In earlier, less realistic times, I had made the life goal of one day running a marathon. That is not going to happen. I am, however, training for a half marathon in January. Our executive officer is about as crazy as my sister Sarah and her husband Garrett when it comes to running: running less than 6 miles is a bad day, acceptable is at least 10. She has been my running coach, asking me every day what time we're going to run, how long, etc. I've learned that I have to be decisive and firm about setting limits because I have to quit after about 6 miles, and then she'll just run in place next to me, looking at me like, "ready to start running again?"
No, Dana, that's all I have. You go ahead, knock yourself out with 6 more miles in 40 degree weather. I'm done.
I was taught in cultural awareness training back home that the men here respect womanhood and value respectful distance during interaction with any female, fearful of insulting her honor and reputation. I'm sure my teachers are correct, but Dana and I sometimes have a different experience when we run. All of which is an unnecessarily long introduction into the events of today.
Today was especially bad. There were 6-8 local men sitting on top of a cargo truck sitting quietly. As we jog past, they all stare unabashedly at her and point and holler like they just saw Elvis. It was as if seeing a redhead in shorts was some kind of visual catnip for them and they just went nuts! I couln't help it. This is not how real men act towards a woman. I stopped in my tracks, turned around, removed my sunglasses and looked right back at them. "Is there a problem?" I hollered back, in a tone that I hope conveyed my annoyance clearly (I was feeling pretty brave because I know Afghan civilians are searched for weapons before coming on base, and there was a group of US soldiers across the street, each of them carrying an M-16 or larger weapon). They immediately looked away, and pointed to a pretend object in the opposite direction, as if to convince me that what they were *really* looking at was a dust-covered hill that they somehow just became aware of in all its drab brown majesty. Whatever, guys, I don't speak your language but I'm a man and I know a cat-call when I see it.
Nodding to them as if to say, "Yeah...that's what I thought!" I turned around and kept running. They had disappeared by the next lap.
Probably the least culturally sensitive thing I've done since I've been here, but I'd do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat.