neurotic Iraqi wife
March 31, 2008
Because I got High...
They said that although the curfew was lifted it still ongoing for Sadr City, Shu3la and Kadhmiya. Its weird, cuz as I was telling each and everyone of them “Hamdilla 3al Salama” as in (thank God for your safety), they were far more concerned about us and the attacks we had. “We are much safer” Hayder who lives in the red zone said. “Its you guys who are in danger. You are a clear target for them”. I just smiled and said my usual “Allah il Hafudh” (God is our protector).
I have talked to atleast 10 people who live all over the place. They did say the situation was extremely bad and heavy fighting was heard all over, BUT, not as bad as everyone made it to be. One guy, who actually lives in one of the hot spots, Jamila, said that the American tanks only stayed on the outskirts of the neighbourhood. He also mentioned that JAM were all over the place with their machine guns and artillery. When I asked him if he had seen Iraqi Army anywhere, he said “Nope, none of them, the streets were plagued with JAM. And every few minutes we heard explosions because they dug bombs in the roads”
Im not sure if this truce is a good one. To be honest, its just an exact replay of what happened a year or so ago. Its like everyone (the government, “Sayder” and so called fighters) go through a PMS cycle, albeit with real long intervals in between, unlike us women where we suffer every darn month. UGHHHHH. So if Maliki stops the fighting now, what has he achieved? What has all this achieved? A BIG FAT NOTHING. Six months from now, and all the hormones will flare up again, and the fighting will start!!!
There is a lot of misconception that Sadr offered this truce because he was being hammered. UNTRUE. This is just a ploy. A card he is playing so everyone can say “Aaaaaah what a hero, he really does care”. What utter bullshit. This guy does not have an inkling of a grain of care in his system. He doesn’t give a damn shit about the Iraqi people. Not a single government person nor any leader care about the Iraqis. “SAYDER” wants everyone to see him as a hero. As a compassionate leader. That is the real reason behind his so called truce.
It was a joke on all the Iraqi channels last night. As I was trying to get the latest news, all of a sudden the “3iraqiya” (State owned) Kept referring to Sadr as the respectable Mr Sadr may god bless him said so and so. While just a few days ago, they were against the guy. I hate the media. Such bunch of hypocrites. No, I know, nothing new. Im very disappointed. I was hoping, REALLY hoping that Maliki’s balls were filled with tough testosterone but I knew it wasn’t gonna last. Turns out his balls ARE EMPTYYYYYYYY!!!
I asked another guy, Adnan, about the food situation and how they managed. He said that it wasn’t that bad. He said many people took precautions beforehand. What helped is the canned food they had. Yes bread and fresh vegetables weren’t available since the shops were closed, but people still had food in their houses. But we shouldn’t forget about those who get paid a daily wage. Now these are the ones that suffered the most. These are the real victims, who cannot afford to stock up a week or even 3 days in advance.
As I write this, I can hear my Iraqi colleagues talk and joke. I can hear the great relief in their voices echoing all around. They say the truce is good. That’s what some said. Others share my opinion, that this hasn’t achieved anything but havoc and that Maliki turned out to be a great wuss. Again nothing new.
Adnan said "we are sick and tired of being afraid from JAM. They are criminals. Maliki should have continued with the operation and eliminated them, but we know this will never happen. Muqtada has a huge backing and millions of supporters. I have 2 young daughters, and the only reason Im working here is to have the chance to leave using the US Visa. I cant have them suffer through this again. Im counting the days until my 12 months are over, and then, then I will be leaving this place and will never look back". Its all about money another guy said. "Im sure Maliki and Sadr broke a deal about the billions of oil barrels in Basrah".
As you probably read already, we had really nice fireworks again today. But no whooshing sounds, so they must have been mortars and not rockets. I also got busted last night because I was caught without having the protective metal inside those “beautiful” vests. Ughhhh… HUBBY said I deserved it, lol…I also started listening to my music. I just put my headset on so I don’t hear whatever is going on outside. (If you guys have any nice song suggestions please do tell me, I like everything except Jazz. I listen to Iraqi/Arabic, Spanish, Country, techno, alternative, you name it I listen to it).
