21 November 2010

I like pandas!

My French lessons are going well and we speak mostly in French now, which is really fun!  My tutor is leaving in a month though, so he is going to have to introduce me to some new Frenchies to teach me.  I know some basic Dari (language spoken in northern Afghanistan): Hey, How are you doing?  I'm good, how are you doing?  Goodnight, Thank you, You're Welcome, What's up?  Nothing Much.  Now, another interpreter heard me speaking Dari and he said that I need to learn Pashto (language spoken in southern Afghanistan).  He has taught me, "How's it going?" "Senga yai?"  I think if I ever get a masters it will have to be in some sort of study of languages or international affairs.  I find it fascinating.

Speaking of international affairs...another Albanian story....So I was waiting in line at the DFAC (dining facility) and three of my Albanian friends were behind me in line.  It is super cold here at night now (35 at night, 65 during the day).  I was shivering because I forgot a coat.  The Albanians had on these nice tan/white-ish fleeces.  They said, "Hey Sar-ahhhhhh" and said, "You need dis." and pointed to their fleeces.  I agreed that they were nice coats and I needed one.  Then one of them said, "Yes!  uhh, umm, I like pandas!" My face immediately contorted as I gave that what in the world are you talking about look?  Why did he just suddenly confess his feelings about an endangered species?  I was completely lost.  He looked to his buddies for support and they mimed brr chilly and then some sort of animal with claws and growling and said, "Bear?"  I caught on and yelled, "ooOOOooo not panda, polar bear!  You look like a polar bear!"  And everyone laughed and shook their heads in approval.  Good times, those crazy Albanians, they crack me up.

This weekend was wonderful!  I got to spend some time with some friends before they left for FOBs/COPs (Forward Operating Base and Combat OutPost - I am at KAF which is Kandahar Airfield which is a HUGE base, FOBs are smaller and then COPs are even smaller than FOBs).  It felt so nice to have a "normal" day.  I woke up and went to the bazaar.  They let local Afghanis come in and set up stalls and sell things.  It is mostly pashminas, belly dancing outfits, jewelry and movies.  I have a friend who is an MP (military police) and he volunteers on Saturday mornings there to help teach the Afghani kids before they start selling stuff with their families.  I want to look into volunteering to do that.  I'm not sure if they let females though, because I know it is all Afghan men and boys at the bazaar.  After the bazaar my friends and I went to Tim Hortons on the Canadian compound and had Iced Cappuccinos and donuts!  The donuts were a big deal, because usually Tim Hortons is out of donuts (due to that darn Taliban blocking trade routes) and the empty shelves just taunt you as you walk in the door.  We devoured them!  After eating 5 donuts, one of the soldiers said, "You know I forgot for a lil while that we live in a shithole."  It brought a smile to my face.  I was so glad to be a part of that, just for a little while, I helped him forget what he is going through, and I enjoyed myself too.  The other day at the center we had a soldier come in and he was well, to put it nicely, rude.  We gave him his computer card and off he stomped.  He came back about an hour later and was so incredibly sweet and nice. I think he just probably came right off from the field and was still in work mode.  He probably saw something he didn't want to see or do something he didn't want to do, but after he got that time to unwind in the USO, he was his normal self.  Again it was another moment of, yep, that's what I'm here for.

Back to my day, so later on in the evening I went to the boardwalk and watched my friends play some volleyball and then it was salsa night!  They play Latin music and gradually everyone dances.  It is really interesting to see events like salsa night, karaoke night and cornhole tournaments without alcohol.  It seems like back in the States no one would do karaoke until they "had a couple in them."  Here there are no excuses.  Back in the states, I would not salsa, I would be afraid of looking like an idiot because I have no rhythm.  Here, I feel like really, I'm in Afghanistan, who is going to judge me?  My roommate/coworker/other Sarah/Sarah #1 or 2 depending on who you ask, pulled me onto the floor and we busted a move.  It also didn't hurt that I was one of only a few females so there were many men eager to have a partner to dance with.  It was a lot of fun!

I worry about the friends I have made that push off to other smaller bases.  It is this conflicting feeling of being so proud of them and happy for them because they are excited to head out and "do their job"  but feeling sad for myself to say goodbye to another friend who has to move on and scared for them to go to a more volatile place.  I knew this was part of the deal getting into this job, that making friends is difficult because they either leave to go home or leave to go to a FOB, but when it actually happens it takes some getting used to. 

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