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Archive for March 2011

PSDs with PTSD

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Many of the ex-pats here are men who work security.  And who like steroids.  (Not necessarily in that order!  Hardy-har-har.)  Some of these men are sweet.  They listen to you and smile when you speak.  Some are aggressive.  They get into fights at bars.  They pull guns on each other (they really do, like in an old wild west movie).

At their compounds they have a coffin ready and waiting in case their colleague – kidnapped in 2006 – should be found.  When they host parties, they fill the coffin with trash bags full of ice to keep the beers cold – it’s fucking handy.

You get into funny conversations with them.  They tell you about that time they were in Pakistan and the gunshot grazed their arm, see, here’s the scar, want to touch it?  That time they were in Iraq in 2006 in that explosion and now there’s a constant ringing in their left ear.  That time they were in Afghanistan driving and they saw the woman – teenager, really – get her throat slit, and it was their fault.

Wait, what?

They explain, but the details are so strange.  They were driving through really bad countryside, lookout on a tall truck so they could see over high walls into compounds, when they laid eyes on a pretty young Afghan in her backyard with her hijab off.  And they stared.  And her brother saw them.  And he saw them staring.  That destroyed her honor, that they laid eyes on her barefaced, bareheaded.  So her brother, eyes on them, eyes bugged out staring right back at them, went up behind her and swoosh slit her throat.  And the blood.  O! the blood the blood.  But it was bad countryside.  So they just kept driving.  They couldn’t stop.  They couldn’t even stop, and it was their fault for looking.

They tell you this over a beer at a loud crowded ex-pat bar when you’ve really only just met them.  How true is it?  You don’t know.  Did they really see a woman get her throat slit?  Was it really her brother who did it?  How do they know he was her brother if they didn’t stop?  The details are so strange.

And you think that maybe they did see her get killed – probably they saw the murder – but maybe the details are off.  (Who could remember things correctly in such a moment?)  The story has been twisted around to show their guilt, not her death.  To show their control over the uncontrollable situation – as though they – as though their glance – held the power over life and death.  As though they could have changed it or changed anything, really, at all.

Then again, maybe it happened just the way they said.

Or maybe they are just making it all up to get your reaction, to get in your pants later.

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Written by ilchwl

17 March 2011 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Snapshots

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On the weekend we drive up North to the mountains.  I see the Tigris for the first time.  The Tigris looks like any other river and it doesn’t.  It is like a church, like a temple, like a mosque.  It is just a river; they are just a building.   But there is an otherworldly feel.  In the case of the Tigris, life was sustained for thousands of years on its power and according to its whims.  In the case of religion, according to the whims of faith and fickle tolerance, people have saved and people have killed.  Seeing the Tigris snake deceptively softly through the snow capped mountains is spectacular.

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Outside of the refugee camp we work in there are tiny muddy mounds with rough rock headstones that seem to stick bravely up in the rain, like stalagmites.  They are so small that some of them must be child graves.

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My driver says to me: “When I become president, I will make you the Minister of Beauty.”  He says it out of the blue one day.  He says it’s a game he plays with some of his friends.  When I become president I will make him ambassador to the rest of the world.

Written by ilchwl

5 March 2011 at 9:51 pm

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Froka Hana

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I am in an airport in the north of the country I live in waiting for a flight to Vienna for my second R&R.  I am sitting in a coffee shop.  The coffee shop has a fancy espresso maker, which is used to heat up water for NesCafe.  A rerun of the Oscars is playing on the flat screen TV on the wall.  Nicole Kidman just announced, again, that The Social Network won for Best Original Score.

As my driver flashed his badge to get me through the 3 checkpoints on the way to the airport – as we climbed out to get searched – as the dogs sniffed our cars – he taught me to say “I go to the airport” in his language.  He then wouldn’t let me pass a single soldier without showing off my new skills.

“Aman darome froka hana,” I said, again and again, to grins and applause.

Written by ilchwl

5 March 2011 at 9:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized