under an afghan sky-mellissa fung

somehow, this story completely escaped me until i saw mellissa fung in the red chair. now that i’ve read her story, i’d like to find her and hug it out. i know that’s a small gesture-so i could always add a plate of fries. as of a few months ago when i saw her, the canucks hadn’t come through with their promises of tickets, so i hope they didn’t recently, only to have her be caught up in those bullshit riots. these are our s/heroes.

sometimes, relationships get ill:

“It was quite amazing, I thought, that my kidnapper, in the midst of dealing with his hostage, would call his girlfriend to tell her to see a doctor for the pain in her stomach. There was something about it that was endearing, and it made me believe that deep down, beneath the bravado of being at best a bandit and at worst a Taliban sympathizer, this was a young man who could be human and thoughtful and kind. The same one who would think to bring me french fries that he asked his girlfriend to make. The same one who took my hand on that first day and told me not to be afraid.” (203)

“I nodded, knowing there was no way either of us would honour that agreement, but it was a compelling notion, the idea of hostage and kidnapper staying in touch, a continuation of a relationship formed in captivity.” (254)

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3 thoughts on “under an afghan sky-mellissa fung

  1. life’s work:

    “I like to eavesdrop. I think it’s part of being a curious reporter, but I’m probably just a very nosy person.” (116)

    “But when soldiers sat down with me and offered me a smoke, it just felt rude to say no. Besides, there’s nothing like sharing a cigarette to break down barriers between people.” (158)

    “So it didn’t seem right that I was being fed french fries while being kept a prisoner in a dark hole. Fries, in my mind, were to be enjoyed with levity and laughter and friends. I couldn’t eat them at the moment, no matter how much I liked fries, because it made me so lonely for my real life.” (163-4)

    “More than anything, that’s what I was missing. A normal conversation. As a journalist, I spend my entire days in conversations with people, whether it’s my editors and producers, or the people I’m interviewing for a story, or the cameraperson, with whom I might spend hours and hours driving from one location to another. Or I’d be chatting with my friends on our BlackBerrys, which had become essential in our lives. We were all single, and it was a way of keeping tabs on each other-to bitch and gossip or organize a drink and dinner on the way home from work. I spend my life talking to people and to have that suddenly taken away made me feel completely lost.” (184)

    i bookended these passages like this because eavesdropping is still conversation, i can relate to this feeling a lot, when i’ve been in situations when i didn’t understand what was happening because there was no language in common, nothing to observe.

  2. slow consider:

    “I looked at the clock again. It wasn’t even noon. Time is amazing. There’s never enough time when you’re in a hurry, with a deadline looming, and you have a zillion things to do. If I were at home in Canada and awake at six in the morning, on a Sunday like this, I would have already gone to Mass, gone for a run, showered, changed, and barely had time to meet my friends for Sunday brunch. Here, in the darkness of a hole in the ground, with nothing to do, time couldn’t have passed more slowly.” (57-8)

    “And I don’t discriminate when it comes to food, though in the past few years I’d been staying away from pork. I’d covered the Robert Pickton story-the pig farmer in British Columbia who killed prostitutes. Canadians know the details of this horrific mass murder very well. He lured prostitutes to his farm, tortured and killed them, and fed their bodies to his pigs before slaughtering the animals, which may have been processed for human consumption. I couldn’t bring myself to put a knife and fork into a pork chop after that.” (83)

    “I promised myself I would try to learn more about Islam what I got out of this place. And it wasn’t just because I was trying to appease my captor-I was genuinely curious. I wanted to know where it said in the Koran that it was okay to kidnap someone and force them to convert. Although, I reminded myself, Christians did much worse during the Crusades.” (199)

  3. the science:

    “/Two or three./ Two or three other people, taken from wherever they were, sitting in holes like this one. I wondered who the others were. Where were they from? What did they do? And the kidnappers had just released two others. My mind was doing the math. A hundred thousand for each hostage! These guys could make half a million dollars in a few weeks. What a great business. Except that they use the money to buy guns so they can kill people.” (35)

    “I wasn’t sure exactly how to respond. Canada’s role in Afghanistan was being debated enough at home. The prime minister had just promised to pull our troops out in 2011. And the rising toll of civilian casualties as a result of the fighting between the Taliban and coalition forces was something even the United Nations said had to stop. Canada was in Afghanistan to fulfill its commitment to NATO, but that’s not something I would have expected Zahir to understand.” (47)

    “Why go to school when you can make hundreds of American dollars kidnapping foreigners? For young men who don’t have much of an opportunity to succeed in the way we Westerners typically think of success-a steady job, good income, roof over your head, food on the table-criminal activity is often the only viable option.
    It’s like asking the Afghan farmer to plant pomegranate trees instead of poppies because stopping the heroin trade is how we in the West believe we can win against the Taliban. But for that poppy farmer, harvesting a pomegranate crop might yield only a fraction of the money he could get for a poppy crop. It might be wrong, and the farmer might even know that drug money is being used to fund the Taliban’s activities, but at the end of the day, he’s got a family to feed.” (125)
    “I wasn’t really surprised that Shogufa would say that, make that kind of marriage vow. The majority of suicide bombers are still male, but an increasing number of women have been willing to suit up to kill-in Chechnya, Lebanon, Iraq, and recently Afghanistan. Many follow their husbands, who espouse fundamentalist ideologies; others seek revenge and are ripe targets for extremists. I’d always thought that was an interesting subject-the mentality of the female suicide bomber.” (143)

    “Although it seemed kind of fitting that a would-be terrorist like Khalid would take the same name as the Lebanese militia organization. It’s true what they say about one man’s terrorists being another man’s freedom fighter. Fortunately for me, my kidnappers were neither. They were a young band of crude criminals who used fundamentalist Islamist ideology as an excuse to commit petty crimes. Well, kidnapping may not be such a petty crime, but I might have had more respect for them if they were willing to die for their beliefs. However, it seemed that for them, religion was simply an excuse to indulge in thuggery.” (247)

    “My grandmother used to say that people who slept well were lucky because it meant they had few worries in life. I think she was right. What worries did this young Afghan kid have? None. He had his toothbrush, his gun, and no real responsibilities other than to make sure his hostage didn’t try to escape.” (307)

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