Graeme Wood

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Lessons Learned

The Walrus, November 2009

The Afghan called Teacher is deep in Taliban country, crouching halfway up a mountainside at dawn, listening for the approach of a US Army Kiowa attack helicopter. Teacher has huddled with his AK-47, pressed against a rock and keeping lookout, many times before. But he has never done so while eating cheese tortellini and trail mix.

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Humid, All Too Humid

The Walrus, April 2008

Kultur, Jammed

Paraguay’s holdout German colony

Nueva Germania—In a grubby plastic chair in front of his family’s shack, a shirtless Wilhelm Fischer swats blackflies from his face between sips of yerba maté tea. He’s boasting in perfect German about the hardscrabble years he spent clearing enough land to eke out a living raising chickens and cows. “This was all forest,” he says proudly, pointing to the grassy paddock beyond the barbed wire. He leans down and whispers something to his daughter, Berta, in the local creole. But she and her mother, Delia Domínguez, a Guarani Indian cheesemonger, speak excellent German as well. Like Willi, Delia has barely left the steamy Paraguayan hamlet of their birth, but she longs for the hills of Saxony, the snow-covered banks of the Elbe — the land of her husband’s gullible ancestors.

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