Tuesday, May 03, 2005

El Jefe'

The longer I'm here the more I get used to it. I don't like the fact that I am becoming comfortable here. I want to hate this place as much as I did when I first arrived here...but I don't.

I have grown accustomed to the environment, the schedule, and the fact that I am going to be here for another eight months. I have even started to warm up a bit to some of the locals. To say that I've been a bit "guarded" is probably an understatement. Those that know me well know I am not the most bubbly of personalities. Just imagine what I'm like in a foreign land surrounded by people who look and talk like the enemy. Whenever I'm interacting with any of the locals, I'm typically all business and make it pretty clear that I'm not their friend.

The other day one of the Iraqis that works on our base introduced himself. He was standing with a group of about fourteen other local workers who come on base daily to perform various tasks (filling sandbags, picking up trash, etc.). I was leaning against my HMMWV waiting to go outside the wire. I could tell they were looking at me, and that I was the subject of some of their conversations. It wasn't in a disrespectful, pointing their fingers and whispering kind of converation. But more of a "I've seen that guy around and he scares the bejeezers out of me" kind of conversation.

So after a few minutes of watching them doing this and pretending not to notice the leader of this little motley crew walks over to me. As he gets closer he offers a hand shake, and I reluctantly reciprocate. As soon as our hands interlock he pulls me towards him and gives me a customary hug. I return the gesture with a U.S. style machsimo pat on the back while I'm slightly freaking out. One because this guy has caught me completely off guard, and secondly because all Army guys are homophobic. He introduces himslef as Aknar and explains in broken english that he is "the boss" of this band of misfits. I ask him how to say "the boss" in Arabic, which I try to reapeat back several times but never really figure out the correct pronunciation. I then tell him that in Spanish he would be called "El Jefe'", which he correctly repeats back with a smile.

This all occurred over a five minute period, and then he was called back to his duties. Now whenever I see him on base I wave and call out "El Jefe'!" He waves back and calls out "Captain!", and we both smile.

I guess you could say there was a small battle fought in Iraq that day...

and both sides won.


Blogger Jessica said...

Wow Daddy, that is really heart warming and amazing to hear that not all of the people there don't want you there. It is really neat to think that you actually have a few "buddies" over there, too. Thank you for all you are doing. I love and miss you so much.
I will see you soon.

The Daughter of a Hero

3:58 PM  
Blogger jaibone said...

Yes, the right kind of battle was fought when you embraced El Jefe... war is not only about shooting and dying... it can be about learning something along the way.. insurgents ARE everywhere, but there are people you can look in the eye and see something other than the enemy. All the pictures you've posted prove it, and so does your encounter with the Chief of Misfits...

Cudos John... but homophobia is not issued with the uniform.... it's cool when guys show signs of affection.... nothing wrong with it, especially is a situation such as yours!

I still say duck and cover, soldier. Sounds like you have a proud family waiting for you back in the Whole other Country of Texas!

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Though the rhetoric of government may keep you miles apart, there's no misinterpreting the Language of the Heart. Love in any language straight from the heart, pulls us all together, never apart, and once you learn to speak it, all the world will hear, Love in any language--flunetly spoken there." Keep spreadin' it. We're proud you're our ambassador LuvPs91

11:28 AM  
Blogger Junkpoet said...

...just don't teach him any more of your spanish. I'm afraid the few "construction crew" phrases you may know would not be appropriate.

Just wanted to let you know that I still check out your site every other day or so.

BTW - I hired a new "secritery" the other day. She's working out great.


7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I am surfing the net at midnight again, John. What can I say? I just wanted you to know that Steve Briscoe's Al Asad photos from his acquaintance (the sand storm ones) has made it 'round the world. I got them through a whole different cycle of friends. Talk about a small world. Keep up the good work, and I would advise you not to try and teach the locals any more language either...!! - Later, Carol.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well John, I am very proud to call you my brother(in-law). You are truly a person capable of taking a difficult situation and making the best of it. Although, the part about "scares the bejeezers" threw me off, you always struck me as a persons who is easy to talk to. Obviously, this is evident to the locals as well. Keep up the humanitarian efforts as well as keepin' the peace. It's reassuring to know that we're all a lot more alike than we think.
Jeff 'n Marcy

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Lexie said...

I guess you're doing a different kind of marketing right now.

Keep up the good work and let the guys know there are people over here prayin' for them.

3:12 AM  
Blogger John & Jeri said...

hey, John. Glad to see you're making friends and not always just hanging out by yourself. Just like we teach our children, if you don't have anybody to play with and go over and make a friend. At least you know his mom taught him well!!! (not that your mom didn't, got that mom? you raised a wonderful boy to be a man!) And who is jaibone? I loved their post. Hope you're doing well and getting everything you need and then some. Take care, Jeri

6:09 AM  

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