Losing the war, over and over again

Samir, the Afghan cook stood in front of the grill, smiling widely, upbeat music playing loudly from a battery operated radio behind him. He nodded eagerly to each person who passed by. On the white board behind the grill that normally displayed information about the day’s meals, a message was scrawled in Dari script. It was an Eid message, as Ramadan had just ended.

The disheveled, fat American cook who ran the mess hall walked in the front door and made his way towards the grill. As his eye caught the message, his gait slowed as he took it all in.

“What is all this?”

“Ramadan message,” the cook responded, still with a smile.

“No,” the American said, raising a towel to the message and erasing it. “I don’t know what this says.”

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Living the Dream: Fever-sleeping through the End of War

A series of ill-fated events (eating the raw vegetables) resulted in the complete shut down of my normal bodily functions over the holidays. While I was sleeping, the war ended. So there’s that to celebrate.

Richard Burton

In the tossing around that occupied my leisure during that sweet spot of time that exists nestled tightly between Christmas and New Years, it occurred to me that I was living the experience of the Middle East adventurers who went before me. Just about every self-boasting orientalist memoir includes a long, drawn out escapade of a time they were laid out in grave illness, usually malaria or something equally exotic. It’s usually in this fever-dream induced state where they accomplish something great. In the case of Sir Richard Burton, finding Lake Victoria in Africa while being carried on a litter by slaves, and in the case of T.E. Lawrence, dreaming up the concept of the Arab Revolt.

Unfortunately, I was visited by zero knowledge imparting apparitions over the week, but did make numerous pilgrimages to the nearest porta-potty, which, like most military porta-potties, contains a treasure trove of knowledge scrawled on the walls inside.

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