Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Mistaken Afghan

By now, this is a familiar refrain:
"Wow, you really look Afghan. You know, you are one of us. Just don't talk and no one will ever know you are American. Are you really American?"

Usually, this is a very good thing for me. At crowded intersections the beggar children walk right on by my car. Men never glance twice (unless I am feeling a little bold and look at them). The occasional shady character doesn't slow down when passing me on the sidewalk. Both teachers and students greet me in Dari at my University and treat me like any other professor. But today proved to be a little problematic...and comedic, of course.

At the gate to my University, the guards decided that my car couldn't drive inside to drop me off. So, I jumped out of my safe vehicle into the chaos that is the main thoroughfare outside of the entrance to my school. When I tried to walk through the pedestrian gate, one guard singled me out and stopped me.

He said, "Blah blah blah (in Dari)."
I said, "Shoma Ingleesi gap mezanayn?" (Do you speak English?)
He said, "Ne, blah blah blah." (No, a bunch of stuff in Dari)
I said, "Na me famam." (I don't understand)
He said, "Shoma Dari ro mezanayn." (You are speaking Dari.)
I said, "Bale, na me famam." (yes, I don't understand.)
He said, "Blah Blah blah!" (A bunch of stuff in Dari)
I said, "Sobh ba khayer." (Good morning.)

Having almost exhausted my Dari, the guard finally realized I was not Afghan. He gave me a confused look. I shrugged and took out my passport. He laughed and said, "Be bakshayn," (Sorry), and waved me through the entrance.

Besides the guard interrogation, on a "regular" day, my life looks like this:

I wake up and go down to the basement gym in my apartment to wrestle with the dumbbells, try not to smash my fingers in the process, and do some crossfit. After completing my workout, I return to my apartment to load up on protein; one hard boiled egg. Add some cucumbers and I feel 20% full. I clean myself up, throw on my chadar (head scarf) and eye-liner and it is off to work.

The ride to my University is always interesting. Depending on the morning, we could be stuck in the worst traffic ever, Office Space style, with donkey carts, motorcycles occupied by entire families, and one-legged men non-nonchalantly cruising by. Other mornings we are weaving in and out of boulders placed strategically in the road to slow people like us down, barely missing women in burqas fleeing taxis and buses speeding through the dawn. Arriving safely at the school is always a blessing.

At work, I observe teachers, work with them on teaching skills and lesson planning, team-teach a class, hold office hours, talk to students, and eat lunch with other professors. Lunch is usually some Afghan food; the most typical of which is a gigantic piece of naan bread and kobli palaw (rice with carrots and raisins). My paleo-fed body cries tears of grains as I smile, say "tashakor" (thank you), and eat the inflammation-inducing food (which actually tastes FANTASTIC).

Home is a welcome relief to a hot, sweaty day full of confusion, chaos, and language learning. First I let my hair down, take off many layers of clothes, and turn on some American music. I have a snack, check my e-mail (our Internet connection is pretty reliable) and relax. Sometimes I will go back down to the gym and run backwards on the treadmill (it only goes 5 miles an hour, so running backwards offers a little more of a challenge) or ride the bike.

Dinner is usually as paleo as I can make it with local veggies (soaked in bleach-water for 45 minutes so I don't get hepatitis) and some type of meat besides eggs.

At night I often drift quickly into a deep dreamless sleep...Last night though, I had my first dream.

What did I dream of?

The ocean.

Labels: ,


At 9:56 AM , Blogger DrRona said...

i am glad the guard was nice to you!
i am sure
the ocean swirls you in it's dreamy flows too.

glad to hear you are well
and with barbells nearby.

much love...

At 11:11 AM , Blogger Nancy Marriott said...

Jaala, I'm following your blog and more than ever see a great book of your experiences--Just keep writing! Of special interest is how you are treated as a woman, and also how you come to know the Afghan people--what they are like. BTW: I too am a paleo person--as of last 7 months, having given up grains/sugar for higher protein/fats diet, and have lost weight, gained strength (working out, also). It's great that you are able to continue your fitness routine--do any of the Afghan women dot that, too?
And finally, can you change my e-mail address to'm currently getting mail from you at my (old and soon to be disbanded) aol account.
best, Nancy

At 1:27 PM , Blogger Steph said...

Jaala, I miss you. Interestingly, you were in my dream last night. It was about crossfit (of course...).

At 2:51 PM , Blogger benyhna said...

What about the sheep farmer? Do I sense a budding romance in the mix?

At 5:14 AM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Thanks Rona!
Nancy, thanks for all of the great advice.
Steph, we will be crossfitting together again in no time :)
Ben, the sheep farmer does have some nice red hair (nuristani) so there is potential...

At 10:52 AM , Blogger Kat Buckly said...

Thinking about you

At 3:46 PM , Blogger Willa said...

Jaala--your mom just let me know where you are and gave me your site. You are a great writer and there has to be a book or two in there. It's great to live vicariously through your words. By the way, you look more and more like your mom all the time. Love, Willa

At 4:57 PM , Blogger Randy said...

Glad to hear from you. It's my first time at your blog, but what a treat! My best wishes for you in your latest enterprise.

At 4:49 AM , Blogger Yosuf said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home