When we got to Afghanistan, I was prepared to get some stares. I don't look like an Afghan, although there is an ethnic group here with red hair and paler skin. But staring is acceptable and permissible in Afghan culture, and so men stare at anything of interest (i.e. women, western men, each other). I've gotten fairly used to it and don't even mind it too much. We just keep on walking.
Today I got more looks than I have the entire time I have lived here. The interesting thing is where those stares came from. We visited the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) market outside one of the military bases where soldiers, diplomats and other westerners shop for typical Afghan items like rugs, scarves, lapis lazuli, hookahs, and bootlegged DVDs. These are the people that think we're crazy for living in the city and not driving around in armored cars. I have to admit, I was fairly shocked to see women walking around in shorts and t-shirts. Apparently, not as shocked as they were to see Sari, Erica and I walking through the market wearing our chadors and fully covering Afghan clothes. And it wasn't the men either, women would turn around for a second look as they passed by us. I felt like it was the first day of school and I wore the wrong outfit or something.
Oh well, in the end, I feel like we get the last laugh. As we worked our way through the stales bargaining prices down to half the original asking price (or less!), one dealer commented on our skills telling us we haggled like Afghans. He said, "Americans must be so rich, they never ask for a second price. They just point and pay. You ask for prices like an Afghan." I may not fit in at the ISAF market and may get more gawks from American women than I do from Afghan men, but I can talk down a price like an Afghan. That's an accomplishment.