Monday, April 25, 2011

An Update from "The Pied Piper" in Herat


Today had a day off. Good, cuz I was sick all night. It was probably the home-made yoghurt the father made for me. But didn't last too long.

We went for a walk around the neighborhood and down the street with the market and little shops. I had my camera with me and we were taking pictures. I bet they never had tourists here before! We definitely stirred up some attention. But all in good way. A man in his breadshop called us over to take photos, and we checked out how they made bread – they bake it deep in a hole in the floor and then lift it out, flat and round and hot and fresh – and we got some to eat. Mmm, naan! As we continued on, a man here and there would come up to Michael to engage in conversation and ask where we're from and whenever we would stop to chat, a crowd would gather to check us out. (I noticed they never addressed me or Joanna; and of course they didn’t because that would be very inappropriate, men are not supposed to talk to women they do not know on the street.) School had let out and the street was filling with little school girls in ‘nun’s habits’ eating ice cream, and soon a bunch of them were gathered around us, giggling and whispering, and following us down the street like we were the Pied Piper. But whenever Joanna pulled out the camera they hid their faces in their hijabs. You can't take pictures of women, not even when they're little girls!

As we got home, the neighbors kids were out on the street playing and we yucked it up with them again, as we had before, it's become a game of making faces and playing monster. This adds to the novelty of our presence, I’m sure, because I imagine no adult, and definitely no woman, would play like that with them and make funny movements and faces -- on the street! Crazy foreigners! After we had entered our house (behind a large iron gate, most Afghan houses are hidden behind a wall and gate), there was a loud banging. I opened up, and there were three of the school girls again. Don't know how they found us (we had left them behind further down the street), but I guess it's not that difficult, since we're the only foreigners in town. Come to the market with us! they shouted. Come, let's go! Now? Yes, now! Well, maybe another day, ok? We were actually quite tired at this point, and I really needed a nap. That was funny, though, and so sweet, that they were so excited at meeting us that they came to get us to go to the market with them. Badan mebinim! (See you later!)

Later in afternoon, someone was coming over to fix the refrigerator that wasn't working (although they had just bought it). We were told the man was Taliban so we better stay in our rooms and not show ourselves. Well, the man was Pashtun, and to our hosts (who are Hazara) any Pashtun man who wears a turban is Taliban, which of course isn't true, but I guess it's good to play it safe!

We also spoke with a young man who was here on visit, but works down in the Helmand province (next to Kandahar) as an interpreter for the US Marines. He said it was very dangerous, for him as someone working for the Americans, and for us if we wanted to go there, because [finger across throat], they'll behead us all. And it doesn't help that he's Hazara. They don't like us cuz we're foreigners? Joanna asks. Pashtuns don't like anyone who's not Pashtun, he says.

Another fun day in Afghanistan!

No comments: