-aged Afghan, who is held in high regard (by fellow Afghans) due to his seniority in theatre and current position. He's like a BMOC (Big Man On Campus) at a university, and I gather, is a ladies man. His appearance is akin to a Saturday Night Fever disco character.

His linguist "uniform" is accentuated by a thick gold chain, satin, unbuttoned pointy collared shirt, and topped off with a black fedora hat, brim turned down - to cover his bald spot? Don't get me wrong, It's perfectly alright to still be living in the 80's back in the US, I see it all the time. But in Afghanistan?

Needless to say, beyond EZ's appearance, I was impressed. I expected the linguist to continue, feeding us more details, telling us how EZ travels to Kabul to translate for our NATO partners. We waited for him to go on.

After a short, well timed pause, he continued..."Yes, EZ's like NATO...all talk, no action"! Those present were so taken aback by his statement, we laughed! But beyond the reference to EZ, I took it also as his opinion of NATO, an entity I had never given much thought to while in theatre....hmmm.

Teachers: What is NATO, who can join? Who are our Coalition partners? What are allies? Who are our allies? Can the students relate to nicknames? Research the reasons military pilots use nicknames as their call-signs. These are positive, acceptable nicknames, are there negative nicknames?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Afghan Fishing Redneck Style

Call me sentimental, but as I get closer to leaving, I recall my son asking "Can we go fishing when you get back?" I replied, "Sure thing!"

Mind you, it has been years since I fished and although I would like to go, I worry that my 8 yr old son won't be able to sit still long enough to enjoy the benefits of fishing and nature. From my recollection, fishing is a very serene sport requiring LOTs of patience and time. But that won't stop us, we're there!

My father took us fishing when we were kids and I have fond memories, even when we didn't catch anything. It felt good to be out with friends and family members. Those were the days when kids piled into the back of a pickup, and traveled, open air, to dad's favorite fishing hole, many miles away. Try that now...in California. Good luck!

It got me thinking, I had heard of Afghans using RPGs and grenades to fish, and lo and behold, here is some footage available for you at YouTube. It further got me thinking that this style of fishing would be something worthy of Jeff Foxworthy and his Redneck Comedy routine. Googled Redneck fishing, and this is what I came up with for your perusal: view here and here

So here's to connecting our Afghan and Redneck brothers together, do ya think I can justify bringing a few grenades or RPGs home? Probably easier to teach then baiting a hook!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Taliban Goes Green

I'm not talking US dollar green, nor wearing St Patrick's Day green to avoid being pinched, or in the case of the Taliban, murdered. Murder being the extreme St Paddy's day version of being pinched. They haven't turned wacko environmentalist on us either, unless you consider opium exporters participants in the "green" movement.

No, the Taliban have gone green, as in... emerald green. Its a beautiful gemstone soldiers and contractors covet and purchase at the base bazaars, in large sized carats, lest they get whacked upside the head with a large skillet upon returning home, for not thinking of the Mrs.

Opium must not be as profitable as it once was. As political correctness goes, talibs must know they are viewed as pariahs for pushing dope to the masses, via Afghanistan. Their dilemma? We are good at eradicating their cash crop (wink, wink), but the writing's on the wall, narco-dollars are drying up slowly. They need an alternate cash crop.

Maybe we should consider paying them good ol' fashioned US corporate welfare subsidies to not grow poppies. It's the American way! Regardless, it costs us in the long run, either by continuing to fund various drug reduction programs, or paying those outrageous crop subsidies.

But emeralds! You can't mainline or snort them. They're not illegal, in fact they are a natural resource, beautiful in their raw and polished forms. Muslim Khan, the Taliban spokesman in Swat, told The Sunday Telegraph., “We know that all the minerals have been created by Allah, the mighty and the merciful, for the benefit of his creatures. We should avail the opportunity.” “We receive one third of the profit, the rest goes to the workers”. How generous!

What's the upside to all this? Cheaper emeralds? Or, the military might find that emeralds are highly visible through night-vision goggles. Visualize if you will, talibs who have taken to wearing the precious gem. I'd bet that ranking talib commanders sport upwards of 4 carat emerald rings, while their foot soldiers settle for the more paltry 1/2 carat rings, containing inclusions. Imagine the Talibans' luminous green carats radiating at night, thus allowing our forces to easily identify them, engage them, and uhh... kill them. Let's hope the Taliban like to wear the bling they produce.

We can only hope it comes to this! Go green!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Small MilBlog Contest

Best Milblog You've Never Heard Of Contest: (Do I fit the bill?)

Apparently, I've been nominated for this contest by Twitter friend @FlagGazer. Here's what she wrote:

"I would like to nominate Deployed Teacher. This is an incredibly thoughtful blog and even gives hints on how to use his posts in a classroom! He is in Afghanistan now...."

Thanks @FlagGazer! What the heck; if I fit the bill of a "small guy" milblog and you enjoy reading, or using my posts in your classroom, then go to
BLACKFIVE and give me a shout-out. Let's see what happens. If nothing else, you'll find some other interesting milblogs.

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An April Fool

Who says the Afghans don't have a sense of humor? When I went for my tea fix this afternoon in the translators' office, I scanned their board for the latest news, interpreted from various Afghan Dari/Pashto websites. As I was reading, one of the translators motioned me over to look at his computer screen.

