Sunday, January 16, 2011

soldier and traveler

last night i had the opportunity to sit and share tales with a member of the U.S. special forces. he currently resides in the capital of Turkey, Ankara, however he has also been all over the middle east. he describes a time when iraq was like the wild west to U.S. soldiers and how U.S. occupation has solidified itself completely in that country. i asked and wondered what it was like for him and was curious to learn how he finds the culture from the perspective of a man who must wear a uniform and is forbidden to maintain friendships with the people of the country he was living in. when it comes to these extremely sensetive situations, taboos will play an important role in daily life. for instance, its almost a taboo for a member of these cultures to actively hate americans whereas people in the states might be lead to believe that there is an overwhelming hatred for the occupants. communication comes in nods and kind gestures. they dont want you there and you dont want to be there but forces beyond both of your control have made things this way.

a traveler talking to a traveler is usually something that draws similar experiences and advice for the road however a traveler talking to an international soldier is completely a different instance. in fact, it is in this difference that i was humbled to this man's presence. life and death are within eyesight every moment of the day. i'm reminded of a fellow i once traveled with in Georgia who once served in Afghanistan. the first few months were terrifying for him, as one might imagine, however after a few months he recalls times of recreation where the sounds of bombs and gunfire would not even disturb a game of ping pong.. you simply get used to it. i could never imagine...

i've been thinking a lot about people back in the states and what their opinion of this part of the world might be. its easy to criticize americans and make claims about their ignorance of the rest of the world but i find this is the same in every country. every nation wears blinders and only concerns themselves with themselves. they all point fingers at each other just as americans do and they are equally terrible at geography. it was however my father who told me something a long time ago that meant the world to me. he told me that its in my stories that i bring back that people learn from, not from what they see on television. we all know that the media is biased and that somewhere along the way we are being lied to but its people who actually travel to different parts of the world that relay to us any information with sustainance. such as the man i was honored to share a conversation last night. its people like him who carry the true stores and people like him who paint pictures very clearly before us so that we might experience the world through their eyes.

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