Saturday, February 20, 2016

Kabul: Sometimes It's the Little Things... (part 5)

In Afghanistan (and probably in other "hot spots" around the world) there is a so-called fighting season.  The Afghanistan fighting season is basically year round, save for the heart of winter.  Terrorists and insurgents are people too, and I suppose nobody wants to trudge through snow to shot someone or place a bomb.  Besides the discomfort involved, there are also less targets available in winter since people tend to hunker down more in bad weather.

This issue came up while we were in a staff meeting one day.  It was December -- at a time when fighting season would normally be over.  This year, winter in Kabul was very mild, with only a dusting of snow on a few different days.  There wasn't much rain either, nor was it especially cold.  In short, fighting season never ended, and December was a particularly bloody month.

"We sure are hoping for some snow soon," one of my Afghan colleagues remarked.

"It must look nice," an American colleague innocently replied.

"To be honest," the Afghan replied, "I only like the snow for the security."

"Look at what's happening in Kabul these days because there's no snow."

I think it's a pretty fascinating example of the interconnectedness of our world.  At least in part because of global warming or El Niño or whatever else caused this year's warm winter, there was an increase in conflict deaths in Kabul.


With dinner having concluded one night, some friends and I were sitting around the table talking.  As the night wore on, the topics of conversation danced freely between the serious, the silly, and the mundane.  At one point, we started talking about fitness.

Early on, one friend made an observation.

"Seriously," he told us, "I see so many people in the gym who are just wasting their time."

This prompted a few anecdotes from some of the others about half-assed workouts they had observed.

My friend who had opened this avenue of discussion then went on to outline his vigorous fitness regime and the results he had achieved.

"I've lost 20 pounds in five months," he offered.

There are many fitness high achievers here in Kabul for a few reasons.  People have time on their hands for starters, and there are also less distractions.  For example, most people with family obligations can't afford to workout two hours a day.  In a place like Kabul, however, where you come without your family, that's not a problem.

In contrast to the high achievers, you naturally have some lower achievers as well - the people who use the 3-pound pink weights, the people who walk on the treadmill, the people who barely break a sweat - and these were the ones being mocked.  This didn't sit well with me.  Not everyone goes to the gym to get a six pack or to drop a dress size or to train for a triathlon.  My own motivation for going to the gym is to keep my current wardrobe in play and to keep some of my medical metrics in check.  My workout is pretty low intensity, and, reminiscent of my friend's comment, I was indeed once told that my workout was a joke.

No personal offense had been intended by the conversation, but offense was taken nonetheless.

I should have ignored it and moved on, but instead I took the low road.

"Twenty pounds in five months isn't that amazing," I responded.

My comment was snarky, bitter, and not even true (for losing 20 pounds in five months is actually pretty impressive), and it didn't go unnoticed.

"It's better than you could do!" my friend retorted, his gaze dripping with venom.

An awkwardness now loomed over the table, and the party dissolved soon thereafter.

Instead of taking a stand for the less-driven, overweight, and stiff-jointed, I had made an ass of myself.

Check, please.


There are numerous stray cats on the Embassy compound, and there is a team of employees who offer their time and treasure to feed and look after them.  The team names the cats as well with colorful monikers like Bossypants, Sweetums, and Gordo.

While they are indeed feral, many of the cats have become habituated to humans, and a few are actually somewhat charming.

One evening, Eitan and I walked out of our apartment building to find a cat loudly meowing in the flowerbed.  Maybe it was Winston or perhaps Hank; I have no idea who is who.

I meowed back, and the cat ran over to us like a puppy dog.

We continued walking and I would occasionally meow to the cat.  He followed us over half the compound, walking a respectful pace behind.  He didn't try any of that weaving between the legs nonsense.  He just followed us.

I thought his response was pretty impressive, but Eitan wasn't of the same mind.

"Stop encouraging him," he chided.

The novelty was wearing off in any case, so I complied with Eitan's request and stopped "encouraging" the cat.  This was a smart cat to be sure, though, and as soon as I stopped playing with him, he disappeared.


Unknown said...

Didn't realize you are in Kabul now Chris. Actually thought you are still in Ethiopia. Needless to say always enjoy the read 🤗👍🏻

Wallyworld said...

Good to see some things don't change, Chris. Your repartee over the dinner table was always lively, if not occasionally violent. I am, of course, alluding to the first time we dined together at Asian Aromas in Port Moresby. I enjoyed reading these very well written vignettes of life in Kabul. Keep them coming. Best wishes Andrew