seatbelts and snakes
Well, it's been raining for the better part of a day here in Khost... just when I thought it was always sunny and warm here. In any case, it gives me a chance to sit and write a little. I have a couple of anecdotes worth sharing from the FOB Salerno hospital.
A few days back, we got what seemed to be our third or fourth motor vehicle rollover incident involving Afghan National Army (ANA) troops. "Jeez," someone said, "somebody needs to teach these guys how to drive!" "I'd be happy if they just started wearing seatbelts," someone else chimed in, bad motor vehicle crashes being notorious for causing severe head trauma, organ injury, and fractures in the improperly restrained. One of our interpreters turned around with an incredulous look.
"Seatbelts? Only suicide bombers wear seatbelts!"
...apparently so they don't lose nerve at the last minute and change their mind? It turns out that this Afghan man had been in several rollover car crashes, emerging from each without serious injury, but he still refused to wear a seatbelt. One time, he said, the police had stopped him, pointing their weapons at him and saying "Who are you? Who are you? Why are you wearing a seatbelt?" So much for a seatbelt-centered injury prevention campaign here.
snake in the sleeve
One of my Pashto language teachers related a Pashtun proverb to me:
"Mar ta pa lastoonike zay ma warkawa."
"Don't let a snake make its home in your sleeve."
Apart from the wisdom of its literal meaning, the symbolism is significant in this part of the world. The snake could be a Jordanian doctor allowed easy access to the inner circle of the CIA on a FOB in Khost. Or the snake could be Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Pakistani ISI's pet that has come back to bite them. The snake could be Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, cultivated to wage war in Jammu and Kashmir but who end up causing an international terror incident in Mumbai as they spiral out of control.
The proverb is particularly meaningful here and now, and the warning is clear: snakes bite. Be careful who you allow close to you.