Like an old man with prostate problems.

Tonight I was trying to prepare our home for winter by getting the bukharis ready. A bukhari is a heater: wood, gas, diesel. We have installed a diesel bukhari already (and I nearly killed myself doing it, but that is another story involving vaporised diesel, matches, explosions, inhalations of gaseous exploding fuel, choking, spewing, being unable to breathe for a good 30 seconds, singeing hair off hands, arms, face and generally feeling pretty annoyed).

But tonight I was getting the good wood bukhari ready. It is well made, nice thick steel and best of all, has a large water canister that sits on top. The fire below boils the water, and you get both hot water and a nice reservoir of heat that keeps a place warm long after the fire has gone out. The canister is soldered together on the seams (can you see where this story is heading?) It sleeves neatly into the top of the wood fuel box – well, quite neatly. The fit was tight, and to get them together needed some gentle persuasion. I was for tapping, bending, sliding and working at it slowly. Our chaokider had his own cunning plan, and went and got the hammer.

Now, you can’t hit soldered seams. They split. This I knew. Wanting to give credit, and knowing that there are a great many things that Afghans know that I don’t, and that there are things they can do blindfold on roller skates that I can’t, I tried to withhold too much instruction. Plus, our chaokidar is older than me and there is a good part of me that respects his age and position, regardless of the fact that he works for us.

So instead, I suggested we tap gently around the lip of the fuel box, not the water canister, to reshape it. We did, and were slowly getting there. ‘Too slow!’ thought our chaokidar and started whacking at the water canister. I urged him patience, and told him that we couldn’t hit the solder as it would split, but we could hit around it, gently.

So he whacked the soldered seam with a good hard blow, and it split. I peered at it, and then at our chaokidar.

‘It’s split’ I said.

‘Nooooo’, said the chaokidar. laughing.

‘Yes, it has. Look, there is the split.’

He looked, and denied it. Then he looked more closely and said, in that tone of bemused surprise that I have heard so often, (and again, as always), worded in the passive voice – ‘Oh.The solder has been split’. Not, ‘I have done it’, but ‘It has happened.’ Sort of like, ‘Gosh. Look at that.’ As though it had happened by magic, as though there were no connection between him belting it, and it splitting open like a ripe melon.

‘It probably won’t leak’, he offered.

We tested it by filling the canister. It leaked like an old man with prostate problems, slow, drippy, and painful.

I looked at our chaokidar, a good, friendly, honest man, who our kids love and who does many things well, and thought, ‘I wouldn’t be half so annoyed here if you just took responsibility, and said, “Sorry. I hit it and it split”.’

We put the tools away and I asked him to take the canister to the bazaar tomorrow and get it soldered. Then I went inside and washed the dishes.


**Julie told me to write a cheerful entry instead of the maudlin stuff I have been writing.


9 thoughts on “Like an old man with prostate problems.

  1. Australian culture is very direct. And English is a direct language. And as much as you dislike the in-directness of Afghanis, they (and myself) dislike the directness of English even more. I don’t think that chaokider was trying to deny that he broke the potbelly. It’s just want you say, “it broke itself”. We (Russians) as the same. For example, instead of saying “I broke the iPhone”, you say, “iPhone broke itself”. It just gives you more options whom to blame!

  2. Guen, you are right that English can be a very direct language. I don’t know if that is good or bad. But I rarely hear, in Farsi, or Urdu, or Arabic for that matter, linguistic constructions that accept responsibility. Like when we got our office painted, and the painter painted all over the windows, door handles, door frames, floor etc. And I had asked them to mask it out, so as for that not to happen. The answer? ‘We don’t need to do that. It will become clean.’ Not, ‘If I paint over the edges, I will clean it’. But some magic paint fairy will clean it. Of course, our office now still looks like it was painted by a blind man, and the paint has not been cleaned. No one was responsible.

  3. It’s not good or bad – it’s just different. And it’s sure frustrating, both ways (ask my wife!). In some cultures (incl Russian.. again.. sorry!) you feel dumb if someone is expecting you to state the obvious. So, if I broke something, and people around me saw me do that, there is “no need” to say or describe what just happened – everybody already knows the details. Instead, you just say, “Oh, look, this thing just broke itself!”. And yes.. I saw those paint jobs. Don’t give up. The paint fairy will come. With time.

  4. Yes it does Julie:)

    I was expecting the cannister to split once it was on top of the heater full of water so it could have been worse.
    I’m with you Phil, the lack of accountability/taking responsibility is a modern malady not confined to Afghanistan. kids will look me in the face and deny doing something I’ve just seen them do with my own eyes! The belief seems to be “If I deny it, it didn’t happen”!!!

    Of course, I find it really easy to accept the blame for things I’ve done wrong…..hahaha!!!!

  5. Is it possible to use “Hire a Hubby” over there? I find them very useful here……if not, perhaps it represents a good opportunity for someone?

  6. More bad news this morning mate, 1 dead, 1 kidnapped!!
    What a place! Mind you, I know there are plenty of other dangerous places in the world, I just don’t happen to have a good mate living in any of them.

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