Ride Details:
Lyft fare (11.73mi, 18m 10s) $13.60
Pickup
308 Domestic Terminals Departures Level, San Francisco
Dropoff
Home

“Hey there, for Johanna?”

“Hi.”

“You here visiting?”

“No, I live here. I was just in Phoenix for a wedding.”

“Okay. So, how do they do weddings in the U.S.?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, who pays for it?”

“Well, it depends on how traditional the family is. I think typically it’s supposed to be the bride’s family that pays. I think it’s supposed to go back to the days when a woman had a dowry in order to get married. But, people don’t really follow that much anymore.”

“How many people come to the wedding?”

“That can depend too, but I think maybe 150 people is average? 250 is a pretty big wedding.”

“250 people? That’s it?!”

“Ha, I mean, yeah! How big are the weddings where you’re from?”

“There were 1900 people at my wedding!”

“1900 people?! Shit, I don’t even think I know 1900 people. Where was your wedding?”

“In Afghanistan.”

“Ah okay, where exactly?”

“Jalalabad.”

“So, where in Jalalabad can you even rent out a place for 1900 people?”

“There is a big square, and people came by all day long.”

“Oh, okay, like they came at different times?”

“Yes.”

“How did you pay for all the food?”

“The man who wants to get married has to have money.”

“What if you’re poor and you don’t have the money?”

“Then, you don’t get married.”

“But, what if you really want to get married?”

“You have to wait until you save up the money.”

“Interesting. I guess you have to really want to get married, then.”

“Yes!”

“Do you miss Afghanistan?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Do you go back and visit?”

“No. I worked for the U.S. military there, and it’s not really safe for me to go back now. So, my wife goes to visit my family. She’s American.”

“Oh, your wife is American?”

“Yes, we met here.”

“How did she like such a big wedding?”

“She liked it.”

“She wasn’t overwhelmed?”

“No.”

“Wow. So she goes back to visit your family for you. Do they speak English?”

“Oh, haha, no, no English. She learned to speak Afghan.”

“Wow, she sounds amazing!”

“Yes.”

“And what’s her family like?”

“I’ve never met her family.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, they live in Texas, so we sometimes Skype with them.”

“I see. I guess they don’t speak Afghan?”

“Oh, haha, no, no Afghan.”

“1900 people, I still can’t get over that.”

“Haha, yes. Where is okay, here?”

“Yes, here is perfect. Thank you very much.”

“Okay, have a good night, ma’am.”

“You too, take care.”

Postscript: Fnu isn’t an Afghan name; it is a common abbreviation immigration officials use on Afghan visas because the U.S. legal system doesn’t recognize the way Afghan names are structured (they traditionally only go by their first name). The term FNU stands for “First Name Unknown.”

Johanna is an editor and arm-chair sociologist whose job as a travel writer is the longest, most realistic game of make-believe the world has ever seen.