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.

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