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Globetrotting with Push

With your host,
Raji "Push" Pushparajah

6/4/03 - Guantanamo Bay Sabbatical

My sojourn in the tranquil mountain passes of Central Asia has taken a rather perplexing turn. The friendly olive faces I encountered in Jalalabad seem like a vague dream now. I wish, dear reader, I could explain better, but my memory is still a bit clouded from the hard rubber of many boot-soles which met my temple in the past few days. Perhaps I should describe my unusual present accommodations instead.

A 6-by-9 concrete slab provides some degree of personal space, I will concede, but the chain-link fence and corrugated tin roof block much of the tropical breezes and island scenery from full appreciation. Fortunately, the burlap hood, which for so long precluded my usual correspondence, has been removed, and I can describe the carefully regimented, almost military order with which my hosts run their odd resort.

Something not wholly unlike a continental breakfast is pushed through the fence each morning promptly at 6 a.m. I am taken to a vigorous calisthenics program every afternoon, where I must say, the masseuse does overdo it a bit. The pounding and kicking on my back and limbs often relieves not only the stress of the day, but a fair bit of feeling in my extremities. This facility appears concerned as much with my spirit as with my body, for each physical challenge is accompanied by a lightning round of mental tests, which cover my knowledge of various Arabian tribes and certain tenets of Islamic philosophy. This place makes me feel like a schoolboy again!

The infirmary on the island provided a thankful break from my exotic mosquito-stocked cell, but still no phones or gift shop, apparently. However, the sunset is comparable to the finest I've seen, and I can get a lovely eyeful nightly from a small crack in the doorway, and my small tin cup of pisswater makes a decent proxy for a tropical cocktail. One must make do with what one has, don't you think?

Mohamoud, my 79-year-old cell neighbor has promised that he can carry this dispatch with him in an often-overlooked body cavity, when he is hopefully returned to his native Tora Bora after more than a year at this curious resort. Perhaps he can also get a message of thanks to the bearded man I was dining with in Kabul before this retreat ensued. I never did get to thank him for his hospitality.

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