A Dari language news site was displayed and as usual, he started interpreting, in a serious, somber tone, what the website was reporting. He said the news just came in that there was a coup in Pakistan, and that the Pakistani president was under house arrest! There were two pictures of sinister looking men, and I asked who they were. He stated that one of the men was the new president, the leader of the coup, and the other was a Talib supporter of the new president. Wow!

This was huge! He and the three other translators proceeded to tell me about what the ramifications would be to Afghanistan and the US. I felt unsettled because I know the situation in Pakistan is tenuous, and the Afghans and Pakistanis, I've come to find out, don't much care for each other. As this late 50 year-old translator continued to explain the news, I wondered whether I should go look for a TV, so I could catch the latest reporting of this incredible coup.

This speculative discussion went on for a few minutes until, with a serious voice, my friend scrolled down the screen, pointed and said, "See here, in Dari it says, 'April Fool's'!" I looked around the room puzzled, forgetting that today was April 1st, I knew I'd been had. What did we do? We laughed! Hard! It was funny. These old coot friends got the best of me. So we drank our tea, and I reminded them how they have been corrupted by America, resorting to playing out an April Fools joke on an unsuspecting fool.

I think they may have played out this scenario many times today to unsuspecting visitors, I'll find out tomorrow. It is certainly a plausible scenario, and one I fell hook line and sinker for! Gotta love em! I will miss them.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Earth Hour

Compiled a list of a few comments I read on various blogs that I felt noteworthy. Certainly worthy of discussion in a classroom.

Re: Earth Hour 2009

"Its funny, sitting here thinking that Afghans are struggling to survive, while the world is concerned with Earth Hour. Sorry, but its a joke! Participants will feign outrage at their neighbor for not turning off lights, but not a word against an enemy who will happily kill them 'for a cause' " - me via twitter

"Why do we home school? Could it be because across America, children can't read or do the most basic math or logic problems, but, boy, they sure can re-cycle! Is there so much time on our hands that we can spend all of it "tilting at windmills" (or wind farms)? Heaven help us. Maybe those who die at the hand of Islam are the lucky ones -- the rest of us have to witness the rapid decline of western civilization at the hand of the College Marxists... " - hecowe

"When you turn out the lights, you are ... uh, like ... in the dark. Right where libs want everyone to be." - Anonymous

Teachers: I know I might lose some of you here, you can see where I stand on this issue. That's alright, I understand. I've presented only one side, you have your opinions too, I respect that. But when it comes to kids in classrooms, we owe it to them to present BOTH sides of an issue. As teachers, we should encourage discussion based on fact (not emotion - for teens, is that possible?), and let students decide for themselves what they believe. I think this will help stimulate them into becoming thinking, participative citizens. To do otherwise, is unfair, selfish, and borders on teacher malpractice.

So come on, have a discussion in your classroom. You don't have to know both sides of an issue, just be knowledgeable about how to facilitate a discussion without it getting out of hand. i.e. one speaker at a time, respect for the speaker, strive for facts, not emotion - teach them the difference, etc. Good luck.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh Canada

Recently, I heard the sad news that four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan; in two separate IED incidents.

The news brought to mind an email I received a short time ago from a Canadian citizen who follows me on the social networking site, Twitter. From out of the red, white, and blue wrote Garwood:

"On Twitter you asked me what we Canadians think of war. I cannot speak for everyone of course, but the general consensus is that Canadians are pretty humble, docile people, who would prefer peace to war. Of course we have our military but certainly not the power and the might of your armed forces. We don't have a strong feeling about signing up for God and our country like you do in the United States, and I think that is sadly lacking in Canada. We see your love and enthusiasm for your country, your flag, and your military, and we envy that."

"As with any war, there are many who do not think we should be in Afghanistan or Iraq (some of our men are posted in Iraq) but our Prime Minister has committed us to the middle of 2011. Our armed forces have been primarily peace keepers until we got involved in Afghanistan and this is all out war. We've lost 113 men over there in the last two years. To you and your military families that isn't very many but every loss of life is a tragedy. We cannot imagine here in Canada what it is like to have the numbers of dead and wounded that your military has sustained since this war began. Our hearts go out to the families of those brave men and women."

"My wife and I lost a fellow Winnipeger (that is someone who lives in Winnipeg, our city) in the World Trade Tower collapse on 9/11. My wife and I attended the first memorial service in NYC on 9/11/ 2002. To stand amidst the thousands that gathered at ground zero and talk with them, cry with them, and wave the American Flag with them was an experience I will never forget. Yes, Canada could take lessons on patriotism from the US. My wife and I have travelled throughout your great country and we love it."

As evidenced by the message, not all people dislike Americans, as our biased media, and some fellow citizens would have you believe; fretting at their whine and dine elitist parties about the state we're in. How chic, à la Hollywood style!

Quite frankly, I'm not too concerned about those who don't "like" us. So what, who cares? I've always been amazed at those who worry about that sort of thing; our perceived reputation. I've never believed what the media, and others, claimed was a generic distrust/dislike by foreigners towards the US. Garwood helped reaffirm that for me, as I hope it does for you.

