Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hello, How are you, I'm fine how are you? I'm fine thanks how are you? How are you ...

If you listened to two Afghans greet each other you would think Afghan's are some of the most polite and caring people in the world (and indeed they can be but i am not sure they take the world title). It is very common, upon meeting someone, to ask how they are doing... many times and in many different ways all at the initial meeting. A common (translated) greeting would be as follows:

Hello how are you?
I am fine and how are you?
I am fine thank you are you healthy?
I am doing well are you good?
I am very good thank you
How are you?

And for this i am not kidding at all. Honestly the first few times i met new afghans i thought they were just joking with me, giving the new (foreign) guy a hard time but i quickly found that they were being quite sincere even doing the kiss on the cheek thing. Fortunately being in Europe softened me up to that a bit... though i always appreciate doing with a soft-cheeked woman rather than some big bearded afghan guy, though i guess i am one to talk having a beard at the moment as well. Also, i have only seen once instance of a guy cheek-kissing a woman, i would say that it is probably haram (taboo to those non-Muslims out there) in most cases though i have never asked.

The cheek kissing reminds me of an obligatory sexual harassment workshop that the Peace Corps volunteers had to take in Moldova. At the time Peace Corps Moldova had a ethnic Bulgarian Russian speaking doctor who was adored by all volunteers (including me) he took very good care of us but he would sometimes say the funniest things (that might be offensive had someone else said it). During soviet times he was with the soviet military and at one point was in Portugal on assignment. He was trying to explain how guys could be sexually harassed too and to do so he used his time in Portugal as an example, "Victor (he sometimes referred to him self in the first person, pretty Russian) was werking in Portugal and I meet woman doctor, she kissed me on cheek and first Victor was offended, I was harassed! ... But then Victor thought Hmmmm, maybe this is good thing… now victor likes this" (all the volunteers almost cried we laughed so hard, perhaps you had to be there).