Seven mugs of coffee, one redbull (8 peeing trips to the bathroom, yeah I dunno why I feel obliged to share this particular info) plus my energy vitamins, and Im as high as can be!!! Wooooohooooo. No whooshing sound will ever get me now :)Because I got High (listening to the Afroman song)….Because I got High...
Footnote:A 2 week article which I just found. Very interesting.
March 30, 2008
One Man's Misery, is Another Man's Gains...
TWENTY SIX MILLION Iraqis take part in the EARTH HOUR of Darkness
Twenty six million or is it 22 now? Have taken part in the Earth Hour of Darkness last night. An Official who shall remain nameless because he is not authorized to speak to the media disclosed to the Neurotic Iraqi Wife bureau, that the inhabitants of all 18 governorates in Iraq have been the first to take this initiative since the year 2003. That same official showed great discontent that his country was not applauded in any media source for the great efforts in conserving worldwide energy.
“This is despicable”, he spat at the Chief Editor who happened to be none other than Neurotica herself. Neurotica just stood there holding the vanilla scented candle in one hand and shielding her face from the man’s saliva in the other. “We are the only country in the whole world who have been conserving Energy in a continious manner!!!”, "Where is the World media? Where is Bush? We deserve a lifetime medal for this great achievement" the official continued.
“Ssshhhhh, do you hear that?” Neurotica suddenly interrupted the Official while concentrating really hard to the sound. “Its that darn wooooooshing sound. The wooooshing rocket sound. Dont you hear it?”
The official looked at Neurotica with disgust, shook his head and said “You’ve lost it, there is NOOOOOO wooooshing sound. Its been “awfully” quiet, too quiet this morning in the Green Zone, if you ask me. These are helicopters hovering above. I think youre starting to hallucinate!"
“Hmmm Helicopters? Darn, I cant get rid of the woosh in my ears anymore, its stuck in my head” Neurotica mumbled while the official walked away shaking his head in dismay.
Sorry I just had to do that. It’s a great irony to see people “celebrating” darkness when Iraqis have been SUFFERING due and through the darkness!!! But then again, One Man's Misery is Another Man’s Gains....
March 29, 2008
My expat coworkers keep asking me what is going on. One even said Sadr’s name as “SAYDER”. If it was normal circumstances I would have corrected him, but I have no nerves left in me. I just tell him to read the news on the net. I guess I don’t have the energy to explain WHY this is happening, nor the conspiracy theories behind it, nor the history of contempt between the factions. One thing which did crack me up was when that same guy said “But isn’t SAYDER a Shiite, and isn’t HAYKIM a Shiite, why are they fighting?” Hmmm, if only he knows…
The uproar with the politicians is unexplainable. People who kill innocent Iraqis DO NOT UNDERSTAND the terms “discussions” or “negotiations”. The only language they understand is that of weapons and force. Their thick illiterate minds do not have the capacity nor the capability of comprehending peaceful talks let alone discussions. Imagine if Maliki, just like that bozo Mashhadani who announced to the whole world yesterday they were meeting at 1500 to discuss the current situation (I still cant figure his stupidity but then again, I shouldn’t be surprised), imagine Maliki coming on national TV to announce that on such and such date we are going to start the operation and we are targeting Mahdi militia in Basrah and all over the country!!! Now how the hell would these operations succeed if the guy comes out with the plan??? Are people idiots? Didn’t this happen awhile back, when a similar thing was announced last year, and all the top aides to Sadr fled to Iran and Syria??? Didn’t “SAYDER” (Yeah the name is growing on me) disappear with his white cloak into oblivion!!! Didn’t the Mahdi army hide their weapons and disappeared amongst the ordinary people??? I mean cmon where is your common sense????
Can someone explain to me why is it that everyone is so upset? Ok I understand that many see it a direct hit to Muti, which should be a good sign even though its with the backing of Hakeem. But isn’t it better to get rid of these militias once and for all? Why the uproar? This should have happened a long time ago. It should include all Militias be it Badr, JAM, all the other weird names and all Al Qaeda, basically everyone and anyone who is killing innocent Iraqis. How come people didn’t come out on the streets of Baghdad denouncing F* Bin Laden when he announced last week that Iraq is just his battle ground to pave the way to Palestine??? Why weren’t people holding up banners saying no no Bin Ladin??? Ha? Why? As I said, Iraqis will always be ahl al Shiqaq wal Nifaq (people of factionalism and hypocrisy). And that just disgusts me!!!