His message is indicative of what I believe people throughout the world REALLY think of us. Garwood's humble message should be shared, shouted from the rooftops, and spread throughout our schools, so as to foster and instill the love and pride we continue to have for our great nation.

I was moved by the above email, and wanted to share it with you. How interesting, to have a Canadian so eloquently say, what most of our politicians won't, about the US as a nation!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lesson in Fact Finding Too

The following story caught my eye, and I thought, hmmm? Let's see what you think, history buffs.

General "Black Jack" Pershing and Muslim Terrorists in the Philippines before WW I:

Just before World War I, there were a number of terrorist attacks on United States forces in the Philippines by Muslim extremists. So General Pershing captured 50 terrorists, and had them tied to posts for execution. He then had his men bring in two pigs, and slaughter them in front of the horrified terrorists.

Muslims detest pork, because they believe pigs are filthy animals. Some of them simply refuse to eat it, while others won't even touch pigs at all, nor any of their by-products. To them, eating or touching a pig, its meat, its blood, etc., is to be instantly barred from Paradise (and the promised virgins), and doomed to hell.

The soldiers then soaked their bullets in the pigs' blood, and proceeded by firing squad, to execute 49 of the terrorists. The soldiers then dug a big hole, threw in the terrorists' lifeless bodies, and covered them in pig blood, entrails, etc. They let the 50th man go.

And for the next 42 years, there was not a single Muslim extremist attack anywhere in the world.

Teachers: A very interesting, albeit, brutal story; that means your older students should love it! Lots to research here: Who was Gen. Pershing, and why was he famous? Why were we in the Phillipines prior to WWI? Muslims in the Phillipines, whats up with that? Throughout the ages, what were some similar strategies that societies/cultures/armies/tribes used to frighten their enemies away? You get the idea. But be sure to check out, as dear departed Paul Harvey would say, "...the rest of the story" at Snopes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy New Year

It's the Afghan New Year today, Saturday, March 21, 2009

And yet again, the Afghan translators have invited me to their company party (I think I've been officially adopted) to help celebrate the new year, 1388! That's right, 1388.

One of the younger Afghan translators remarked; " Yeah, it's 1388, maybe that's why we're so far behind". We laughed, but in some ways, from what I've seen, he wasn't kidding!

This brings to mind the words of the artist, formerly known as Prince (or is he Prince again?):

"...Yeah, everybody's got a bomb
We could all die any day
But before I'll let that happen
I'll dance my life away

They say two thousand zero zero party over
Oops, out of time
We're runnin' outta time
So tonight we gonna, we gonna

(Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999)"

Let's see, I guess if I take Prince's advice, and party like its 1999, I would be 611 years ahead of the Afghans! Whoo Hoo! Wonder if they'll be ready for me?
Wonder if any women will be wearing a burqua, for old times sake? Here I come naan and kabob!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Airman and Teacher

When I'm not an Airman, I'm a Special Education teacher in an incarcerated facility, working with juveniles. As I get closer to leaving Afghanistan, my thoughts are slowly turning to teaching again, although, I will probably not be in the classroom until next school year. Once home, am taking the summer off to be with my family, and honor them for THEIR sacrifices. Think we're going to France!

While deployed, our base chaplain sends out words of encouragement on a daily basis. Although all are thought provoking, the one below, I associate to the students at the court school I'm assigned to. I see it, I live it. I just have to think back to the times I've gone on home visits, and seen the home environment my students are being raised in. Yup, this quote holds lots of meaning.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Russian Mined

Today, as I was walking to the office, I came upon familiar LN workers walking towards our building. Lagging behind, was the elder gentleman of the group, limping a bit.

I'd guess him to be around 50-55 yrs. old, hard to tell. In Afghanistan, if born in a village, people generally don't know what their birth date is. When asked for one's age, an Afghan might respond with something like, "I was born when the King died" or "The year the Russians invaded is when I was born". In addition, I'm told, there are only two major ceremonies in their lives: when they're born, and when they die.

Mind boggling, huh? Can you imagine all the possibilities if we used that same reference system to answer the question, "When were you born?" Some example responses in the US might be: "When the first car came out", or, "I was born when we landed a man on the moon" or, "When President Clinton denied having sex with that intern, Monica". But I digress!

As I approached, I asked the elder why he was limping, like he could understand my impeccable English! Then, I reverted to what I know best, gesticulating, pointing to his leg, and raising my voice like he had a hearing problem, as opposed to a comprehension problem. Now he understood my question!

I was stunned by his answer because I knew he spoke little to no English. He stopped, looked down, lifted his pantleg to show me a prosthesis and exclaimed, "F***n' damn Russians mines! F***n' Russian mines!"

Whoa, Polish flashback! I was not sure whether to laugh at his impassioned, totally unexpected outburst, or be disgusted by the reality of the Russian legacy left for Afghanistan. After an awkward pause, I congratulated him on HIS impeccable English, encouraged him to continue expressing his feelings concerning the Russians, and shook hands as we continued our walk silently to the building.

I saw this gentleman later in the day, and after having thought about what he'd said, asked if I could take a picture of his prosthetic leg to share with the world. He smiled and obliged.

In hindsight, the "MINES" picture I share with you at the top of my blog, has more meaning than ever to me now, and I will always think of this man, my "I was born when the King died" aged, Afghan friend.

