Sunday, April 27, 2008

Memoirs of a Chai Boy


A buzzer rings in the outer office calling in the Afghan Army General's assistant. The General's assistant is dressed in a traditional set of off-white man jammies and enters the room.

General Ahmed
Chai! (said in a firm voice)

The assistant runs out of the room quickly. He returns within minutes with a tray of chai tea in glass cups along with some nuts and small candies. He quickly serves it to the General and all his guests. He is the Chai Boy.

This is the beginning of the script of the new movie called, "Memoirs of a Chai Boy". OK, so there is no movie coming out, but it sounded similar to Memoirs of a Geisha. For those of us who were in Afghanistan, we know what a Chai Boy is. For everyone else, it is traditional to serve Chai Tea when you have a meeting in the Afghan culture. Chai boys were those who ran around with the Generals or other high officials and gathered whatever was needed during meetings. I thought a Chai boy would be someone who heard a great deal from sitting in a corner of a meeting and observing. Sometimes I like to think that I was observing what was going on in Afghanistan. I often thought that the Chai boys would see and hear some interesting things and it would be worthwhile getting their stories. Of course without those Chai boys you get my stories, which may not be as interesting.

Yes, I am back for one final episode, this time from beautiful San Diego, California. I mentioned I would give you all a brief reflection of what I experienced in Afghanistan. Before I do that let me update you on what I am doing right now. I have been home for almost a month now and I have returned to work at WD-40 Company. For those who wish to contact me, my information remains the same as it was before. Office phone is 619-275-9304, cell is 619-981-3041 and e-mail is I am now working as part of Team Tomorrow working on New Product Development with a focus on finding sources of supply and guiding the long range plans for WD-40 Company. It is a great opportunity for me and it will be fun and exciting.

Now back to Afghanistan. As I reflect back on what I observed, I will always remember this as a very positive experience where I was able to help a country that truly needs assistance. When you look deeper at Afghanistan, you find out that the average annual income for a typical Afghan is just $400 per year. Another interesting fact is that the GNP for Afghanistan is about $750 million. Clearly this is a very poor country with a limited economy. Until the country is secure from terrorist activity, the economy will struggle and until the economy is stabilized and allowed to prosper, the people of Afghanistan will remain in the dark ages. The mission of the United States and the many nations of the world is to stabilize the country and allow it to grow. I do not foresee this as a short lived mission and will take many years to stabilize the country and help these people. One consistent question I receive is whether this mission is worth our effort. The answer is yes. The Afghans are a good group of people who merely want the same things we as Americans want. They seek the safety, security and well being of their families. Although we have cultural and religious differences, the basic needs of food, shelter, safety and family well being still hold strong. We do not expect to create another America, but must give the Afghans the opportunity for the basic needs of life.

It has become clear to me that the country of Afghanistan needs and wants our help. The efforts of the many military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan are making a difference for the people of Afghanistan. Although the progress is slow, it is realistic considering the cultural differences we experience. We cannot have the expectation that the country will change in a year or even in 6 years, it will take more time. What we as American service members and civilian contractors must do is take a long view of the mission. If we look to "just put in our time" meaning look to finish our year in the country and get out, we will make the wrong decisions and not do what is in the best interest of long range goals of Afghanistan. This is difficult to convince people coming to Afghanistan as many service members are put in very difficult circumstances and merely want to serve their time and move on. As leaders we have to reinforce the idea that this is a long war and each of us must do our part to move us and Afghanistan forward.

My adventure began in January of 2007 and now it is hard to believe it is completed. I have reintegrated with my family and I happy for that. I have gone back to work and started on a new adventure with Team Tomorrow and I know it will be a worthwhile experience where I can make a difference for WD-40 Company. I am thankful I had the experience and that I did my part to help Afghanistan. It was very difficult, but overall a rewarding experience and I learned a great deal.

Back on the homefront, we had a stressful day on Sunday, April 27th as fires came within a few hundred yards of our house. Fortunately, the great firefighters of the San Diego Fire Department were able to keep the fires in the canyons and kept the fires from destroying a single home.

Peace to you all,



Anonymous said...

You fool, they bang the chai boys so they do have interesting stories to tell.

Anonymous said...

You're aware Chai Boys are kept around essentially to be raped, right?