Thursday, March 22, 2012

Duck Season, Happy New Year

One of the nicest things about the gift of living in another culture is the chance to see how much we are alike, despite the very human tendency to fixate on the differences that set us apart.

Such was the discussion I had in the back of an MRAP (the rolling bank vault we use like the family station wagon) as I made my way to work one day.  Turns out that the soldier I was riding with was a duck hunter back home, and he explained to me how duck season work in Afghanistan.

It turns out to be strikingly similar, with some variation like the concept of needing governmental permission to shoot an animal which would definitely be lost in translation, or perhaps they would simply consider that to be covered under the Afghan statute which allows any adult to own (and carry in public) a single assault rifle to be used for self-defense. Lesser weapons are probably treated like bb guns in the U.S., and can be found at the Afghan equivalent of Walmart (though there isn't really any equivalent).

Open Season!!!
(just kidding)

Anyhow, the technique is the same.  You make a duck blind (hiding spot), try to lure the ducks with decoys or calls, and then blast away.  While I have to question the wisdom of firing any weapon in the neighborhood of a military installation (and a good portion of Afghanistan could be considered to meet that criteria), my new friend was clearly impressed. They had apparently gotten a good look at some of the decoys, which he noted were not what you'd get from a Cabella's catalog, but were pretty impressive for being made out of sticks and garbage bags. Indeed, we passed a flock of decoys on our trip which were plenty good enough to fool me (not a duck hunter). High-quality decoys or not, he was certain the Afghans went home with far more game than the average Cabella's customer.

Sometimes The Ducks Shoot Back... (note holes on drivers door)

(actually an Afghan April Fools Day joke, it's a sticker)

Along with duck season comes New Years (March 20) - which seems a far better time to make a fresh start than the dead of winter.  It is celebrated by going outside for picnics as a family enjoying fresh fruit and green things with the idea tha everything is reborn fresh and new. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance either to duck hunt or to go to a New Years picnic, but I have enjoyed the changing season.  Of course a dust/ice storm blew through during the holiday break, in the Afghan equivalent of the thunderstorm that seems to kick up right before you start the grill on the 4th of July.
Regardless, spring is marching forward, and the demoralizing events of the past weeks are slowly fading away, though the spectre of fighting season looms on the horizon, and the insurgents included us in their celebrations by rocketing BAF.

The Soviet Method of Duck Hunting

(a HIND helicopter - think Rambo III)

It will be an important and difficult year for Afghanistan when its citizens and leaders will need to make hard decisions and take on heavy burdens. Despite the frustrations and setbacks, this is a country that often eludes my comprehension by commands my respect, and I'm honored to play a small part in their struggle to find peace.

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