May 13, 2009

Name: Deployed Teacher
Posting date: 5/13/09
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog: Deployed Teacher 

Many linguists, hired as contractors, previously held important positions within Afghanistan before their families fled. Some were university professors, some were doctors, others were government officials; it runs the gamut. It's very interesting to hear about their past lives. From my observations, there is a subculture of linguist hierarchy on US bases, based on their prior Afghan status and related to their present status. For example, translators who work for Generals, Colonels, or are considered the primary translators for high profile meetings with Afghan Ministers, Governors, etc., hold greater status than other linguists down the food chain. Think in terms of an unofficial military rank, civilian style. Makes sense, right?

An acquaintance has taken to referring to his fellow Afghan linguists by nickname. You know, like we use "Bubba" and "Dawg." He has christened three linguists as SuperZ, ZZ, and EZ. Their first names begin with Z, so I was impressed by his use of humor and creativity in coming up with these nicknames, each designated according to reasoning that only he is privy to.

We were recently having a discussion of a serious nature, solving the war and all, and talk turned to Afghan linguists. With a serious tone, he said, "You know, EZ is a member of NATO." I paused, feeling honored to be let in on EZ's status. I've seen EZ around so I know who he is.

EZ is a self assured middle-aged Afghan, who is held in high regard by fellow Afghans due to his seniority in theater and current position. He's like a BMOC (Big Man On Campus) at a university, and I gather, is a ladies man. His appearance is akin to that of a Saturday Night Fever disco character.

His linguist "uniform" is accentuated by a thick gold chain, a satin, unbuttoned pointy-collared shirt, and topped off with a black fedora hat, brim turned down -- to cover his bald spot? Don't get me wrong, It's perfectly alright to still be living in the 80s. Back in the US, I see it all the time. But in Afghanistan?

Needless to say, beyond EZ's appearance, I was impressed by the linguist's comment. I expected him to continue, feeding us more details, telling us how EZ travels to Kabul to translate for our NATO partners. We waited for him to go on.

After a short, well timed pause, he continued. "Yes, EZ's like NATO...all talk, no action!" Those present were so taken aback by his statement, we laughed! But beyond the reference to EZ, I took it also as his opinion of NATO, an entity I had never given much thought to while in theatre....hmmm.


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