Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Overcoming Stereotypes

This week has been full of interesting cultural experiences. Yesterday, I visited a friend at his security contractor camp. Talk about culture shock. He works for a US Security contractor and that protect diplomats from attacks. In Kabul there is a decent sized expat community, but it isn’t all that big. Even so, it is unusual to find security contractors and aid workers hanging out for a variety of reasons ranging from politics, moral beliefs, prejudice and even security from the NGO perspective (military targets are preferred by the Taleban, so we try to keep our distance). Dave and I met online and have had many interesting discussions about Afghanistan, the military, Palestine-Israel and US politics. So, when he invited me to visit his camp (he’s not allowed to go out) I decided to take him up on his offer. I wasn’t sure what to expect – what does a security contractor camp look like? Well, it looks a lot like the military base, Camp Eggars. Lots of security, and lots of men with guns. To be honest, you can find men with guns in most places in Kabul, but this was one of the most “secured” places that I’ve visited – only beat by Camp Eggars and the US Embassy.

Dave and I had a nice time hanging out in their common room, eating German chocolate-covered gingerbread cookies and talking about the state of the world. It was refreshing to hang out and converse with someone who I don’t work and/or live with. It was also funny to see how carefully diplomatic we were in choosing our words, especially when we disagreed on a point. We both know that idealistic, treehugging, snail sister NGO types and neanderthal, gun-totting, womanizing security types aren’t supposed to get along, much less agree on many topics.

My visit was cut short due to changes in visiting hours, but we’re hoping to get together again soon and continue our discussions. I think it is good for me to expand my horizons a little and try to look at the situation here from a perspective other than the NGO world view. It is a mistake to surround yourself with people who agree with you on most issues – it is hard to learn that way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The german chocholate was making you to argue. You know how mean german chocholates make anyone. It makes you believe in stereo types. I just ate some german chocholates. wait... oops.