Lamar on Life

From a Christian living in a Gulf country. The Middle East, Arabic, understanding Muslims, outreach to Muslims are to be addressed. In addition, thoughts, reflections, and book reviews will be posted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

You will notice that this is my first entry in this blog. Indeed, it’s my first blog ever, so I’m starting with a colorful story. Everyone likes a colorful story, especially one that gives “local color.“ Local, in this case means in an Arabian Gulf country, which is where I live.
I took a road trip to ____, a 4-hour trip, to get our stuff that we had stored there after moving house. Since our fridge and other things wouldn’t fit in our car, I decided to hire a truck. Then, to save money, instead of driving myself, I thought I would just ask to ride in the truck with the driver and the laborer.
These are some things I noticed. First of all, there is really no reason for truck manufacturers to put air conditioning in any of their trucks headed for the Middle East or Southern Asia because they will never be used. I could see the AC, I could touch the controls, I could long for the cool air to come blasting out of the vents, but I knew they would never actually use it. No matter that it was easily over 100 F. out there; AC’s are clearly an extravagance that would suck all the profit out of any trip.
I should mention that my two companions were Afghani Pashtos. One was named Hassan and the other wouldn’t reveal his name and made me guess. Communication is difficult when the truck motor is roaring, the wind is blasting, and both parties are speaking a second language, which may not actually be the same second language. I speak broken educated Arabic and they spoke pidgin street Arabic.
I learned that if someone asks you what your salary is, you can say “somewhere between zero and 10,000 a month.” I’ll probably use that line about 100 times in the next few months.
I learned that Afghani music is very repetitive.
There were lots of billboards on the way for Pepsi. They featured David Beckham and a Humvee. I guess someone thinks a picture of a British soccer player with a ponytail and a monster 4-wheel drive vehicle will cause people to buy Pepsi. Ridiculous!
I discovered that a 70-mph wind blowing constantly on your head for more than 2 hours will make your ear lobes numb.
One Afghani song with one melody line can last at least 30 minutes.
I finally guessed the driver’s name, which we all had a laugh about.
I had heard that Afghani’s were very hospitable and generous, and they were. They were always offering me something to eat or drink.
Hassan could do an amazing number of things with his turban. He washed and dried his face with it. He could wrap it all on top of his head so it would shield him from the sun. He could use it as a pillow. He could pull down just one bit of it to shield his eyes from the sun. And when we loaded the truck, he wrapped it around 3 heavy boxes, twisted it tight and used it to carry the load on his back. He also wrapped it around his head and ears in the windy truck to prevent getting numb ear lobes. An hour into the trip I was looking at my baseball-type cap in disgust and embarrassment. We may be ahead when it comes to technology, but in headgear, we are woefully behind. I want to know what the presidential candidates are going to do about the American cap gap.
You know, if you put one thirty-minute song on both sides of a cassette, you never have to flip it over or change the tape.
Afghani men also seem very polite, which makes it even stranger that in the home of our friends in ____ one of them would spit on the beautiful marble floor. What’s up with that?
The driver passed KFC and Hardees without even a sidelong glance. But I learned that in some parts of the world, you can still get a good meal for a dollar.
Of course, I couldn’t understand what the Afghani lady was singing about but I thought I heard her say, “A computer is not a car.” This makes me think that the song must have been about a Pashto bride being dissatisfied with her bridal gifts from her groom. That also may explain the whiney tone of the whole song.
Surprisingly enough, with 3 very sweaty men in the cab of a very hot truck, after a while you don’t notice any smell at all.
By the end of the trip, I realized I had drunk 3 Pepsi’s.
Did you guess the driver’s name? Yes, that’s right -- Osama.
Even though the 12 hours I spent with those men was not very comfortable, I realized I really liked them. I was wishing I knew a believer who spoke their language and could share the gospel with them in a meaningful way. So, while clutching my stupid little baseball cap over my right ear lobe, I prayed that God would send more laborers to their field too.


Blogger David Cross said...

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9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool, Percival! I really like the writing style. My philosophy professor in college repeated the words of another philosophy professor, "I love reducing these speed-reading students who can plow through books at 1500 words per minute down to a good, steady 50 words a minute so that they can ponder why I chose to write this word before that word." That's what you've done for me! Thanks, Percival.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Percival said...

Thanks for the kind words, Anonymous. Aspiring writers (and everyone else too!) need encouragement.

5:35 AM  

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