Soap and Hillary

Wake up early to the sound of helicopters, like many mornings. They, and loud debates, are all that upset the eerie calm outside our bolthole here.

So here comes today’s first chopper, large, low, time to wake up. Many such mornings feel like the opening scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’, but not Saigon (Shit!) and no view from the window. The wup, wup, wup grows louder, the window shakes, the whole house shakes, it passes. The second chopper grows louder and I go to the window. It passes momentarily through the gap between my villa and the one next door, seemingly just above the rooftops, so close the twin propellors are huge. And there are many more this morning; something must be going on.

Its not yet 6 am. Must be shower time. But the soap has crumbled away; too much dry air and hard water. And I have no idea where to find any more. So put my dressing gown on to ask. Downstairs, in the gym, I find one of the chowkidors who spend a lot of time in and around the little guardhouse. He is  stealing time on the running machine while no one is out. His build suggests he steals all night in the gym.

I have no idea how to ask for soap in Dari, so I just say ‘Salom! Soap?’.

‘Salom’ He replies, then looks at me blankly.

‘Soap, soap’ I repeat, hoping it’s my accent.

‘Soup?’ he asks tentatively.

‘No. Soap, soap!’

He gets off the walker. ‘Soup? You want soup?’ he repeats.

He leads me to alcove where the printer is. I know there’s no soap there, or soup either, for that matter. In the narrow space I show him what I mean. I rub imaginary soap over my chest and and arms, playing a game of washing charades.

‘Soap, soap, soap’, I try again, rubbing my dressing gown some more.

At this point the chowkidor decides this is a bit much for him to handle. I was half asleep, but realise later that an expat in a dressing gown at 6 am, rubbing himself and demanding soup, is probably a rather worrisome sight for a chowkidor.

‘Wait’, he says, ‘I will go and ask God’, and hurries away toward the door.

I knew this was a conservative and deeply religious society, but I didn’t quite expect this response. Perhaps he hopes that God will relieve him of this madman. I don’t wait, but follow him, curious as to where in the compound one finds God. He crosses the forecourt, disappearing into the chowkidors’ hut. A brief exchange and another comes out.

‘Can I help you?’ he asks from a distance.

‘Soap, soap, I need some soap’ I ask, hoping I won’t be led to the kitchen this time.

‘No problem’ he replies, leads me to a cupboard upstairs, and gives me several cakes of soap.

Later we learn that Hillary Clinton came to the Presidental Palace to visit Hamid Karzai today. Hillary helicopters into Kabul, with a flock of helicopters in tow. I stay earthbound, but now I have soap.

One Response to “Soap and Hillary”
  1. andona says:

    Time to brush up on your Dari!

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