Teachers: I know we've delved into this a little before. But this puts a face, so to speak, to the story. It is first hand from a real person and the effect it has had. How many mines do they estimate in Afghanistan, rent the movie Kandahar, it is very good but has subtitles. It deals with people who were victims of mines. A real eye opener and depicts life as it is in Afghanistan. Probably better for HS students.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Empower Afghans

Somebody brought up a great point about where to draw the line in how much we help Afghanistan and it's citizens. I was having a discussion concerning Afghan children on the other side of the fence, "outside the wire". The translator said "Yes, children typically stand there, with puppy dog eyes, hoping a soldier will throw them some bottled water, candy, etc." Soldiers are torn, because they see their plight, maybe even see their own children in their eyes, and naturally, want to help.

The translator explained, "...that by succumbing to your helpful nature, you are encouraging a potentially harmful social behavior; that begging is rewarded". He continued, "We must be careful not to lull Afghans into a sense of entitlement". "If you go right outside the ECP, into the village, you will find another world; poor people on donkeys and bikes, beggars, unsanitary water, lawlessness; you'll literally be in a third world country!"

His point was made; the US must be cautious not to create an Afghan welfare state. Creating and enabling a welfare-like society would be an egregious disservice to Afghanistan. We know what that looks like, and it ain't pretty. Watch how this generation of Afghan children evolves. Will they grow up to embrace self-sufficiency? Or, will they remember begging for water and candy from soldiers, expecting entitlements that Americans (and others) have unwittingly bestowed upon them?

Like pebbles dropped into calm water, the rippling waves move from the center outward. Lets duplicate that rippling effect by enabling, rather than entitling, Afghans to farm (crops, not opium poppies), to become self-sufficient, to foster education, etc. in the hope for an empowered Afghanistan.

I'm not a military or social strategist. I don't suggest the above because it is not being done, it is, in various forms. I don't know how we'll measure Afghan progress outside the Taliban influence. Does progress mean fewer beggars, more stores being opened, more shoppers, a larger workforce, increased literacy? Time will tell.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Symbolism and Cartoons

Found this editorial cartoon on an Afghan website recently. What do you think? Cartoons are serious business. Some cartoonists have death threats made against them for cartoons they've drawn depicting religious figures or other cultural icons. Do some research, how many cartoonists have been murdered for expressing their views through art? Wonder who's heads those are hanging? And what about that whip? Is this cartoon inflammatory? Would like your opinions. Just added this article, relevant to the cartoon.

Teachers: Discuss what the term Symbolism means with your students. Is the artist using symbolism or is he being literal? What does literal mean? What do you suppose the artist's message is? What is the difference between an editorial cartoon and those found on the comics page of a newspaper? Have your students deconstruct the cartoon in groups and have each group report on what they believe the cartoon is saying. After they report out, the discussions generated can lead to further investigation concerning the Taliban, religious teachings, Afghan culture, etc. See where it leads.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Great American Influence

I know I've mentioned my Polish friends before (pic attached). They are based here and maintain the Polish helicopters. Their soldiers are also based in Ghazni where they have a larger presence, along with greater military responsibility for that region. My friends Przemec and Tadek flew to Ghazni to do some work. It has turned out so far to be for 2-3 weeks, as expected. They should be returning soon.

Przemek's email from Ghazni (below) reminded me of being back home at school, working with students who are learning English. It is displayed without editing, except for location:

"cześć Mark, thank you for wrtting, Gazni is small place bat I thing so it is safety, I would like to come back to Base X how it is posible , bat My helicopters not flay now. Im going come back this week, TheWeather smotime is good bat not often, The acomodation is wore then ni Base X, is only small gym , bat my soliders are wery funy. I was too on Mass on Ash Wednesday, I dont have a lot of work because we heave problem with secial fiuel to helicopters. so we stay in erth. so sory my writing is not good I think co We will meet too, have you goot day Mark"

I am often humored by Przemek's attempts at spoken English. An example...

One evening we were at the AF rec area and I showed them how to play UNO, a card game I play at home with my son. Thought it would be a good game to teach them, because it involves colors, numbers, and words, in English. They enjoyed learning the game, and playing enabled them to practice speaking English. It just so happened that, next to us, was a group of young Army and AF soldiers playing Texas Hold-Em (poker); they were having their own unique experience. The soldiers were boisterous, enjoying themselves, and of course, were using many colorful, descriptive English words (profanities) to express their pleasure/displeasure with their poker hands.

So here I am, trying to help my friends learn English, and after a while, out of the blue as we were shuffling the UNO cards, ready to start another game, Prezemec exclaims "I like this fokking game, sheet, it is goot dam game"! The three of us busted up laughing and joined in, exchanging profanities of our own ("Shuffle the fokking deck"! "This is goot sheet game"!) . A truly Joint Coalition experience!

I realized my Polish friends were keenly aware of the expletive phrases being thrown around by the young soldiers, and thought it would be fun to practice some of their own interpretations of colorful English phrasing. I'm sure they had heard these cuss words before, but in a learning mode, were intrigued by the soldiers' descriptive vocabulary. They proudly wanted to emulate the soldiers' usage of the newly acquired phrases, as if it were an honor to know these terms. I have to admit, they were quick f*#*n learners!

