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 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. domain from: