Friday, May 7, 2010

Afghan Proverbs

I risked life and limb again today by walking to the nearby base through the mob of children.

I saw all the same boys as yesterday, but the one in the back of the crowd in this picture walked with me for a few minutes along the way.  He spoke the best English of them all, and as we walked, of course he wanted me to buy a few bracelets made of beads and tied together with string.  

They're not bad looking little bracelets, but I don't typically wear them!

He offered to sell me a small English-Afghan Dari Dictionary with some proverbs in the back.  I admit it, I caved.  It's a cheap little book, but I bought it because of the variety of phrase and proverbs inside.  I knew at a glance that I wanted to have it as a souvenir for my boys to see...

Of course, I can't read the Dari, and many of the English translations are misspelled, but it is interesting to see that they teach what they know in the book.  For example, in a section with phrase related to building a house, it says nothing about drywall, insulation, or carpentry.   Nothing about wiring, inspectors, or permits.

Instead, it has the words for tin roof, mud, and stonework.

The proverbs are also enlightening.  For example, "A good year is determined by it's spring."    The book says that the meaning is that character and quality show up early, but I can't help but think that the root of that phrase is because this is such an agricultural society.  If there isn't snowfall on the mountains and rain in the spring, drought will make it difficult to graze herds and raise crops.  A dry spring will mean a hard year for these people.

Also, Afghans are know for their hospitality.  "The first day you meet, you are friends.  The next day you meet, you are brothers" is another of the phrases in the book.

My favorite, though, and the main reason I bought the book was a phrase referring to someone who gets dressed up or "moved to a higher position unworthily."  The phrase is "The same donkey, but with a new saddle."

In any country, an Ass is an Ass...

1 comment:

Geoff said...

I was trying to find a riff on "a horse is a horse of course, of course..." about asses, but nothing came. I love local proverbs. One of my favorite Arab ones is "Trust your neighbor, but tie up your camel." I say that all the time.