Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A culturally broadening experience

I just ate my first official Afghan meal here in Afghanistan. (Technically, I had my first Afghan meal when we were fed a delicious traditional meal while in training, thanks to our language instructor and family.) Tonight, some of "those guys" (the ones who wear civilian clothes) came by and invited our team to a traditional meal as a thank you for taking them along on a mission a few days ago. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical initially. While I love strong flavors—we eat a lot of curry at home—I was worried about the preparation and potential aftereffects. I can't attest to the aftereffects yet, but the meal was wonderful! We had beef and lamb, yummy warm naan bread and even some yogurt sauce. After some hesitation, I tried it and then couldn't stop dipping the naan. It was fantastic!

We enjoyed some interesting conversation as well. One of “those guys” happens to be a cultural anthropologist who has lived in this area for years. Rumor has it he fought alongside the Afghans against the Russians. This gentleman has some interesting stories to tell and a wealth of cultural knowledge to share with our team. I learned so much tonight about the pending month of Ramadan and how this can potentially affect our mission planning. Imagine waking before dawn to consume a meal and then fasting from both food and water for the rest of the day, this during the hottest month of the year. In addition to the fasting, there are also frequent religious services that can affect the ability of our team to interact with the local population.

As an Air Force nurse, I am meeting people I only envisioned previously in my imagination: people who live among the locals, not to exploit them or extract intelligence, but to learn more about their culture and ultimately help us understand the best ways to interact and effect positive, necessary change. One of the things our team is doing really well is seeking out all the resources available to us and finding ways to work together. The duplication of effort that can occur is frustrating and, as a smaller team, we need to find ways to “work smarter, not harder.” I can't tell you much about “those guys,” but I have a feeling we will continue to combine missions and share knowledge, which can only be a win-win situation, especially when the thank you comes in the form of food!


  1. Lori:

    We pray for you here in Goodyear for your safety. We know your parents at Christ Presbyterian Church. Also talked to your husband for a few minutes when he was visiting.
    Thank you for serving our country.

    John( ex- Navy, Vietnam War) and Brenda Merrill

  2. Just wanted to let you know that the bass player, his wife (the tall white haired lady!), and family from The Garden Church in Franklin, IN are still praying for you and your family.