Thursday, June 20, 2013

Danger is Relative

Friends, meet jui. (ju-ee)

It is one of the many gutters that line the streets in Kabul. Those located alongside main streets flow high and fast in the winter, while their cousins on the quiet side streets fill with snow. In the summer, they ooze along, filled with trash and mud and and excrement and who knows what else. Every so often, workers shovel out all the accumulated muck and they set it on the streets to dry. The streets smell, far worse than the pigpens we had on the farm when I was a kid, and then, as the products of the jui dry, they get blown away as dust and inhaled all summer long.

I became intimately acquainted with a jui on my way home from work a few days ago. One minute, I was walking, and the next minute, I was up to my thighs in jui juice. Brown, smelly, mucky, jui juice.

I managed to pull my feet out, along with the five pounds worth of muck lining my pants, tunic, and shoes. It took some doing, and I almost lost a shoe and dropped my computer. Once I got my feet out, I propped them on the opposite side and just sat for a minute; it's been a long few weeks.

A jui is by no means the biggest danger here, but it's one of the small annoyances and concerns that I sometimes wonder about. Between the health issue and the falling in issue and the smell issue, I can imagine the outcry that would be raised if there were juis in most places I've lived. And yet, here, no one thinks twice about it.

That's true of other things as well. Medicine is often given intravenously, where the doctor puts a needle in the back of your hand and gives you the medicine to inject yourself for the next few days. When I first saw that, I was horrified. They keep a needle in their hand, for days. Does that not seem dangerous to anyone else?

Open ended wires sticking out right at face level. Sparks flying from the welders who set up in the middle of the sidewalk. Not wearing seatbelts/letting kids ride in the car standing up. Riding carnival rides with not only no seatbelt but also while standing up and sometimes not even holding on. When I mention these, others give me funny looks. What's wrong with adding gas to the car while the motor is running?

I've realized, though, that I don't think about or worry about these things as much as I did when I first came. After I stepped in the jui, it was disgusting, but it mostly made me laugh. Rather hysterical laughter, but laughter nonetheless. The next day, I was going to post something on Facebook about the jui, but just then, a bomb went off down the street from our office. The walls shook, we dropped to the floor. Gunshots fired, smoke went up in a cloud, and phones started ringing as relatives and friends checked in to make sure everyone is still alive.

It was the I've been to a bomb, and it hit home a bit because it went off on a road I walk down, where friends of mine live nearby. It shook us, emotionally as well as physically. How could I post a whine about juis after something like that?

Danger is relative. When you grow up as sheltered as I did and when you like rules as much as I do, little dangers sometimes seem important. They can be dangerous, yes, but I can see now how so many others here don't notice them or worry about them. It's Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; when you are accustomed to explosions shaking your windows, you don't worry so much about seatbelts. It's understandable that planning for the future, personal finance, etc are not very commonly practiced; if you might die tomorrow, why not spend your money and go on a thrilling, if dangerous, carnival ride? It's hard to worry about little things when basic survival is such a concern.

That said, definitely have no desire to get acquainted with my friend jui again, no matter how minor that concern may be!

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