Sunday, February 17, 2013

An Unexpected Tale

Preface:  When I started documenting my experiences in Kuwait a year ago the only thing I promised was to make an entry once a week. I have done that, making an entry every Sunday since I have been here – except for one week when I was on leave. Even though I make only one entry a week, I sometimes cover multiple subjects and try to tie it all together with some sort of creative title. This week is a bit different. I met a cab driver who had an interesting story and I feel it is deserving of his own entry but I met him after I had already created my entry for this week. So, rather than trying to kloodge the two together I would just have two entries for today. Enjoy!

As an ExPat one of the first lessons you learn is to avoid discussions of religion or politics – in fact it is almost getting bad to try to discuss either in the US as well.  This morning I grabbed a cab to the airport, I will tell about my destination next week for security reasons I can’t right now.  As I often do I asked my driver about his origin to pass time on the half hour ride.  The only cabs in Kuwait that are driven by Kuwaitis are those that you catch from the airport.

He told me he was from Afghanistan and then went silent.  This was the first driver I had met from there, with a majority being for India, Pakistan, Nepal or Sri Lanka.  Amazingly, there are no New York cabbies here; with the number of Arabic cab drivers in the US you might figure that all the American drivers would end up here looking for work.  I have heard that in Saudi Arabia all of the 7-11s are run by folks from Alabama but that is story for another time.

Anyway, after a long silence, he started to talk again.

“I am from small town in northern Afghanistan, and I got here 6 months ago” he said in heavily accented English – I guessed he was about 30 or so.

“Uh-huh” I replied, I had a feeling that this was about to turn political so I was trying to shut the conversation down.  Ever been trapped in a cab with an Afghan with strong opinions, who is mad at you for having an opposing viewpoint, as you tear down the highway at 120KmH?  Me neither and I did not want to start today.

“I left because the Taliban came to village and threatened my family.” He said flatly.

“Mmm” I was beginning to realize my strategy was not working.

“In the middle of night, they knock down door and dragged me and brother to center of town with many other men from village.  They told us Americans would leave soon and that Taliban would be back in charge.  After Americans left they would push Islamic laws and rules again with heavy hand.”  As he spoke he never took his eyes off the road.

At this point, I just sat silently and listened as he spoke of the rest of the events of that night and his eventual decision to leave Afghanistan to escape the Taliban.  He also confessed he was a lapsed Muslim who wondered how Allah could allow the Taliban to exist and use his name in vain.  This was the first time I think I had ever heard a Muslim talk this way and speak freely of his beliefs.

His story was interesting and his descriptions vivid.  There are two reasons I love to travel the places I get to go is one, this is the other and the number one reason – the people I get to meet.

“Now I live here, but I do not like much because it costs too much KD.  I cannot go home because America will be give Afghanistan to the Taliban soon when they leave.  The Taliban will wipe out people who disagree.  I disagree.”

I had no idea what to say at this point and anything I could say would be my opinion that might be misunderstood as the official viewpoint of my nation.  So, I just nodded.

He told me more of his story and the events of that life changing night.  When we got to the airport I asked for is name and I gave him double fare as a tip.

As I stood in line to check in for my flight, I realized that Evan Davis really needs to meet Salwar, at least that way I can be sure his story will be told and maybe somebody will listen to the tale of this Afghan man and his escape from tyranny and search for freedom.  It is worth hearing.


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