28 March 2009

Stick around: we'll teach you to dislike us

I don’t know to write about working and living in Kabul after three months without observations of the behaviors of some my fellows, which might suggest the problems are only theirs and that I am blameless, which is untrue. But the plank in your eye is easier to see than the splinter in mine.

About a week ago, one bedroom in every faculty and staff guest house was retrofitted with a “safe room,” only to be used under the all-hell-breaks-loose scenarios, which no one wants to think about, though there would be more than hell to pay if the need arose and nothing was in place. Anyway, the safe rooms require a toilet, so the bathrooms were the logical choices, which meant metal bars over the windows and reinforcing the door with a full-size metal plate. Hard to make that pretty.

One of our faculty members was indignant about the work on just about every grounds imaginable and fired off a florid email to all the faculty, the acting president, the financial head, and several staff members who oversaw the production or desecration, as she saw it. In sweeping hyperbole, she berated the staff, all of whom are Afghans, by savaging their competence and credibility. Shaming the staff required that she position herself, in the luxury of her first language, as a greater authority on matters of anti-terrorist security, construction remodeling, housing management, and public relations without any credentials other than being an American educator, which appears to license one as an expert on everything.

Then, her final plea for empathy: “I still use the large bathroom … because of its light and space and the feeling of renewal it gives on performing my daily ablutions in there. In our restricted conditions, one cannot underestimate the salutary effects provided by such a space.”


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