First off, Happy Nowruz to all of you. That's Happy New Year if you're not keeping up with your Pashto/Dari lessons. Nowruz marks the first day of spring (although it still feels like the tail end of winter to me) and is a national holiday across Afghanistan. If you've read The Kite Runner then you'll be familiar with the concept of kite-fighting which is a traditional event on Nowruz. Unfortunately, I was stuck at the compound all day, so I missed the celebrations throughout Kabul, including the kite flying festival.
Being stuck in the city, I also didn't have a chance to witness the equestrian insanity that is Buzkashi. It's sort of a Central Asia version of polo, except that instead of a ball and mallet, you use your bare hands and a dead goat. Other than that, its identical to the polo matches I used to see in Chicago, right down to the funny hats and cucumber sandwiches. Well, maybe not the cucumber sandwiches, but there are definately funny hats.
As people around the world do on major holidays, Nowruz is also a time for large festive meals of traditional dishes. Fruits and fruit salad, locally known as Haft Mewa, form an important part of the day's feast. With that in mind, the Rug Merchant, normally a man who could squeeze two dimes and get a quarter, decreed that the company mess would serve a special meal today. To illustrate exactly how special, it's important to demonstrate what a regular days' meal would look like.
Breakfast: bread and tea
Lunch: rice, bread and tea
Dinner: rice, bread, tea and spinach
Occasionally, there are bits of meat in the rice (lamb probably, but its best not to speculate), and even more occasionally a plate of cabbage or the odd cucumber. Needless to say, I'm a little sick of rice. I also think I'm losing weight. Anyone know the early symptoms of scurvy?
Well, on this grand festival of days, due to the largesse of my employer, our holiday meals consisted of basically the same staples as above, with the addition of a banana and a couple of oranges.* Oh, and there were raisins in the rice, along with the aforementioned mystery meat.
*I got two oranges. I didn't check but I'm willing to bet that the rest of the company only got one. Not that I'm inclined to share; I'm fighting off scurvy here!
Being the diligent student of Afghan culture that I am, I had prepared myself (via Wikipedia) for the traditional Haft Mewa, which means Seven Fruits. I checked pretty thoroughly and I'm sure I only got two fruits (and that's counting the raisins - can't count the oranges twice). Needless to say, I'm not impressed. No one else seems to be complaining, at least not that I'm aware of, but it seems to me that once a year a nice plum or perhaps a cookie wouldn't be too much to ask. I won't bother to ask for a cheeseburger.