Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I’m reading a book called Kite Runner. It’s a fictional novel about a boy who grew up in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion and how he and his father then fled to the United States. It’s written by Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan, and is pretty reflective of life in Afghanistan. I imagine it’s more autobiographical than fictional as he and his family fled Afghanistan at the time of the invasion. It’s a powerful book.

Anyway, he tells of kite flying here in Afghanistan. Kite flying in Afghanistan is a sport and not just a pleasant way to pass an afternoon. First of all, prime kite flying season is in the winter. My terp says it’s too hot to fly kites in the summer. I thought that was odd. Then I read about what they do to their string. They coat the kite string in crushed glass - it's crushed to a powder, glue and something like flour or ground oats. They then let the kite string dry. Once it’s dry, they roll it up on the spool and go out to fly kites.

But they don’t just fly them, they fight with them. The idea is to cut the kite string of an opponent and then send out your “kite runner” to catch your opponent’s kite. The last kite in the sky is the winner and if you can catch the second to last kite as well, you’re a true champion. People will actually display the kites they have caught in their home. It's also a village event. Everyone comes out to watch. They'll set up chairs on the tops of buildings to watch; drinking tea, eating, chatting and watching the kite fliers and their kite runners.

The object is to cross your kite string across another’s and then let the strings rub against each other until one string is cut. It’s against the rules to actually pull the string back and forth to cause the strings to cut, you just have to let the wind do it for you. Also, you can't run with the kite, you have to stand in one spot and let your kite do all the work.

As you can imagine, your hands get cut up pretty bad. Plus, if there are dozens and dozens of kites, these tournaments can go on for all day – in the middle of winter.

I asked my terp if that was true. He said yes and showed me the scars on his own hands/fingers from where he had been cut by glass coated string when he flew kites as a kid. Even now, that's how they fly their kits here. Oh, and they're not plastic kites. They're kites made of bamboo and very thin paper.

Think that would go over at home? I don’t think so either.

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