Afghan Dispatch #4: Engagement (Originally Sent on May 12th, 2012)

Before I arrived in theatre, I’d heard numerous reports from returning Marines that the Afghans, though it was against their religion, would often “spend time with each other.”  When we arrived at the compound, I received amused warings from those we replaced that the guys in the guard towers were “a little lonely.”  Scenes from the movie “Shawshank Redemption” came to mind.  I laughed when I was told that these guys would come outside of their towers to oogle Marines as they used the outdoor gym. 
Two days ago I made my first trip to the gym.  On the way, a guard spotted me, and approached.  I didn’t have a turgimon(interpretor) with me, so I could only guess at what he was saying.  He pointed to my pocket knife. It was cheap knife that I’d found in my room, so I gave it to him.  Thinking back, this was probably the wrong move. 
Yesterday, I returned to the gym, and one of his buddies was lurking on the stairs, practically drooling as I cautiously worked out. After awhile, the one I’d given the knife to walked into the gym itself, sat down at the machine next to me, and stared.
I tried to make a joke of it and made loud obnoxious “gym noise,” but that just cemented the guy in place.  I wondered if me giving this guy a gift was viewed in his culural context as some type of dowry. I might have just become engaged to an Afghan dude.  Nobody tell Allison:)
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