Teachers: Sorry, you're on your own with this one! Good luck. Just kidding! Have your students write out (individually) what they think my friend was trying to say in English. Then have the class share and compare what they came up with. Are you all able to come to a consensus? If you have an EL class, UNO is a great way to learn colors and numbers and a few select words. I'd skip a discussion on the cussing, unless you want to hear a lot of it coming from your students.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Celebutard is a Cool Word


ce - leb – u – tard (suhLEByutard) noun:

1. A famous person with a grandiose notion of his/her own importance and contribution to the known universe.
2. A human being of sub-par intellect, oversized ego and colossal bank account, whose existence represents a drag on the food chain, waste of oxygen and severe annoyance. Its habitat is found in the entertainment industry, mansions of trust-fund children, and occasionally in the sports industry.
3. An egregious moron. (Origin: from the Latin celebutardus Paris Hiltonus maximum Baldwinus)

For the above definition, a shout-out to author Andrea Peyser. Here is an excerpt from her just released Celebutards which is available for purchase at Amazon :

"Celebutards. They walk among us but they are not of us. They eat, sleep and breed just like ordinary humans. But at some magic moment — between the time, say, a movie script wanders into the hands of a world-class celebutard such as George Clooney, and the words travel through lilting vocal chords to land on unsuspecting ears, something terrible occurs. They start to believe in their own ignorance."

"A dull thinker such as Madonna becomes, in her mind and in the eyes of devoted fans, a self-appointed sage. Veritable moron Rosie O’Donnell transforms from a shrill, gay mom into a rocket scientist. Sean Penn boldly breaks bread with tyrants and enemies of his own country, vapid pop singer Sheryl Crow calls for rationing toilet paper to one sheet per sitting, and earth avenger Al Gore forgets he lost an election. Give a celebutard a microphone and a little encouragement, and suddenly, without warning, that talented performer says and does things that are really, incredibly, grotesquely dumb."

Why am I sharing this? First of all, when I saw I the word celbutard, I laughed! I knew instantly what it meant, and that doesn't happen often. Secondly, after the Oscars were on, and Sean Penn won an award, I realized that the Oscars were political, not objective and apolitical as they should be. I don't get America bashers, and I don't get him. I wonder if his friend Hugo Chavez allows his citizens to speak about Venezuela in such a manner? And, live to tell about it. Don't get me wrong, I support Penn's right to say what he feels he needs to say, but I am not obligated to agree with it. That's just one thing, out of many, that is great about America. By the way, in her book, Peyser skewers Penn, and rightly so.

Teachers: Do you strive to provide insight, and a balanced perspective to your students? Do you teach them enough information in matters of government, history and social sciences that allows them to formulate their own opinions? As we are influenced by who we grow up with, ask students what the adults at home discuss, politically or socially. Do they agree with them? Maybe some students would be reluctant to discuss this topic, maybe better as a written assignment.

Afghans Have Two Faces

I recently took pictures of some of the Local National (LN) workers as a favor to them. LNs are workers hired from the neighboring villages, brought onto the base daily to do a variety of jobs. They typically work as a unit, and are supervised by either military escorts or civilian contractors who supervise their daily duties.

They saw me taking a picture with my digital camera, and asked if I would take one of them. It was an interesting situation because the way they asked was as if children pleading with a parent for a new toy, eyes serious with anticipation. Before obliging, I asked their military escorts if taking a picture would be breaking any rules. I was told it would be all right.

I took each worker's picture, printed them out on some card stock, and handed them out the next day. I was amazed, because they looked at the pictures as if they had each just received a $50 dollar bill. To say they were appreciative and grateful is an understatement.

At the time, one of my translator friends was having a smoke. He saw that I had given them the pictures. After being shown the pics and complimenting them on their newly acquired prizes, he went to his office. I followed. He proceeded to tell me something that burst my bubble. He told me that he advised the LNs to put their pictures in a safe place and to be careful with them. Why?

Seems once the LNs are back in their own environment, they need to be careful of Taliban who may question them about possessing anything "Western". The translator explained that Afghans have two faces; one for the westerners, and one for the Taliban. This made sense to me. I saw how the LNs were thrilled to have their picture taken, even though they know it's something the Taliban strongly discourages. In their homes, or among fellow villagers, they must be ready to wear the Taliban face, not that they are believers in Taliban tenets, but rather, out of fear for their lives. Some Afghans understand that having two faces is a prudent coping mechanism.

I understand now, and am sad for them. I saw, and briefly shared their joy over the pictures. Yet, something so simple and common in my world, is potentially complicated, and dangerous, in theirs.
Teachers: Talk to your students and ask them if they have ever used a "second face". Are they one way in front of their friends, but another at home/work/school? This discussion could lead to an art project, or a recollected example of a character they've seen in a movie or book they've read.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nancy Pelosi in Afghanistan

Saturday was a busy day here. Nancy Pelosi and other US Representatives traveled to Afghanistan to speak with Afghan President Karzai (in Kabul), then flew here to be briefed by our two-star general, my boss. It was kind of a fluke that I knew they were here. On my way back from lunch, entering our secured area, I noticed two buses driving past that usually carry dignitaries. A list of names was on the side of each bus, and I saw the name Rep. Pelosi as one of the names.

