Foreign Exchange by Nick Hahn (excerpt)

In rural Pakistan people do not use paper in their bathrooms or roadside toilets. The custom here is to wash your hands under a communal water spigot outside of the leu after doing your business, no matter how messy it becomes, a disgusting habit.

10906106_10153497009507586_6014278123377555685_nIt seemed the further we went the more lax they became, restraints looser, no more hood and able to sit on the back seat. We were driving through high desert country, brown, dusty and barren. The mountains on the horizon were saw-toothed and snowcapped like Northern Idaho on family vacations. I had no idea where we were except in Pakistan their mountains are on the North Western border with Afghanistan.

In the last year or so I became aware of tension between Sally and Owen, both preferred I address them by name, not Mommy or Daddy as I had as a child. I remembered the verse form Corinthians, learned during Sunday bible class:

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man , I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

I don’t think my parents are prepared to accept it but at sixteen with three foreign postings under my belt and Billy in my pants more times than I can remember I’m no longer thinking, talking or reasoning like a child. I pray to God I’ll get out of this alive, I know US policy on dealing with terrorists and kidnappers but I also know my Father, he’ll find a way I know he will.

We came to an abrupt stop at a cross roads, the signs were in Pashto, we were heading towards the border. The driver got out of the car to access his cell phone, the conversation was brief. He snapped it shut, jumped back in and turned right, we were running parallel, to the mountains.

The one in the front passenger seat turned and faced me, his face was sullen, dark with deep wrinkle lines running vertically like dried river beds out of a salt lake. There was hair growing out of his ears and his teeth were stained mahogany from years of sipping tea morning, noon and night. He was smoking, French Gauloises, their distinctive odor was permeating the car. The muslims don’t drink, at least the devote ones, but they make up for it with heavy smoking and tea drinking. They have other addictions like the manly sports of falconry and goat polo not to mention internet porn, this dirty little secret occupies over 28% of the Muslim population worldwide, according to Muslim news organizations in Abu Dhabi. They may respect the women in their families and communities but when alone with a computer and an internet connection their sexual fantasies become reality, not unlike Billy and most of the boys I knew in high school, girls too. My mouth dropped in amazement when Billy showed me his “porn stash” (as he liked to call it) on his iPhone, OMG, I had no idea!