Monday, June 12, 2017

Kabul: Sometimes It's the Little Things... (part 11)

Sometimes you have to develop a friendship, and sometimes you find an insta-friend.

Eitan and I sidled up to the bar at the European Union compound one night, and as we were waiting for our drinks to appear, a Frenchman walked into the room.  I’m not sure what drew his attention to us, but he crossed the room without delay and introduced himself.  For the purposes of this story, I’ll call him Jean-Luc Picard.

“Hi,” he started, “I’m Jean-Luc Picard.”

He spoke with a heavy French accent, and as happens for me with nearly every language, I thought he sounded a bit like a vampire while he was speaking English.

I don’t generally like to “work a room,” so when Jean-Luc started telling stories, I was more than happy to stick around.  We had a lot of laughs as he told me about his exploits outside the fortified walls of the diplomatic quarter.

Eventually, Jean-Luc left to eat pizza with his boss, and I started talking to some German aid workers.  Before long, though, Jean-Luc Picard was back.

“Hey, can you do me a favor?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.  “I just need you to clear everyone away; I’m going to do a trick.”

We were standing by a fire pit, and I agreed to assist.  In a moment, I had everyone standing a meter or two back from the edge.

At that point, Jean-Luc Picard walked up and did his thing.  Taking a sip from his beer bottle and blowing the liquid over the fire, he created a large fireball.

“I couldn’t find any kerosene,” he told me with a laugh, “but cooking oil works too.”

He made four fireballs in total, and the reaction was mixed.  A good many people clapped and cheered, but about a quarter of the crowd was decidedly unamused.

I thought the whole spectacle, including the reaction, was pretty great.

One person who wasn’t amused, however, was the bartender.  He pulled Jean-Luc and me aside and told us we would be banned from the compound if we pulled any more stunts.  I didn’t see how any of this was my problem, though.  The bartender should have been thanking me for maintaining a safe perimeter.

Before he left us, the bartender had one last thing to say to Jean-Luc Picard:  “You can pour your drink on the fire, if you want, but no more blowing.”

Once he was out of earshot, Jean-Luc turned to me, still laughing.

“What an idiot!” he exclaimed. “He thinks this is beer.”

He proceeded to sprinkle his bottle of oil over the fire, creating more flare-ups, but the bartender never returned.

As it happened, Eitan and I would be heading on vacation a few days after the reception, and Jean-Luc would be relocating to France while we were gone.  He invited us to his farewell bash, which he assured us would be insane, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The friendship had quickly sparked, flashed, and vanished, not unlike a cooking-oil fireball.


“What do you call this?” the young Afghan clerk at our convenience store asked me one day.

He was squeezing his cheek, and I noticed the object of his question.

“That’s a zit,” I told him.

He thanked me.  Then I finished my transaction and left the store.

I didn’t get far, though, before the clerk came running after me.

“Can you come help me?” he asked.

Slightly curious, I followed him back in the store.  He didn’t return to his seat at the register, and headed instead to the personal care aisle.

“I don’t see any for zit,” he told me.  “Which shall I use?”

For such a small shop, the array of facial products was pretty impressive.  And I soon understood the clerk’s confusion.

While there were no “zit” creams, the shelves had many other products flashing all the right keywords:  things like “pimple preventer”, “blackhead reducer”, “blemish control”, “oily skin wash”, “breakout shield”, “clean and clear”, and so on.

“Basically these all do the same thing,” I told him.  “Just pick one and see how it goes.”

“How can I choose?” he pleaded

By this point, I was losing interest rapidly.  I handed him some Clearasil.  “Maybe this one,” I told him.

“Remember,” I told him, “having a zit can be a good thing because it means your face is still producing oils.”

He looked at me dumbfounded.  This was a bit of advice a former Ambassador used to give me whenever I’d have a breakout.  I still think of it when I get a zit, and I still don’t appreciate it.

Then, with my sage advice dispensed, I went about my day.


Eleanor White said...

Entertaining, as always, but I'll be glad when you and Eitan are off to your next (safer) post ��! Love, Eleanor from Boston

Anonymous said...

Nice, as usual!!

Unknown said...

Great as always!

Unknown said...

What happened to Jean luc