Sunday, March 1, 2009

Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Friday Bazaar in Kabul, Part XIV

Fridays tend to be slow days in the office for some reason. Something about Muslim fundamentalists being less likely to blow shit up during the Muslim version of Sunday. I don't really know.

Anyway, since it's a slow day in the office, that's when the custodial staff comes in to "clean." The word "clean" doesn't seem to translate very well into any of the local languages. While you or I might take it to mean the removal of dust and dirt and disease-laden filth, the cleaning staff here seems to think of it more like a generalized redistribution of funk.

Take for example the tiled floors. When I've got a hard, non-carpeted floor to clean I figure it needs frequent sweeping and periodic mopping. During the mopping I use bleach and hot water. I take it as my mission in life to kill or destroy anything on that floor that could be seen as unsanitary or unsightly.

The locals hired to clean here have a much different modus operandi. In order to "clean" the tile floor, they pour some dirty water on it, then use a squeegee to squeege the dirt and water and whatever else into all of the grout and seams and cracks and pores.
In the end, their labors net a floor that is not only dirty, but wet too. It's like trading in your day-to-day, household dust for a big puddle of mud spread evenly throughout your home. The goal seems to be to look busy as opposed to actually getting anything done.

I don't understand.

On top of this flawed methodology, the only cleaning product they seem able to procure (apart from dirty water) is the alcohol-based hand sanitizer spray that we stock in the bathrooms here. It has one of the worst, God-awful smells I've ever found tied to the notion of cleanliness and they spray it on everything in the entire camp. During cleaning hours in the morning, I can't even walk into the building I sleep in without gagging.

In fact, the best way I've found to cope with the local version of "cleaning" is to just not be around it. Fortunately when the Friday cleaning crew comes around I have a ready-made escape.

Fridays are when a sanctioned group of merchants are allowed to set up shop on our athletic field and we're allowed to go out and get haggled for money. I usually end up ambling out there with any of the other guys from my office:
Once the bazaar is set up, you can find everything from pirate DVDs to gemstones. There are booths selling rugs and carved stone and woodcrafts and Pashmina silks and antique rifles left behind by the Brits in the 1800's. One of the most intriguing is a booth set up to sell the products made by Afghan women as a part of a SEATTLE-BASED CHARITY PROGRAM. But this week, for no reason I could account for, I decided I needed a nifty hat:

My hat was pretty damned cool, so Major Cheff decided that he too needed a nifty hat:

He failed to find a nifty hat even half as nifty as my nifty hat though, so I lent him one for a photo:
Nifty though they may have been, neither of my nifty hats were nearly as nifty as the nifty hat found by Major Brinkman:

He emailed this picture to his wife with a note to the effect of, "Hey, Honey, a guy at the market had Genghis Khan's original helmet for sale today. He wanted twenty grand for it, but I talked him down to six thousand dollars. Now I just need to ship it home, but the insurance is going to be pretty expensive..."

No word yet on her response.

Even better than hat shopping was watching Vic, one of the nicest guys I've met in a long time, trying to haggle. When I haggle I tend to piss people off. When he does it, he tends to make people happy. That's how I know I'm getting better deals.

I didn't end up getting much this week, but I'll be back next week to pick up more random, dusty things I probably don't need.

1 comment:

  1. What an adorable hat, you look so cute! Now we need to get Alaska just so you have lots of opportunities to wear your hat.

    I am surprised though that you didn't get one of the helmets with the horns.