|Inquisitive school children of the Mandozai District look on as composting tools are distributed to farmers|
I can't help but laugh when receiving the ever so popular question- "What's a typical day like over there?" Bless the countless hearts who have been so inquisitive to learn the work that many are doing here, but the fact of the matter is the word "typical" doesn't actually exist in this part of the world.
Perhaps a better question might ask- "What does a random day over there look like?" Random is a word that can fit into nearly every description of life here in Afghanistan, for good reason. The very mention of the word "typical" might confuse the mind to assume some sort of stability is also present. While stability is an end-state that many are striving for, I would not go so far as to say that it exists at this point in time.
Wednesday started off as a typical mission, we rolled out of Forward Operating Base Salerno in our million-dollar MRAP vehicles and set the GPS computers for the Mandozai District Center. The training of choice for the Mandozai farmers this week was composting; where they learn the benefits of recycling their waste products and even get to take home a few new tools from the training seminar.
As we arrived the district center, I overheard a few of the security forces guys in front of me talking about a monkey. Low and behold, as I approached the front gate of the compound I was amazed to find a monkey on a leash. Heaven only knows where this Afghan Uniformed Police officer found his new pet, but from the looks of the photo- it doesn't appear that dogs need fear losing their title of "man's best friend" to monkeys here in Afghanistan any time in the near future...
|Take a look at those incisors!|
After regaining our composure, the few of us involved in the actual training portion of the mission made our way into the district center. As we arrived, we were greeted by Wali Bad Shah, the Agricultural Extension Agent for the Mandozai District. Wali is one of the better agents we have in the province, a very intelligent man. Actually, I'd be willing to put his grammar up against a few of our team members.
In planning for a training seminar, the goal is to minimize any US involvement. Standard procedures call for notifying the extension agent a few days in advance, then allowing him to coordinate the meeting location and attendees. On the day of the training, members of the 3-19th ADT meet the extension agent and his farmers at the agreed upon time and location and all parties are happy...typically
Due to a slight error in coordinating Wednesday's mission, we had a bit of time to kill before the training started as we awaited the arrival of ten more participants. As I was taking a few photographs of the attendees, I noticed a young boy carefully studying my every move.
One icebreaker I've found quite successful thus far has been showing the subject of my photos the actual image I have just captured. It's hard to imagine, but more often than not this is the first time that some have ever seen a photograph of themselves- much less instantly on an LCD screen.
|Zingham and I|
The discussion between Zingham and I went on for about ten minutes. About half way into it, others in the class started to take notice that the youngest attendee was getting all of the attention. The longer we spoke, the more people came to listen in, and the more shy young Zingham became. Ajmal- our always humorous interpreter, decided to lighten the mood a bit during a lull in the conversation. After several minutes of the others all speaking Pashtun, a roar of laughter erupted and poor Zingham's face turned as red as a fire engine. Apparently after learning that I had five sisters and Zingham had four brothers, Ajmal encouraged Zingham that it might make sense for he and I to work out a trade!
|Zingham got his tools afterall...|