I asked around, and people in the know said she was on her way in, flying on a C-130 (slumming it?). Long story short, I work in the area where our command is, so any dignitaries passing through usually come here for their briefings. Although her politics are not my cup of tea, I still have respect for her position as an elected official, as do I for our President, B.O. Besides, there were enough people making comments about her that quite frankly, surprised me. But I digress! If you ever want to ask me what they said, you can ask, and I will share their musings. If you are with the military, I will graciously and respectfully decline to answer!

Anyway, it was a quick visit, maybe two hours. She, the other Representatives, and staff, made their way into the JOC (Joint Operations Center), then made their way into the briefing room. I stood in the hallway and heard someone say, "She'll be a minute, she's 'powdering her nose'". So there I stood, waiting anxiously, thinking since we are both from CA, she would extend a hand, maybe ask me a few questions or, say hi. But no! She walked by, smiled, briefly glanced at me, then continued to the briefing room. I guess her smile meant she knew I was a fellow Californian. Shucks!

I left, went back to my office, Oops! I mean foxhole (with weapon and helmet). And they ended up being briefed for an hour or so. I left my foxhole, M-9 in hand (making sure there was no enemy in sight), and was on my way back to the room when I noticed the buses were still there. As luck would have it (if you want to call it that), they were just coming out to get on their transportation back to the flight line, then back to the C-130 low-riding Hercules. I'm assuming they were headed back to the US, after swapping out planes, and.... that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Teachers: Have a discussion - who is Nancy Pelosi? Who are the House of Representatives and how do they compare to the US Senate? Is Pelosi a Republican or Democrat? What do both parties believe in as their political doctrine? Why did they meet with Afghan President Karzai? Check out the aircraft through the supplied link, compare all the different aircraft and their capabilities.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Afgahnistan Resource for Teachers

Teachers: Thought I would share a site with you to use in your classroom if you, or your students, are doing research on Afghanistan. This resource and worksheets are compliments of the British Royal Geographical Society . Hope the site is useful to you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lesson in Fact Finding

A high school friend sent me this email today for a laugh, because he knows I am in the Air Force:

A story with a happy ending! This nineteen-year-old ex-cheerleader (now an Air Force Security Forces Sniper) was watching a road that led to a NATO military base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged the target (i.e., she shot him). Turned out he was a bomb maker for the Taliban and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a US patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded several soldiers. The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725 yards. She shot him as he was bent over burying the bomb. The shot went through his butt and into the bomb which detonated; he was blown to pieces.

The Air Force made a motivational poster of her:

Here's another side of the story: Snopes

Teachers: This is a great example of not accepting the written word for face value. In your classroom, do some brainstorming on stories that newspapers, websites, TV, magazines, etc. tell us are true. Have students research the results and verify whether they are in fact, true, false, or contain insufficient evidence to make a determination one way or the other.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Future Taliban addiction?

Would like to add something to what I shared previously concerning Viagra as a way to fight the war. Seems an ex-Taliban member was interviewed by a reporter recently and admitted that he was "addicted" to his iPhone. Hmmm!

Lets see, we are considering Viagra for certain members of the Afghan population, which I'm all for (see prior post). So that covers the middle aged (and above) testosterone laden, violent males. But how about iPhones? A whole other segment of the population could be blanketed and introduced to its wonderful capabilities. Can you say "Afghan stimulus"?

Like many countries, we could wire up the cities and countrysides using those ubiquitous cell-phone towers via satellites, and could easily help make a country dependent on iPhones. Talk about being distracted from the war! As in the US, we could cleverly disguise the towers as trees or other "natural" looking edifices so they wouldn't even know they were there.

I can see it now, the Taliban learning to write apps for their propaganda machines, frantically Twittering - "Here's the plan Karim...", or reciting their PDF'd holy scriptures - all online! Don't like what some nut is spewing, (or trying to sell you), just block them! It beats murder.

Granted, they would probably have to step out of their caves to do so, to get better reception, i.e. "Can you hear me now?". That should flush them out into the open! Wonder if Oh Bin Laden has one? How about donating one to him Apple? You get credited for his capture, and your stock goes through the roof! Ahh, the wonders of technology.

As for the ex Taliban leader referenced above - isn't it just a little bit hypocritical that what you impose on others, doesn't apply to you? Now where have I seen that concept before? (Hint - think Global Warming)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ban the Taliban (Mentality) Part 2

A co-worker sent me a NY Times story today regarding the Taliban. At first I wondered why he deemed the item important. Fact is, I read about death every day. Fortunately, it usually concerns dead bad guys.

Here's what happened - Taliban insurgents, warriors, terrorist low-lifes (Am I being too mean?) decided to kill a political official from a provincial village, which they did. Thing is, the villagers found the killer, detained them, tied them to a tree (must have been a dead tree, cause I don't see many round these parts), then beat them to death! Can't tell you if it was an equal opportunity beating, as the news item did not say if there were any women, competing religious sects, or diverse ethnicities involved in the revenge killing. Inhumane savagery, or justice? Comments?