I heard the whooshing sounds again this morning. Now everytime lockdown is announced I just cover my ears. I don’t wanna hear it. I don’t wanna know. Im kinda challenging myself to see how long I can hold on for. My R&R is in a few weeks. Will I be able to stand these whooshing sounds? I dont mind the booms, but the whooshing just unnerves me. Maybe I should invest in a sound proof headset. Yeah, I think that’s what I will be doing. Oh and hey, I actually did manage to shave my legs last night AND take a shower as well, woooohoooo. Unfortunately I opted for a shave rather than using my epilator. Again, I didn’t wanna be caught in some compromising position. Usually I take ages in the shower, but hell yesterday, I broke the record. Instead of the half hour to fortyfive minutes, I was done in 15!!!
Well I better get back to work. If I can concentrate that is without having the lockdown echoing in my darn ears. Oh and hey, if you guys are having your morning coffee while reading this, then remember me, cuz Ive had five already and its only 11am. None of the Iraqis are here because of the curfew ofcourse. But some who live in Karrada and Salhiya did manage to get in. Theyre saying things are BAAAAAAAAAAAAAD outside.
Alright, that’s it for the time being. I hope I will have some sanity left in me by the end of the day. Im not sure whats worse, getting used to these whooshing sounds or having to wear the darn PPE. Ughhhhh. Whoooooooooooooooosh Booooooooooom...
Does this druggie look like someone
who understands negotiations?To me
He looks like the devil himself
Footnote: I was going through my morning reading rounds and I enjoyed these by Nibras Kazimi, check them out. Article 1, Artcile 2 and tell me what you think
March 28, 2008
Fireworks in the Green Zone...
A coworker of mine was out for a few seconds after the all clear to get her laundry when the last fireworks started. She called me freaking out. She too heard them fly over, while outside. I dont think there will be any nerves left soon. Thats it for now. I was planning to take a shower but ummm I doubt I will do that today. Dont wanna be seen naked, thanks but no thanks...Id rather be in bed smoking a cig while the fireworks start again. Fireworks in the Green Zone...
March 27, 2008
A Lockdown Free Friday...
HUBBY is by far in a more vulnerable place than mine. I have been telling him to leave but his excuse is “You leave first, then I follow”. Yeah right, I wont fall for that.Two of his fellow coworkers are freaking out and so they may leave very soon. As for here, people have started to resign already. Heck I wont be surprised if people go on R&R and resign from there.
I dunno, I have been here almost three years, but, this feels very different. And I hate to say it out loud but I have a very very bad feeling this time around. I dunno what it is, but its nagging the hell outta me. Weapons used are far more sophisticated and high tech. And the way people are stressing out is stressing MEEEEEEE out. We have been asked to wear our PPE gear at all times when outside the compound. I HATE that stuff!!! I have removed all the protective metal from the vest so I don’t get weighed down. Doesnt serve the purpose but it shuts people up and get them off my back. As for the helmet, I don’t even bother wearing it. I just hang it on my arm for show. But now we have been ORDERED to put the full gear on, UGHHHH…
You can feel the eerie atmosphere all around. Some are opting out to stay in the office during lunch hours just incase they get stuck in the middle of an attack. And those who do go to the dfac can be seen walking at an amazing speed, some even surprised the hell outta me. There are no smiley faces anymore. And when people do try to tell jokes, I find everything so trivial, so stoopid, so meaningless. I have also noticed quite a handful of people squeezing some stress balls. I have started to do the same without even thinking about it. I already screwed one up, three more to go.
My mom called me again today. Before she even said hello, I said “So what is it you saw on the news this time?” Her voice wasn’t the usual. Nothing, she said. Nothing. Just wanted to see if you are ok. Yes mom, Im fine, seriously don’t worry about me. If anything, you should worry about HUBBY. BAAAAAAAAD MOVE!!! Minute I said that, she went off at me, lol. I knew it was coming. Iraqi women, especially the elder ones are known for their bad bad temper and crescendo voice. I held the receiver as far away as I can from my ears, I STILL COULD HEAR HER!!! After a few seconds I heard nothing in the background, I placed the receiver close to my ears again and simply said, OK mom. I also had a few of my Iraqi ex-coworkers who left on the US visa call me to check on me, very sweet of them, I must admit.
