Eating With the Interpreters

Me, Omid and the PBO.

Today was another opportunity to cross another item off my “Things To Do List.”  Time is running out and the clock is rapidly ticking away, so I am steadily crossing items off this list.  Omid, my interpreter, returned from his temporary duty at FOB Shank and I wasted no time putting him to work.  Our first stop was a visit the Property Book Officer’s office.  As more recruits are being trained and the size of the ANA expands, so does their logistics requirements for vehicles, weapons, and communication equipment.  Keeping the accountability of these items is the responsibility of the PBO.

While walking to his office, I heard a familiar voice barking out commands to the new recruits.  It was my ANA Sergeant Major!  He claimed it has been two months since we seen each other.  But I know it hasn’t been that long and I apologized and promised to visit him this week.  We said goodbye and he resumed bellowing out his commands to the recruits.

The PBO officer as usual was behind his computer pecking away at the keys.  We exchanged pleasantries and then I asked about the updated reports.  Initially he said his computer got a virus and was unsure if he could still access the data.  I sat behind the keyboard and the only thing resembling a virus was that his virus check was outdated.  I easily accessed my reports and surprisingly, he has kept them updated.  But he did remove the color codes I had established and he lost about 2 dozen of the formulas I had created.  So for the next 2 hours we had small talk and I re-input the formulas.  He is running low on printer cartridges again and the dilemma of receiving new computers/printers has yet to be resolved.  I feel his frustration because even with the intervention of US mentors to US mentors who help control these resources, nothing has happened.  My previous blog entry got some high level attention and our AF Captain emailed an archive of data and paperwork, but still nothing has happened.  In fact, we haven’t received the 2 printers that were on schedule for distribution, even though they need about 40. Meanwhile these resources sit in the Logistics Warehouse collecting dust.   I don’t give up easy, but my days are numbered and I have flown the white flag on this issue.  So as a parting gift, I am using the last of the special project money to buy a dozen ink cartridges, which will only delay the inevitable.

Eating chow with the interpreters.

By the time I finished my mentoring, it was lunch time and the interpreters invited me for a bite to eat at their DFAC.  It’s not that I don’t like eating their food; it’s the aftereffect that keeps me from going back for repeat visits.  Also with the recent revelation they have some living organism in their water supply, I have been reluctant to visit.  But for some reason, I couldn’t resist their offer and accompanied them to their DFAC.  It was packed with all the interpreters who work for various agencies and private contractors.  I never realized how many interpreters were employed by this one camp alone.  I also find it interesting that the primary reason they become interpreters is in hopes of getting a US visa.  Their pay is triple the average income here, but their primary motivation is being selected for the US visa program.  This program has diminished in size and now only 50 interpreters are selected per year and given visas for the United States.  It’s a highly competitive program and a ton of paperwork is required, to include fingerprints, pictures, etc.  The rules have changed at least 3 times since I have been here and often their packages are left on someone’s desk and not processed accordingly or only after the deadlines have expired.  Omid, my interpreter, is marrying a US citizen, so he doesn’t have to compete in the visa “race.”

Our meal was rather interesting too.  Although you can’t see it, hidden underneath the heap of rice on my plate is a nugget of beef about the size of a half dollar.  Mixed in the rice were beans and garnished carrot peels for enhanced presentation.  In one bowl there is unpasteurized yogurt (yuck!) and in another was overcooked spinach leaves and two more medallions of cooked beef that were mostly fat.  The meal wouldn’t be complete without fresh Naan bread and Pepsi or Orange Soda for a beverage.  According to Omid, the contractor gets paid $6 per meal for each interpreter, but they are convinced he is skimming off the top and saving by providing small morsels of meat.  Six dollars downtown in a local eatery is enough to buy 2 people a full meal considering 6 bucks is more than most Afghans make in a day.

I ate my hearty lunch and returned to camp.  Now I am just waiting for the after effects to hit me and I will make my customary 47 steps to the latrine … lol.  Perhaps I should take one of these Cipro pills that were issued to us to minimize the consequences.


2 Responses

  1. I was wondering what the interpreter’s pay is per day given the meal is $6.00. I love your blog which I discovered recently. I get it sent to me daily which is a very nice feature for a reader. And you do seem to blog very frequently which I enjoy.

    Your blog combines some local history stories with your interest and respect for the local people – which is hard to find in a blog. You represent the best of us. Keep the pics coming too! You reveal a lot on information about the way things actually work and the corruption and mess ups that I have not read anywhere else and I follow news on Iraq and Afghanistan fairly closely and read many blogs.

    Interesting a young Iraqi dentist and his wife who blog just got a VISA to live in Houston and he complained the people in Texas speak English poorly or not at all, that you can’t walk anywhere and need to buy a car, and you have to pay taxes on everything, unlike in Iraq! And you’d think he’d just be happy to be here! lol

    I shall miss your blog when your tour ends.

  2. Amazing Dude, that’s very helpful info, much appreciated.

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