Thanks! That one was a free gift.
In the few days I will be here, they have assigned me to live with the ANP or Afghan National Police. It provides a very good opportunity to interact, culturally, with both ethnic groups. (Afghans and Nepalese)
Plus, the food is outstanding. Had the most wonderful lamb, stewed in some kind of savory sauce last night, with a bowl of curry on the side.
I love to watch people, and am trying to pick up the non-verbal communication between these folks. I find that I'm able to get a positive non-verbal response from Afghans just by making eye contact, and a subtle nod.
At the airport, while waiting to inprocess through Afghan customs, I made a point of allowing two women and an elderly man move in front of me, and did so using the gestures I had seen and interpreted as meaning "you are doing me a great favor by allowing me to do this for you."
This, apparently, was The Right Answer, as an airport official was immediately at my elbow, and escorted me to the front of a new line they had just opened. His body language, and the body language of the surrounding Afghans had immediately transitioned from being tense and closed, to being relaxed and open. When I protested, just a bit, before following the airport official, I got smiles.
While waiting for my baggage to off-load, I had the opportunity to watch the other soldiers, contractors and whatnot interact with the Afghans, as they slowly advanced through the lines. No one was openly hostile, but the westerners definitely behaved, as a class, differently from the Afghans.
Non-verbal communication and dignity of carriage are exceptionally important to them. Back in '03-'04 when I was in Iraq, the Iraqi contractors got the mis-perception that I actually ran the base. Early on in the war, I developed a reputation for out-spokenness within V Corps, so I found myself assigned to the night shift at the command center. We slept in these Iraqi mud brick houses, and the Army decided to rehabilitate them. Of course they worked during the day, which happened to be my sleep time. Unable to sleep through the resultant racket, I took to sitting in a camp chair in our courtyard, tending a pomegranate tree, along with a couple date palms, and making coffee and tea on my WWII vintage gasoline stove.
It started with an Iraqi boy coming up to ask, not beg, for a stick of gum, which I would ceremonially give to him. Then, his father came to me about a dispute with another contractor, which I resolved by not saying anything, but looking concerned and eventually nodding in the direction of the boy's father, which evidently fixed the problem.
After that, more and more Iraqis would come by to show me what they were doing, some of which I actually understood. And because I have a solid mechanical background, I had my opinions on some of it.
Evidently, in their culture, the real powerful men, are taciturn, and can do things during the day like tend an orchard and brew coffee and tea in the courtyard, while sitting on a camp chair. It didn't help that both our commanders tended to overtalk, and were frenetic people.
Little did these Iraqis know that I was probably the least influential person in the US Army, at least formally. Or maybe I WAS influential, just not in ways westerners tend to value. I know for a fact that some of these projects would've stalled and there would've been problems, except for a shared cup of tea, a contemplative appearance and the belief that a judgement had been rendered.
I never did mention to my chain of command that I was doing this.
Keep'em coming, I have really enjoyed your writings!
At least the females seem like barracudas. Not happening with me, though.
BTW, here is my ride, when I'm not riding my Mi-8:
Now, how useful would an armored Excursion be in the real world?
I'm being serious here--hope you're saving all of these for a nice "memoirs" book. Can't wait to see you on Fox or CNN talking about your time overseas!
Thanks for keeping us updated. These have all been very interesting.