Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Existing and Time

I’ve lost track of time, it’s less significant here. It takes me a moment to figure out how many days I’ve been here and it’s been less than a week. I’m not sure, but I think that’s a good thing. Coming out, I’m sure this will have seemed to have passed like the blink of an eye. It’s just that when in the midst of it all, usually the two end points seem so far away. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time. And if this state continues course, it won’t be. On the flip side, I hope that doesn’t mean that I wont appreciate my time here, lose temporal sense and simply be moving between physical spaces when I return or move on.

When I was last in Pakistan, for a month, and a similar state struck and I had even less, well nothing, to do with my days, something about Urdu (a language of the sub-continent) struck me. The word for tomorrow and yesterday is the same—“ kaahl.” The same is true for ‘the day after’ or ‘the day before’—“persohwn.” It doesn’t lead to confusion, as the conjugation of the verb clarifies future or past tense, but still…I think it says something deeply about the culture. That there is no separate words for “the day after/before” in English, I not sure what to think. I am no Chomsky, so I don’t really know what this all means. But that hasn’t stopped me from making some overarching and convenient judgment about the culture and Urdu speaking people: they live for the day…the future, and past, are in God’s hands…a certain fatalism, where the past is on the same plane as the future...etc., etc...

Now I have no clue if Dari, Pushto, Punjabi, or the some countless other languages spoken in the region and sub-continent are similar. It’s likely that they aren’t. But, it seems, and this is a cursory and perhaps pernicious judgment, that the same is true here in Kabul.

But, what I think has really happened is that my life has already become routine. And that’s a good thing. No more romanticizing this whole endeavor. And the confinement of this life, expected as it was, helped in making routine come a lot quicker. I’ll have to figure out if I’m allowed to go out on my own a bit, or what the procedures are. I’ll get better pictures too.

I did promise to cut down on crap like the above, and so to counter the self-righteous crap in the last post (yes Katie, though you wouldn’t say, it was a bit over done), on to the perks. So I come back to my room in the evening to find my daily laundry done, neatly folded on my now made bed. At my desk I find my ashtray cleaned and the trash can emptied. I’ll walk downstairs to a well-cooked meal, having no dishes to do, merely placing my empty plate in the window between the kitchen and dining room. The cooks are quite good, as I mentioned before. Last night we had what can only be described as desi-mex. It was nachos, made out of the egg wrappers used for samosas, quite good. The salsa, though I didn’t mind, was more towards the desi-side than mex-side. Housemates complained…well rather noted that fact.

I don't have to worry about day-to-day things in life, the necessities, some may say. And so I’ve managed to re-enter the working world with out having to cut my umbilical cord. I’m happy. Twenty-eight years now, and all I’ve had to do, absent a few short stretches, is to plug it into different wombs. I dearly love everyone that works in this house. Not as much as I love my mom, but… this point, I think I've resigned myself to every post being like this...Enjoy!...

So again, the pictures:

A daylight shot of the glitter house. Yes, the roof is a mosaic consisting mirrors...the whole "glitter" thing.

The street outside our house.

The outside of my office (the door in the back) with the glitter house in the background.

A bird struck our office window today. Seems like even they need modernizing…I know, I know, I’m sorry. And the bird was OK.

My desk and and my officemate, Dan.


rachel said...

Blogger ate my comment last time, so who knows if you'll even get this. But - I'm really enjoying your blog. (Wish you were in SF instead of Kabul, but oh well.)

And now, for some ign'ant quetions from a white girl: How safe is it for tourists in Kabul? Are there tourists? Do you eat from places other than your house, and if so, how is the food? Can you get me the pumpkin recipe that I love?

Elizabeth said...

Oh, my gosh, you US contractor people are so posh!!!

And Dari and Urdu ARE related. Do a websearch on the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European languages and you will see that these languages of the sub-continent generally do have a lot in common.

Fortunately, though, Persian does have words for "yesterday" and "tomorrow".

Not that it helps much.

Q. A. Shah said...

Rachel, got this one, as you too know. Glad you're enjoying my blog...we'll see how long that lasts. I too, will i kinda wouldn't have minded being in SF, but i'm really glad i'm here. Today at work I got a better grasp of what my contribution will be, and that was good.

Tourists. Hmmm. Well I haven't left the confines of two buildings yet this week. I think its over precaution, but I'm not going to be pushy yet. I don't think there are capital generating, taking a vacation tourists here. There are many people visiting to do work, and many Afghanis coming to visit family. There is a $200 a night hotel a stone's throw from me (in the first set of pictures). There are definately quite a few places to see around town, none of which I have seen. God, I hope I get to before I leave. And i'm sure there are a bunch of crazy europeans and aussies doing treks and climbs across the country, except now it's winter.

So come visit me in May. I've been out to eat once, with my co-workers, all of us shuffled by our drivers.

I'll try to find recipie, but we haven't had pumpkin yet.

Q. A. Shah said...

Elizabeth, yeah, i'm not really complaining, just whining. Are you still out in the field? Is that a permanent posting? Stay warm if it is.

I can make out a few words when I hear dari spoken, but not nearly as much as i can when hindi is spoken. I'm not sure if accent is a factor here either. Pushto, forget it...sounds like greek to me. I know the languages have a lot in common, but the vocabs can often be quite different. I but heads with this fact whenever I try to fix my urdu/punjabi pidgin language. So I assumed there is a chance that dari or hindi or gujrati might have different words for 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow'. And i'm not sure if having the words is necessarily a good thing either. I kinda like the fatalism and different sense of time.

Vasco Pyjama said...

Er.... I think we live on the same street. :)