A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Eid al Fitr

At last, Eid is almost upon us!  (And not to be forgotten, a Rosh Hashanah shalom to my Jewish friends)  Never did I think I would anticipate a Muslim holiday this greatly...but the month of fasting is about to conclude, and it might just be in time to save me from wasting away.  Alright, it's really not all that bad -- I've basically had two meals each night, and most nights even managed a midnight workout in between the powering-up sessions.  But based on the somewhat concerned (occasionally horrified) reactions on the part of those who say I'm looking gaunt and bedraggled, it can only help to eat some regular meals again, and drink a bottle of water when the thirst arises.

Having said that, I'll reiterate my opinion that many of my fellow servicemembers could stand to skip a meal or three...or at least eat a little more smartly.  I know the services have different standards, and I'm well aware of different body types, but there are a few out here that would qualify as obese...and plenty who would at least be termed 'hefty', 'rotund' or 'triple-chinned'.  If these individuals can't control themselves, and the Army (or Navy, or Air Force) won't boot them or even withhold the next promotion to what should be a leadership rank -- and they've clearly demonstrated that they won't -- then how about changing the diet?  Or, you could just try what they will do, and eliminate long runs and sit-ups from PT and see how that goes... (for the record, I'm all for more yoga and total body fitness...just not at the expense of cardio endurance, upon which the big Army seems to have given up.)

Making Soldiers Fit to Fight, Without the Situps

It's well past time for the contract officers (often the heftiest around, unsurprisingly) to provide fewer of the all-fried, doused-in-heavy-sauce options; and more simple, healthier meals.  There are an abundance of choices already; there just need to be some smarter ones.  Here's a novel idea: re-write the Dept of Defense contracts so that local fruits, vegetables and grains could replace the ones shipped from the states.  I know I've ranted about this before, but the most delicious melons in the world are grown right here in Afghanistan, and you would never know that from the chow halls...only if you're fortunate enough to eat in town or with our Afghan brothers do you get to try the insanely tasty tarbooz from the north.  But we're so set in our ways that we don't make a simple change (probably because it would anger some contracting company and the politicians who profit from the deals in some way) that would actually grow the Afghan economy, something we say we're trying like hell to do.  OK...rant over.

عید شما تبریک باشد
Eid-e shumaa tabrik baasha!

Translation: Congratulations on your Eid!  The holiday is a very big deal, even though it is known as "little Eid" while the next one, in 45 days or so, is "big Eid".  Still, this ends the 28 days of fast from food and liquids, along with all the other best behavior requirements I wrote about in the Ramazan post (think of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", only with Allah instead: He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness' sake!).  Actually, the use of Santa may be warranted, because Eid is often compared to Christmas for Muslims...or maybe Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving rolled into one.  For sure, every Afghan hopes to be home for this 3-day holiday, and some of the senior generals of the Army and Police are actually making the rounds to visit troops in the provinces who cannot do so.

Wondering what to do with your holiday?  My dear friend Farzana has some helpful advice about what goes on: "It is appropriate to give small gifts of food, candy, or other thoughtful things to your close friends/co-workers. Everyone does a massive deep-clean on their house, buys new clothes to wear, and visits one another for several days. Children are often given a little money."  So do it up, people.

عید شما مبرک
Eid-e shumaa mubarek!

Translation: May your Eid be blessed!  Which brings me to the weirdness of the rhythm we live as foreign advisors to the Afghans in a time like this.  Everyone back in the States returned from a long weekend, 4 days in many cases, while there was no Labor Day to speak of on this end (even the regular weekly pattern is off from yours, as the 'weekend' here is just Juma -- Friday -- then it's back to work).  But there is a 3-day holiday about to begin here for Eid (no, not for us infidels), which happens this year to immediately follow a nationally declared 2-day holiday today for Martyr's Day (officially "Ahmad Shah Massoud, the National Hero of Afghanistan, and other Afghan Martyrs Day" -- now that is a mouthful).  This has been commemorated on Sept 9 annually, at least in areas including Kabul where his supporters can most easily be found, since Massoud was assassinated two days before the 9/11/01 attacks. 

Anniversary of Ahmad Shah Masoud's Martyrdom Honoured in Kabul

Since the day is off for everyone, they held the national commemoration yesterday, in the Loya Jirga Tent in Kabul...a 5-hour-long ceremony in which speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of those who died fighting to free Afghanistan from the Soviets, and then the Taliban.  Conveniently skirted usually is the period of 1992-96, in which the Mujahiddin groups which had banded together to fight the Russians splintered apart and went to war with each other, obliterating Kabul, Kandahar and much of the country in a hail of rockets, mortars, artillery bombardments and other methods.  Still, some were far more at fault than others for the carnage of that period...Gulbuddin Hekmatyar usually comes up when Afghans are asked.  He was the leader most favored by Pakistan (and its CIA & Saudi suppliers), who remains safely there now as he continues to wage what he considers Jihad against the legitimate Afghan government and its Coalition allies.

Enough history, culture and weight talk for tonight?  I think so.  But I've got to do something to stay in touch while I can't post photos and it's 3am and the bags underneath my eyes grow heavier and heavier...

If you're not bummed out enough yet, check out this story on a dirty little not-so-secret of some corners of Afghan society: the habit of 'kept boys', or bachabaze.  Anyone who's read much of this land has likely come across the references, but the fact that it may be on the rise is very, very bad news for the poor kids of Afghanistan desperately trying to feed their families.  It's a twisted and predatory practice, obviously.  But I can't throw at you just sunshine and roses if you want to know more about this place...and there is an UGLY side to the fairly common practice of chai boys, and the abuse of them as status symbols.

The sexually abused dancing boys of Afghanistan

The bottom line?  We (the collective "we" of everyone who's a guest in Afghanistan to try and help the country stand on its own) can do everything we can...but there are aspects of culture that will puzzle, confound -- or in this case, disgust -- outsiders.  We discourage practices that are simply inhumane, but we usually won't be privvy to them.  The hope is that we are not empowering those who do.


Anonymous Slappy said...

Wow. Lots to digest in this one, bro - informative as always. But suffice to say that your empathetic Ramazan observance was a noble act, and welcome back to the delights of nourishing & hydrating oneself while the sun shines upon you.

Eid-e shumaa tabrik baasha!

September 10, 2010 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Goo-man said...

Slappy nailed it- VERY informative; the final part showing us a view into of Afghanistan's (very) dark side that, because it's been a part of their culture for so long, does not seem bad to them.
But I am glad to got to learn a little about Ahmad Massoud- after reading the link you had up, I was curious enough to read some more about him- very interesting!
And of course, a joyous and celebratory Eid to you! Hydrate, sir!

September 11, 2010 at 11:22 AM  

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