Thursday, May 24, 2012

Comments Disabled

"You don't have to do this."  Even as I say it, I know it's disingenuous.  The man standing there, trying to hide behind a column, hennaed hair parted precisely down the middle revealing his undyed roots, has the grace to look a bit nervous.  Equally disingenuous as my statement, his nervous look.  The boy studiously writing down names on the pad of hotel-issued paper that the man has handed him appears very intent.  I want him to stop.  I want it to be true, what I'm saying, that he doesn't have to write down the names for this small man with the bad dye job.  "We did not give him a list," I go on, reaching toward the piece of paper.  I put a hand on it, at the top.  The boy keeps writing.  "They do not have a list," I repeat.

"Oh?"  The boy's companion, a fellow student, acknowledges me.  He glances at the man.  He glances at his friend.  "Maybe that's enough names, then," he tells his friend, who is still writing, a girl's name now.  A classmate's name.

I am so angry.  Not precisely at the man, who continues to look a bit nervous, maybe nervous that I will carry through with what I want to do, which is to take the paper away from the boy, away from the man, and fold it neatly in half, horizontally down the middle, and carry it with me back into the room where we are having the training session.  I'm angry more at the situation, at the idea that the boy writing names thinks that it is normal, maybe thinks that it is patriotic, to give this man information.  This small man who has resorted to stealing pen and paper from the hotel and hiding behind columns and harassing boys.  And I am seething with anger at the disingenuous nature of my first statement.  Because if I do take the paper and fold it neatly in half, horizontally down the middle, and put it in my bag to shred later at the Consulate, as I want to do, as my hand laying on top of the paper is itching to do, I don't know what this small man will then do to these boys.  Probably nothing -- but only probably.

And I hate the power of that 'probably'.  I hate the lack of recourse and the blatant perversion of 'security' and the stupid waste of time and energy and money, these boys' money, money that could have gone to their schools or their power plants or their roads but instead has gone to this small man with the hennaed hair who accepts back the paper from the boy silently, all of us silent, after I lift my hand and just before we leave him to walk into the conference room.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good Afternoon, Class 2.0

"We're so excited to take our history course outside of Lahore!  What really makes or breaks these courses is active student engagement and thoughtful questions.  So, let's open up the floor now:  after hearing today's history lectures, is there anything you'd like to ask us?"

"Yes, loads."

"Great!  Go ahead."

"You were evil to go into Afghanistan and Iraq."

"Uh... that's not a question.  Do you have a question about U.S. history?"

"Oh, sorry -- I meant, 'Doesn't U.S. history point to the fact that you were evil to go into Afghanistan and Iraq?"

"Well, no -- it doesn't point to that.  What are your other questions?"

"They're pretty much all variations on that theme.  Hey, could I have a picture with your hair?  It looks just like Barbie's."

"Okay, thanks so much for your interest in our course!  Don't forget to pick up your free booklets on the way out."

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Laos

Folks will tell you that the world is getting smaller, that people everywhere are all basically the same.




Don't you believe it.