Ask The Fiddler #2: Bird Watching in Afghanistan

Filed under: Satire

fiddlerEditor’s Note: We often receive questions on a variety of prank-hoax-scam related topics. Readers want an assessment of the validity of news reports or web site information, or they suspect a received email is a scam. Some are looking for moral or immoral support for their prank ideas. So, we are pleased to provide a new service, Ask The Fiddler, a lifestyle advice column that may remedy more chaos and confusion than it creates. Questions may be submitted to us here at Art of the Prank, and good luck.

Dear Fiddler:

Now that the U.S. mission is accomplished and all is peaceful in Afghanistan, my friend and I want to head over there to do some bird-watching. Do you have any suggestions to make our trip more enjoyable?

Phil in Pennsylvania.

Dear Phil,

An intriguing choice of destination. As it turns out, the Afghans have a similar hobby. It”™s called drone-watching.

You may want to do just a tad more research regarding your notion that the U.S. is leaving under tranquil conditions. Let”™s say for the sake of tourism risk analysis that a range of one to ten starts at 1) “a picnic,” and concludes at 10) “you must be nuts.” Afghanistan is an 11.

More on that later.

hoopoe-200Likely you want to know what kind of birds to watch. May I suggest a notable local resident, the Hoopoe, also known as Upupa Epops.

Readily identified by its crown of feathers, it can also be recognized by it peculiar call, “oop-oop-oop.”

Among distinguishing characteristics of the Hoopoe is its ability to direct a stream of feces at a predator.

True fact.

But let”™s talk about your plan in general. There are some real problems around this idea of hiking the Afghan countryside. Like, showing up as a suspicious stranger in remote sectors where locals reportedly use the heads of their enemies for soccer balls.

The surviving foreign travelers who have ventured forth mention problems with the Taliban (they don”™t know the conflict is settled), as well as encounters with hostile warlords and gangs of ill-tempered drug and gun-runners.

It”™s a fair bet you will be kidnapped, and, if you”™re short on rich relatives, very possibly executed.

So, naturally, you plan to take your own security contingent. Unfortunately, under rules imposed since the announcement of U.S. withdrawal, you can”™t take your own bodyguards along, you have to rent security forces from the Afghan military.

L_059427-200As a stranger in a strange land, you will undoubtedly need a guide. There are a couple of tour companies. They are not very busy. Announced itineraries are subject to hurried change and departures may be rushed. One travel advisory outfit makes the following statement: “It may sound obvious but anyone wishing to travel to Afghanistan must understand that in places tourist infrastructure is almost non-existent.”

Revolutionaries and bandits aside, a major obstacle to having a good hike in the countryside is the proliferation of live landmines. Vast areas have yet to be cleared.

According to a Human Rights Watch report issued before U.S. forces hit the ground in Afghanistan: “It is generally estimated that millions of mines are scattered throughout the country. While virtually all combatants in Afghanistan in recent decades are thought to have used mines, most were laid by Soviet and pro-Soviet Afghan government forces from 1979-1992. At least fifty different types of mines have been identified in Afghanistan of Belgian, Chinese, ex-Czechoslovakian, Iranian, Italian, Pakistani, Singaporean, ex-USSR, United Kingdom, ex-Yugoslavian, and Zimbabwean manufacture.”

So you need a good detector. Make sure you buy a reliable, working model, there are a lot of fakes on the market.

Fake detectors have been widely sold, a despicable racket responsible for numerous deaths. The crude gadgets manufactured by one company cost less than $20 to make and have ultimately sold for over $20,000.

The sale of fake detectors is prosecuted as fraud but it should be considered a war crime.

Overall, sorry to say, the sum of advisories on travel to Afghanistan from a number of knowledgeable sources is: Don”™t.

Just as an aside, this little essay is not meant to discourage bird-watching in general. With luck, it can be a lucrative endeavor. Consider the tale of Mike, the Headless Chicken, who earned as much as $4,500 per month entertaining gawkers in the late 1940s.

Mike lived for 18 months following a botched decapitation and toured with the carnival. His memory is still celebrated in his hometown of Fruita, Colorado, on “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” in May.

Events include the 5K “Run Like a Headless Chicken” race.

Yours truly,

The Fiddler

Remember our motto here at camp: “If you take advice from The Fiddler, you need advice.” Send comments and questions to: Art of the Prank.

images:, Responsible Travel

The Fiddler is a creation of W.J. Elvin III