February 05, 2007

Name: CAPT Doug Traversa
Posting date: 2/5/07
Stationed in: Kabul, Afghanistan
Hometown: Tullahoma, TN
Milblog url

Maj R asked me at the last minute to accompany him to a large Afghan army base on the other side of town. We have to travel in pairs, and his NCO was sick. I accepted, as it was a chance to see more of beautiful Afghanistan. Even better, I got to drive an Afghan truck for the first time. It's just a souped up Ford Ranger, but the Afghan guards get a kick out of seeing us in their vehicles. Today one of them asked why we were in it, and Maj R told them we'd stolen it. I said we were joining the Afghan Army. Some humor crosses the language barrier just fine.

Since it defends the capital, the 201st Corps is probably the best equipped of the five Afghan Corps. This is a real combat unit, commanded by a two-star General. Or, more accurately, a two-blob General, as I could not make out what those things on his shoulders were supposed to be. Not that what I wear is any better. I have a little logistics badge with an eagle clutching lightning bolts and a bomb, I think. The Afghans no doubt think I have a blob on my chest too.

Well, we were going in to see the General himself, and I was sure he would be an imposing, Patton-like figure. We sat in his waiting room for a while, enjoying one of the three Afghan air conditioners in the entire city. Finally all the brass arrived, and the room was filled with a host of Generals and Colonels. We headed into the inner sanctum, the office of the Commander of the finest combat unit in Afghanistan. Surely there would be swords hanging on the walls, battle plans, war trophies, flags, all sorts of cool stuff.

But I somehow ended up in a bridal shop. There were towering flower arrangements everywhere. The couches and chairs all had wooden arms and legs carved into flowers, and painted too. Clearly there had been a rip in the space-time continuum, or my anti-malaria drugs had finally fried my brains. There was no way this was the office of the top military commander in the country. I closed my eyes, clicked my heels three times, and wished I was back in Kansas, or at least in reality. But weird as it was, and weird seems pretty normal around here, I was indeed in his office. Great. Old Blood-and-Guts really wants to be a florist. 


Very funny! Yes, the Afghani taste is a little florid, perhaps a counterbalance to the ubiquitous brown landscape?

You didn't mention the smell of flowers and greenery... Was it overpowering? Makes me think of the Wizard of Oz also,except I'm thinking "poppys, poppys" Were you getting sleepy?

What an interesting story! I am intrigued that a culture with strong tradition of warfare would also honor flower arranging. I find it wonderful, actually, that the seemingly useless human instinct for natural beauty could be found under these circumstances. Thanks for the story, and please give my regards to the adorable, small, fluffy dog in the picture you had posted. Keep safe!

Doug--what an intriguing little story. I guess Afghan men aren't afraid to embrace their "feminine" sides.......

stay safe!

I remember reading a while ago that it's traditional for Afghan men to decorate their eyes with kohl and wear flowers in their sandals (and I think teeth too). I think the Taliban were cool with this, they didn't consider it a little too gay or anything. For that matter, until the British came along and taught them homophobia, it was the norm for blokes and their friends in India to walk around holding hands. Iran likewise, I believe.

This is something I always noticed when I was living in Turkey. The guys you would see walking around holding hands in their military uniforms. Also large freight trucks lovingly decorated with floral designs. Just makes you (or me, at least) think --- "Gender is soooooooooooooooooo socially constructed."

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