Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, April 9, 2007

Funny story from Iraq


Mike Easley sent me a funny story of puzzling through the identification of a bird while he was serving in Iraq:

While on my last tour in Iraq, I developed an interest, until then subdued by dreams of being a physicist, of working in ecology. On Al Asad, in what turned out to be ample spare time, I started watching the many birds. Most of them seemed fairly familiar, or at least similar to birds of the intermountain west where I've spent most all my life. But one bird, what turned out to be the crested lark, had me baffled. I had not then found your site, so I went about my inquiry as best I could.

We had an interpreter working with our unit, who went by the pseudonym "Tony." Tony and I did not get along very well, mostly because I called him on some inappropriate behavior towards some of my female colleagues. Once a week, however, I was charged with driving Tony out to the checkpoint, so he could catch whatever means he had back to town.

The road we drove went by the wadi, the one strip of green on the whole base, and on one occasion I spotted the bird in question in the reeds near a stop. Hoping to find a way to break the silence, I pointed towards it and asked Tony if he knew the name of the bird. He said something in Arabic, which I took to be the name of the bird, but for the life of me I could not pronounce.

Later, while trying to repeat it to one of my fellow Marines more fluent in Arabic, we determined we would need to see it written down. So the next time I was with Tony and we saw that bird in the reeds, I asked him again what he had said it was. This time I had him write it down for me.

We still could not figure it out, but one morning talking with our chaplain's aide, who is fluent in many languages, to include Swahili and Arabic, the story came up. He asked if I had the paper Tony had written it on, and a wide smile crossed his face as he read it. I asked him what it said...

"God knows."

~Cpl Mike Easley

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