The reason my colleague sent out the news was because this seems to be a possible significant turn of events. This type of justice is considered unusual, considering villagers killed a Taliban member. Usually, it is the other way around, and villagers live in fear of antagonizing the Taliban . Significance? Is this a small sign that some Afghans are ready and willing to stand up to the hated aggressors, or did they just happen to be some of the first in Afghanistan to watch the revenge fantasy movie, Taken? Will keep you informed as I find out more. I have to admit, my translator friends were very happy with the news - they HATE the Taliban.

Teachers: Especially History and Social Science teachers - have your students consider wars where the populace stood up to their aggressors/invaders. Brainstorm on the board then have groups research the results and post-out to the class. Any similarities between the rebelling populaces? What was their "last straw" to have them join the fight?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ban the Taliban (Mentality) Part 1

OK, this will be a quick one but had to get it into a post while fresh in my mind:

Was with the translators this afternoon and they shared a news item that was local, not in the Western press. A barber had a grenade thrown into his shop by a Talib (Taliban is plural). Why? Because the barber was accused of shaving mens' beards! Fortunately, the barber was not killed, but he was injured. Seems not having a beard is a no-no in the Taliban's eyes. Have you read The Kite Runner or Michener's Caravans? Makes more sense now.

Another story the translators shared - seems a man was not able to grow facial hair. People can relate to that, right? It's just not in their genes. Under the Taliban, he was in constant fear for his life. He was beaten because he was regularly asked when approached, "Where is your beard?" Guess he could not explain why to the satisfaction of the Taliban.

Just needed to share these examples with you. We are comfortable back in the US and could not imagine fearing for our lives on a daily basis (unless driving through rush-hour traffic to get to work).

Local justice, as you get farther away from civilization, is meted out with a swift brutality, away from the eyes of Human Rights groups. It is accepted/reviled and serves as a warning to others, an eye for an eye...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fallen Comrade

Don't know if there is some unwritten rule about sharing this, but I think people back home ought to know about Fallen Comrade ceremonies. I read that HBO captured the journey of a fallen soldier in a new drama starring Kevin Bacon, titled Taking Chance. The movie premiers February 21, 2009.

For me, it has been an emotional, surreal experience; to take part in a Fallen Comrade ceremony at the airfield I'm deployed at. After transportation is arranged, an alert is sent throughout the base, notifying us of the upcoming ceremony. At the appointed hour, thousands of soldiers, and others paying their respects, line the route. We quietly wait, knowing what is to pass before us. As the fallen soldier’s motorcade passes, all arms crisply salute and the silence that follows is haunting. We disperse, with thoughts of what his/her family must be going through playing through our minds. I am honored, humbled, and reminded of the realities of war; able to pay my respects prior to a soldier’s journey home. I thank God though, that this is not a daily occurrence.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I want to learn English!

Interesting how the foreign troops I meet almost ALL know a little English, learned in their country. I think to myself as they struggle, "how many US citizens know two languages?" The US should become better at encouraging and teaching students to speak another language fluently, period!

People I meet are eager to learn English, and I would like to oblige them, being a teacher and all. Those of you reading this, any help or suggestions you can think of, would be greatly appreciated.

I have become friends with Afghans, Polish, Korean and other coalition troops who seem to want to practice English and improve their skills. For many, it's their first time using the English they learned as a youth in an English speaking environment. I find it humorous that they are always apologizing for their "bad English" so I keep on encouraging them to speak and practice whenever they can. These people know the potential value of learning English and want to become fluent.

Here is a hint for those of you who WANT to learn. The military is a great place to use a foreign language. If you want to travel the world, are fluent, and don't mind the military lifestyle, then concentrate on countries where we have established bases. Learn their language. From what I have seen, you will use your language skills and be in the thick of things, which will make your experience very interesting. If the military is not for you, people (contractors) are making very good money using their language skills to help the US and foreign militaries. Again, a potentially great experience.

Teachers: What languages do your students know? In class, start exploring their language and set up word walls; label your tables, chairs, door, etc. with it's language counterpart; start the school day with introductions/ welcomes and end the day with good-byes in each language. By the end of the semester or school year, each of your students will be enriched with a slice of language they might otherwise have not learned. Good luck!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Half Way There!

Well, as of the 25th, I am at the halfway mark of my deployment. Three months are behind me, as I was "boots-on-the-ground" October 25th. Have met a lot of friendly and interesting people, traveled minimally, and sat in on some briefings I never would have had the chance to back home, I could go on.

In short, I am grateful for the opportunity to be here. It's funny, but I have not heard a lot of complaining going on. Oh, being in a joint environment as an airman, there are those who have to adapt to the Army's way of doing things. Not that that's bad. It's just that like any culture; each service has it's own "language", it's own way of conducting business, and it takes some time to assimilate if you are assigned to it.

An example? Some AF personnel are having to pull KP and guard duty, something they have never been trained for, but it is part of helping out, part of assimilating into the Army's culture. Oh, and learning military languages, each service has what you could call, it's own language, HOOOAH? Even ranks take a while to learn depending on the service. When I first arrived, I was wondering why there were so many colonels around, especially young ones! Well, I wasn't aware of the Navy's ranking system. Their enlisted wear something similar to an eagle for their rank and when walking past them, until you learn, you may find yourself saluting a twenty-year old. Can you tell I haven't posted in a while? I'm

Part of me believes I'm in a lull after only three months. As I've heard others say or describe it, it's Groundhog Day, every day. Pretty much the same routine, day-in, day-out. The challenge is finding what you like to do on your down-time and doing it. Time passes quickly here, before I know it, I will be home reminiscing about my experiences. Lots to talk about...

