poppies for young men


I have oft waxed adoring of my friend Jiffer Bourguignon – the story of my old housemate can be found here and my usual penchant for picture recreation can be found here. Not content to get her post-grad degree from Columbia and watch lots of network television like the rest of us, Jiffer decided to go to Afghanistan and see what could be done. This, might I remind you, is someone who used to steal my Pop Tarts so often that I had to padlock my kitchen cabinet.

She has sent a number of pictures from the scene, making her the second close friend to report back from the Afghani front [oldtime blog readers might remember my interview with Colin Soloway (the reporter who discovered John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban”) a few hours before the Marines took Baghdad].

Jif’s pics were so evocative that I asked her if I could post some on the blog. She said I could, and if she has a few minutes on Afghanistan dial-up, maybe she can say a few words in the comments section.

This first one is the most haunting to me; she called it “What It’s Like to Be a Woman Here”:


This Afghani girl was at the same bazaar:


This is Jiffer herself grabbing kebabs:


Near the marketplace:


The famous “blue mosque” of Mazar-Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif:


On New Year’s Day of the Afghan year 1384, the spectators watch…


…a game of Bushkazi, basically polo with the body of a headless calf as the “ball.”


0 thoughts on “poppies for young men

  1. oliver

    That mosque is beautiful. I also like the kebab photo, which makes it real for me…not that I haven’t played Bushkazi a few times with the kids down the street (and you’ve never seen a goatherd get so angry).

  2. Salem

    Ian, do you remember when I met Jiffer after the Pink House screening? So, when I asked ya’ll why you let her take the subway home from the restaurant by herself, I was over reacting, huh?

  3. Sean

    Jiffer SM’ed our As You Like It show, and I remember Mac and I talking about it. Mac was like “Does she know what she’s doing” and I was like “Um… I don’t know. Doesn’t really matter, we’ll just fake our way through.” Jiffer endured it like a short prison sentence.
    Mac and I are now fat guys who eat too much take out.

  4. jif

    Commenting from my dial-up: If anyone has any questions, I am happy to answer.
    The photo in the market with the men staring – yes, it can be intimidating at times. But I should have sent an accompanying photo – being surrounded by a curious group in the market – always only men – who are smiling, speaking, offering tea or dried fruit and nuts. The Afghan people I have had the pleasure of getting to know are some of the most hospitable, proud and strong individuals I have met anywhere. The photo of the men in the market happened about 15 minutes before someone grabbed my ass as I walked by. My friend David went back to yell at the guy who did it – and soon other shopkeepers and pedestrians did as well. Telling him he should be ashamed of himself and apologizing profusely to me for this man’s behavior. The security situation here is tenuous – there are a lot of restrictions here on our movement – and as such, we lack regular contact with the Afghan community – which is self-defeating – more cultural exchange would do a great deal to ammeliorate the security situation here (spoken like a true former peace corps volunteer).
    Speaking of cultural exchange – the kebab is the offering of a recovering vegetarian. My rule is generally – if it is in another cultural context and i am offered – i will eat. This philosophy has led to the ingestion of camels, spiders, grasshopers and various organs that I won’t go into now before lunch. Afghan kebabs are well-known – between each piece of meat on the stick there is a large chunk of ass fat – central asian sheep are apparently bred for these large bodacious booties. The fat adds flavor as it drips onto the meat; most of my international companions skips the lard cubes, which our afghan friends will happily clean up.
    The Bushkazi match – again, as a vegetarian, I watched with part fascination and part disgust. I am surprised the corpse of the animal was kept in tact as the horses trampled all over it while their riders beat one another and tried to get a firm enough grasp on the calf to hoist it off the ground. This game, in particular, was played by individuals rather than teams; the winner won a $500 prize. It always strikes me – how sports transcend all cultures and languages.
    The cliche kid picture – what can i say?
    Photographing kids and men – is ok. In fact, I am often approached by a man or group of men when they see my camera. They make a little photo-click sign with their hands, holding their imaginary camera up to their eye, and pointing. After I take the picture, they just say thank you, never asking for a copy. With the digital camera, at least I can show them their image – which is always so much fun. Women, however, are very unlikely to allow you to photograph them directly, or even indirectly, unless you know them. I always ask first, and women almost always decline. In fact, at the shrine in Mazar where i was shooting a group of women in burkas ‘from the hip,’ a woman approached me and told me that I needed government permission to take photographs of them. Remnants of Taliban mentality and an existing fear of their possible return.
    Anyway.. thanks for posting Ian.. I am happy to answer any questions about these photos or anything else related. Tashakor!

  5. jif

    cannibals -luckily no. the only thing i have refused so far was a hard boiled chicken’s egg with a partially developed fetus inside. A delicacy in Cambodia. Mmmmm, try the beak – crunchy! No thanks – you have to draw the line somewhere….


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