Blogging Shitstorm Part Three: Farzan

The final installment of Blogging Shitstorm features a little anecdote from work, because a) I love my job and b) I haven’t written a thing about it.

Also, sometimes I get paid to act a fool.

One of the best things about working in the same place for three years is that while there are companies out there that attempt to call themselves “families,” the writing center actually is a family. We all study the same stuff, we rely on one another and learn from each other, and this extends beyond just other tutors–for all the time I spend in class learning about what makes good writing, I learn about the same amount from a shift at work, from my classmates.

Because I work at a community college, there’s a large portion of our clientele that is regular and largely made up of older returning students.

Like Farzan.

Farzan is 67 years old, a retired mechanic from Afghanistan, and he’s been a regular client of the writing center where I work for three years. He came to us with minimal English, wanting to work on grammar and conversation so he could pass the citizenship test.

“You have time?”

“Hello, Farzan! Of course I have time.” He nods, rummaging in his school bag for a moment.

“What can I do for you today?”

“We start in five minutes, okay?”


I smell turmeric and ginger.

On the table, Farzan has laid out Pakora, which are these spicy, deep-fried veggie cakes he makes every once in a while to share with us. “Cerri,” he says, accent on the I, “You can have one, you like.”

“Oh, thank you so much, Farzan!”

They are the only Afghani food I’ve ever eaten, and they’re dear to my heart.

“These are really good, thanks, Farzan. Do you have a big kitchen?” My co-worker Mike asks, scarfing one. Farzan shakes his head, wiping crumbs out of his neat, greying moustache with a kleenex.

“I want open restauraunt, but who can help? My sons, nephews, another, too busy. Have jobs, cannot help. Maybe I find five people, I open Afghani restauraunt. Good food. Special food.”

Farzan has family pictures of meals like this one, that he cooks for special occasions.

“I’d eat there. What veggies did you use this time?”

“Potato, cauliflower, basil flower, ginger, hot pepper, another.”

“I like the basil in there.”

“Oh, it’s too spicy!” someone complains over my shoulder.

“No, it’s not! They’re perfect. Delicious. You’re just a wuss.” I’m from Texas and I keep at least two bottles of hot sauce around at all times because food demands spice.

“Spices healthy,” Farzan agrees with a smile.

We each start a cup of shitty bagged tea and get down to business.

Farzan’s new goal, since becoming an American in October, is to become proficient enough in English that he can go abroad to become a Farsi interpreter.

“Cerri, there is problem, these countries. Many people pass away every day. Dangerous places. Bombs every day.”

Farzan survived the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the subsequent revolt, the Taliban, the American occupation, the loss of his business, the loss of family members to sickness, and war-zone conditions, which he said is a fact of  life every day in his home country.

“Our country very rich. Our people very smart. On this side,” he explained, holding up his time card, “China,Russia,Pakistan, Another. This side, NATO. Communism party here, imperialism party there. All want Afghanistan.”

We work on grammar for a while and  I note his improved understanding of the preterit tense. His only mistakes are spelling errors, the product of English irregular verbs. I mull over what he’s said, the war, and how even though there are situations in the world that seem damn near unfixable, there are people like Farzan who want to fix them, and people like me that are fortunate enough to know those people.


5 thoughts on “Blogging Shitstorm Part Three: Farzan

  1. He sounds amazing! I love meeting people from that part of the world, where people are kind of scared to go… The bartender in my dorm in Prague (yes, we had a bar in our dorm) was from Syria and he was just the nicest guy I ever did meet!

  2. Finch says:

    I love this post! I don’t want to demand that you write more about your job…but I’m going to demand that you write more about your job.

  3. ah, such an inspiring story! He sounds wonderful. And I want to try one of those veggie cakes asap. Do you work at Whatcom?

  4. An excellent post, Cerridwen. Here, your ability to create strong characters on the page really stands out; you’ve done so with the family as well, and in this story you show your range of voice and perspective. This post is a little more “serious” than some of the others, but your wise, compassionate tone is a cohesive thread throughout.

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