Fair warning – this is a throw-away post. I phoned it in. But one thing that I’ve always felt about writing is that you’ve got to do it every day if you want to get good at it. Obviously, with my use of “get good” in the last sentence, I have many days of writing to go before I write gooder, but I’m stubborn, so here it is. (Wow, is it possible that I’m making it worse?)

Anyway. . . .

The local nationals that work here in the office are really great people to know. It sucks sometimes that I have always to keep in mind that each and every one of them could be bribed, tortured or have their families kidnapped because they are working for us. It also floors me that they get paid in a month what I get paid in a day. That’s the way the world works and the way this mission is financially successful, but in the morning, when they greet me warmly like a brother, I try to do whatever I can to make them understand that not only are they valuable, but they are just as valuable as I am. A few times when I was talking to them and insinuated that they were better at something than I was, they just laughed.

Finally though, several of them have volunteered information about their culture because I’ve been consistent in asking them about things – nearly every day.

I’m not sure how many of my friends have experience in a country where the alphabet is different – so Asia, the Middle East, etc. It’s hard! I want to write about what I hear them saying, but making phonetic representations of what they are saying feels like it’s almost insulting, especially when they start to write in their own alphabet, drawing the forms from right to left and filling up the page with what looks more like artwork. But they are patient with me.

We are starting to train in Visual Basic for Apps and Access Database design. I’ve created both of these things for this program already, and based on the impact those new programs are having, I think I could sit back and relax for the rest of the year. But if I can help any one of these locals to gain some new skills, get a leg up and make a better life for his family . . . . That is what wakes me up in the morning.

When they answer the phone, they say, “Ballae,” emphasis on the hard “B”. Seemed like a stupid question, but I didn’t know what “Ballae” meant. I assumed it meant hello, and it turned out I was right. These guys answer the phone about 30-40 times each day, and I hear them shout “Ballae” all the time. If you call me anytime and I say “Ballae,” just go with it.

Ringtones – oh my the variety around here. The locals have rings that sound like the soundtrack to a movie about belly dancers (currently in production). The Filipinos have rings that are either pop songs or even more entertaining joke-type ones. If you haven’t heard the ringtone with the guy shouting, “HELLO!” you need to find it on-line because it’s annoying to hear it 20 times a day but even then it never gets not-funny. Then there’s the outgoing Christian from Zimbabwe whose ringtones are every track from the first Sonic Flood CD. Takes me back.

So TGIW! Today is the Afghani equivalent of Friday, so there’s a festive atmosphere to enjoy. Nothing like developing vendor tax database queries to get you ready for a wicked weekend!

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