Im extremely surprised though that my Iraqi coworkers have actually been coming to work in the past few days, with all the chaos outside. They told me that in many areas all the shops have closed down and there aren’t many people in the streets. At night time they can hear fierce battles going on with gun shuts being fired and mortars being launched.
Every single one of them is saying that this should have happened long time ago. A few also mentioned the fact that they distrust Maliki and his government and this gutsy move is definitely a ploy. I dunno, Im not in the Baghdad streets, so I cant really tell whats going on. Hell I don’t even think the Baghdadi’s themselves know whats going on here. But again, I will re-iterate the fact that Hakeem, Muti, Qaeda and all the other so called militia’s should fight it out, and I pray to god they all get burnt down and sent to hell!!! Wishful thinking I know. As one of my readers, Usama, mentioned in the comments section last post, A lot of people fear that this move is backed by Al Hakeem, ie, Iran. And if Hakeem takes over, then I will definitely forget this place even existed.
Im not in my best of moods. Havent been productive at all. With the Lockdown being announced every other hour, I just cant concentrate. Although today is far better than yesterday. Yesterday was a joke. Every half hour and we had a lockdown. Good thing I didnt dream about it. I have also been thinking that I hate the sirens that go off warning us of an attack. Id rather hear the boom than be warned. Yes weird I know. But that’s how I feel. Anyhow thank God tomorrow is Friday, hopefully I will have my fully waxed legs and can then die stress free :) Its actually a therapeutic exercise, hey, maybe it will help relieve my stress, Yaaaaaaaaay… And lets hope that tomorrow will be free from Lockdowns. Very doubtful, but I can still hope for a nice quiet Friday. A lockdown Free Friday…
March 26, 2008
Unwaxed Legs & Messy Eyebrows...
The attacks have been pretty vigorous lately. And for meeeeeeeeee to admit that, is actually something. During one of those, I was out smoking. There were four others out with me. When the sirens went off, we didn’t really think much of it, but when we heard the booms and things started falling on us, that’s when three of the guys scrammed inside, while I just stood there staring at the sky, holding my cigarette not knowing what to do. The fourth guy then grabbed me and pushed me inside the building. Hmmm, I guess I was in shock. But that didnt stop me from going out for a smoke during lockdowns. Unfortunately I got caught a few times sneaking outside, and got a piece of a few people's minds. Now, everytime a lockdown is announced, I hear my name being called to see if Im inside, UGHHHHHH...
My "Sins" angel is probably having a blast of its own, with all the lies Ive been feeding my parents. Every single time they watch the news and see the black plume of smoke coming from this area, they call me and HUBBY. On Easter my mom asked me to pack my stuff and leave. And she wasn’t joking either. I kept telling her not to believe what the news says and that Im extremely far from whats going on. What else shall I tell her?
She called me again last night, at about 11pm, when Im in one of my rarest deep sleeps. At first I thought the phone was ringing in my dream. Then BAM, it fell from the vibration, so I jolted up. With half closed eyes, I answered. “Where have you been?” My mom shouted at me. We have been trying to call you. You need to pack your things and come back NOW. That’s it, we will not have any of your non sense anymore. Do you hear me? I rolled my eyes, and said in my sleepy voice, hi mom, I miss you too. :)
In my opinion, I am extremely glad this is happening. As in, this cleansing process. This should have happened way back in 2003. But its never too late. About time Maliki took the step. Seriously, although I dislike the guy, but this takes balls to do. And apparently he finally is proving to have some. Now remember he had a good backing from Muti, so to go against Muqtada, says quite a lot. Theres an Iraqi saying “Loo qatil loo maqtool” (Youre either the killer or the killed) It’s the only way to get about this messy situation in Iraq. And I am sooooooooooooooo glad this is going on, I really really am.