Teachers: I wrote about culture. Consider having a class discussion comparing the cultures of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc. to the diverse cultures in the US; African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc. and compare their similarities, or differences.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

HGTV Dream Home Giveaway has started

Every once in a while, I am a sucker for online giveaways. To help me feel like I'm at home, I'm going to share with you one of the giveaways I enter yearly. It's the Home and Garden TV Dream Home Giveaway, which you can enter until Feb. 19th.

The details can be obtained from the link below and you can enter daily. The homes have been awesome throughout the years! Go ahead, take the video tour of the home in Sonoma, CA. To enter, there is nothing to buy, watch, or subscribe to. They even have their own blog for more information.

The only downside is, if you win, it would be an agonizing decision whether to keep the house or sell it? Why might you sell it? To pay the taxes that will be due from the windfall.

If you choose to enter - good luck! Here's the link: ENTER BTW - the drawing is live, March 15.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nan - Afghan bread

Just got back from the translators' office late this afternoon after saying bye before they left for the day. I drop in frequently and was offered a cup of tea, as Afghans usually do when guests arrive. The tea was warm and refreshing. They've made it a point of teaching me some of their language so I can greet them and further educate myself on their culture.

I say "their" culture because these are Afghan-Americans, born and raised in Afghanistan whose families fled their homes when the Russians came. They were hired to help translate Afghan language news to English. These are not the only translators on base, there are many.

I bring up nan because I have had occasion to enjoy the bread while visiting their office. The group has invited me to eat with them when they are able to get local food brought in by their friends. It is infrequent, so a treat when it happens. I have sampled their lamb and chicken dishes when cooked by the locals.

Today, I was treated to a gift from the translators. When I arrived, they pointed to a small piece of nan left over from lunch. They said it was for me, so I nodded, said thank you - tashakur- and proceeded to grab it. They stopped me and laughed. The small piece was not for me, the big piece you see in the picture was for me, it was hidden by a piece of newspaper. Seems they each had a piece for lunch and decided to save one for me. I told them I would eat a piece of it and save the rest. They again laughed and said once I started eating it, I wouldn't be able to stop. They weren't kidding. As I write this post, I ate it! And yes it was good!
Teachers: If you are from a diverse area like I am, ask your students about their culture and any foods they eat that are similar to nan/naan. Look up its recipe and compare it's ingredients to their foods. Afghanistan is considered SW Asia, why? Have your students research the many cultures in Asia, what do the people look like - their similarities and differences.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mother Nature's busy!

Mother Nature is busy these days. Finally some snow yesterday. And if that wasn't enough, this morning at 0100, we had a 5.9 earthquake

Was wondering when it would start coming down, it has been cold enough, but no moisture. Am from CA, so not very aware of the weather warning signs for snow. Now ask me about dense fog, and I can help you out, it’s prevalent in the winter. Why is this a big deal? I have not had many opportunities to live in a snow laden environment. Spent 3 months in Germany back in 87 and it snowed heavily, come to think about it, I was there for Christmas and New Years too.

Curious to see how it affects things in a deployed environment, will it slow down considerably? Fewer flights (sorties) for the helicopters, props and jets? Fewer troop movements, fewer enemy contacts? We’ll see.

As for the earthquake, I was surprised to find out that there is a history of earthquakes in the region. See USGS It gave me a good shake in bed this morning and I planned my exit strategy as I lay waiting for an aftershock or more severe shake, but it never happened. Not my first earthquake, but it was a total surprise . Wonder what Mother Nature has in store for us next?

Teachers: The above links will give you a head start; what is the geology in this region that contributes to it's earthquakes? Have their quakes been disastrous in the past? Explain. What does
USGS stand for, and what is their job? Do they have stats on your area? Explore.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dreaming of a better tomorrow?

When I am eating at the dining facility, the employed Local Nationals, or LN's, walk up and down the aisles waiting for people to finish eating so they can prep the table for the next diners. I can't help but notice that the LN's glance at the big screen TVs situated throughout the facility and observe what is showing on Armed Forces Network (AFN).

I find it interesting because they watch what is being shown as if it is all new to them. Duh! You say? They see a variety of news, sports, entertainment, documentaries, TV series, movies, etc. and I see a sense of wide eyed marvel, (or is it curiosity?), about what they are viewing. These are people who may not have TVs and who look at the affluence of modern societies as depicted on the TV screens.

I wonder if they watch the TVs and think about their culture and their country's future? Are they dreaming of a better tomorrow while I, a US citizen, dream about what 2009 holds for me as I continue my deployment. I see a striking contrast. With that being said, Happy New Year from Afghanistan.

Teachers: Describe the scene and ask students to discuss what they think the LN may be "dreaming" about. What are the contrasts in our respective cultures? Research AFN. What is it? What programming do they offer the troops who are deployed?

DeployedTeacher.com domain from: