Afghan Dispatch #8: Bazaar (Originally Sent on May 25th, 2012)

It’s bazaar day.  Everyone in town that can make it comes.   We move
amongst them, more an object of idle interest than anything to be
feared.  Marines have been coming here for years, so we’re nothing
new.  It’s my first time walking through here on foot, so I cautiously
peer into all the dark places, wary of hidden potential danger.  After
passing the first few stalls, I realize the futility in this.  There
are simply to many places that a bad guy could hide.  I keep my head
on a swivel and take it all in.

There is a vendor for almost anything a person could want here.
Before anyone goes thinking that it’s like the trendy “world-market”
type places in America, let me stop you.  The bazaar is a dusty,
dirty, filthy shithole. A gutter runs down each side of the street
filled with piss, animal blood, trash, and who knows what else.  Meat
vendors hang raw hunks of animal flesh off of ropes out in the heat.
The pieces are always covered with flies.

A motorcylce shop has puddles of oil running amongst half-finished
projects out front.  The owner and his children lay in the dirt next
to it, seemingly done with work for the day.  The shop next door to it
has a cage full of live chickens, with their less-fortunate brethern
dangling from strings overhead.  All the stalls seem to be constructed
differentIy.  Some are made with mud, some with bricks, some with just
sticks and rags. I look from shop to shop, all the while avoiding
traffic that tears down the street in both directions, honking
constantly.

Groups of men pile onto tractors that by all rights, should no longer
be running.  One of the more outstanding examples is held together
with copious amounts of medical tape.  Right after I saw it, a station
wagon drove by with a goat in the backseat.  Men pass by us carrying
large bundles on their shoulders, and the children beg us for dollars.
“Mista, Mista, chawcolaat?” is a common salutation.

I would say that there was a sensory overload to be had, but in
reality, all I could smell was something gross burning. All I could
hear was the background drone of hundreds of voices blathering in a
foreign tongue. All I could see was absolute poverty.  These folks
have a standard of living that is so low most of the homeless in
America would sneer at it.  That being said, most of the children were
smiling.

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