JINGLE CULTURE |
January 29, 2008
Name: SPC Beaird
Posting date: 1/29/08
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog url: allexpensespaidafghanvacation
On the streets we’ve come to know almost as well as our own hometowns you see a few types of vehicles on the road more prominently than any other kind. First you have rickshaw taxis, kind of a three-wheeled motorcycle with a carriage on the back for the passengers. These are probably a cheaper alternative to the regular taxis, though they don’t hold up in car accidents very well, as I’ve seen. Then you have the red motorcycles and white Toyota Corollas, often hatchback. I think 90% of people who have their own personal car own a Corolla; it’s almost a pure monopoly here.
The oversaturation of the red motorcycles and white Corollas is what makes us laugh sometimes when we get warnings or reports of suicide bombers in our area and the only description is “red motorcycle or white Corolla with a dent on the side.” Like the dent in the door or broken window makes a difference. Every vehicle has some kind of rough scar on it since auto body repair shops are almost non-existent around here. Or, after reports of female suicide bombers hiding their explosive vests underneath their covering burqas, “Be on the lookout for suicide bombers wearing burqas -- and oh it should be a blue burqa." Just about every single woman we see in the city wears a burqa. That type of intel is about as useful as saying, "Be on the lookout for possible attacks and ambushes from mud huts, one or two stories tall, with naked babies standing out front, in neighborhoods that smell like sewage."
But, I digress. The most interesting vehicle we see in large supply is the jingle truck. Jingle trucks are the construction or transport trucks used by just about everyone who needs to haul any type of cargo or goods or supplies. The cargo, which is often overflowing, will vary, and some of the jingle trucks are even contracted to the US military to transport items for us. But what they all have in common is the elaborate and ornate decorations that cover them.
These colorful decorations are what give the trucks their name, as a lot of the “jewelry”, as I call it, hangs down from the sides and bumpers of the vehicle and makes a “jingle” noise as it moves back and forth, like chimes in the wind. On the sides of the trucks there are usually murals with picturesque landscapes, and maybe a set of large eyes staring at you. The front end of the truck can look like a bomb went off in a box full of Christmas decorations; they are covered with colorful tassles, pom-pom looking things, streamers, and flowers, plus the metallic chimes that give them the jingle.
We’ve been told some of the jingle trucks are actually from Pakistan, but jingle truck culture seems to have spread into other forms of life here in Afghanistan, with people putting all sorts of ornamentation on their jingle cars, jingle vans, jingle rickshaws, jingle bikes, jingle motorcycles, and jingle ANP trucks. I've even seen jingle AK-47s, with green or pink saran-wrap like material wrapped around the handle and buttstock. We sometimes call the civilian Afghan helicopter that we use to transport cargo “jingle air.”
Part of the reason the jingle trucks stick out so much is the utter lack of any color in the rest of the scenery here. Perhaps that is why they choose to add so much “flair” to items of daily life, as a way to make up for the lack of color or luxuries in the mud hut villages that dot the pale greyish-brown landscape.
Jingle AK-47 on the right, with green wrapping.