I don’t care what others say, but for this place to be “normal” again, it has to go through a spa like treatment. First, just like a Moroccan bath, you scrub the hell out of this place. And I mean really scrub it, identify all the hot spots, and begin the process, until you see the dead cells fall bit by bit. One thing though which kinda worries me, is the strength of the Iraqi Army, and how much it can endure. Im not even sure if we do have a good strong one, since its all been infiltrated.
The Mahdi Militia and the Badr brigade (Hakeems Militia) must have this confrontation as well. Again theres an Iraqi saying “khalee narhum takul 7a6abhum” (ie;Let them fight each other, and kill each other). These two are a big part of the cancer that’s eating Iraq alive. And they both need to be eliminated. That’s my opinion. Is this gonna happen I dunno.
The Iraqis working with us are talking about a revolution. Wishful thinking? Is this the word on the streets? Again, I dunno. Plenty of speculations and rumours are going around. But all of them share the same opinion as I do. They all are saying that this should have happened a long time ago. Are they scared? No, they have been through worse. But they did convey some concerns about Mahdi militias taking over the country. Now THAT, scares the shit out of everyone. Conspiracy theories are being juggled about. Lets hope none of them are true.
Some of my coworkers who have their R&R's scheduled for next week are now trying to leave asap. They dont wanna be caught in the middle. Everyone is fearing the worst. Others are still in shock since the Sunday attacks and seem so out of it. As for me, my R&R is just NOT soon enough. I just cant wait. And although I was planning to start the maintenance procedure a few days before I travel, Ive reconsidered that option since as I mentioned at the start of this post, there is no way in hell Im leaving this life with unwaxed legs. Unwaxed Legs & Messy Eyebrows...
FootNote:Read this interesting article about life in the GZ during the attacks
March 19, 2008
Five Gruesome Cyclonic Years...
M’s worried face surprised me. For he always told me that its safe. He always told me that the news exaggerates what goes on. But that particular look in his eyes was that of someone in shock, in despair. After he left me, I kept thinking about what he said and the worried tone in his voice. M was always my Richter scale of the outside. So if HE is worried, then WE should get worried too. Its strange cuz after my outing I had decided not to watch news nor read anything on the net, I wanted the good feeling to stay with me for the longest time. But that didn’t last. Every TV channel I was flipping showed news of explosions and killings. Heart wrenching scenes of women in black abbayas mourning the loss of their loved ones while standing in pools of blood. Why, I kept asking myself. WHY? Then it hit me.
After five years, five struggling years, the situation never got better. It really never did. Only thing changed is the people. Yes the Iraqi people started adapting to the current way of life. The bombings, the killings, the kidnappings became a way of life. A normalcy in abnormal circumstances. And that’s the aftermath of five long years of an ineffective battle of winning the hearts and minds. For it is a battle. A battle that has been ever lost.
The bright orange fireworks that invaded the Baghdadi skies in March 2003, was by far the beginning of the end. Just like 9-11, everyone knows where they were at that particular moment. I was in London at the time, stuck to the TV watching in disbelief as my country was being torn apart. I also remember a particular conversation I had with a relative of mine just before war was announced. During that period of time Iraqi Londoners were split in 2 groups. Those with the war and ofcourse those against. In every function I used to attend, whether it was a friend’s birthday, a casual gathering, an engagement, you name it, every Iraqi suddenly became THE KNOW IT ALL politician.
Debates would go on to the early hours of the morning. But to no avail, everyone stuck to their views. It went so far that in some cases, good friends stopped talking to each other, literally. Those pro war; Saddam killed millions, whats another million die for freedom!!!! Those against war; Saddam killed millions, not a single life should be killed for the name of freedom!!! And so on. Oh and ofcourse not forgetting the name calling that started thereafter. You are against the war, then youre a saddamist. Youre with the war then youre a traitor. It really was a no win situation. Oh but there was another group, My Group. The No War No Saddam Group…That didn’t get us anywhere did it?
I was out for dinner with my relatives, in the Mango Tree to be precise. One of the hippest Thai places at the time. Munching through my starters and enjoying the young atmosphere around me, Ali said, we heard you were taking part in the anti war demonstration today. I felt a piece of that butterfly prawn go down the wrong pipe and the coughing bout started. After gulping down some of my three berries juice, I was able to regain my composure and said in a matter of factly manner, yes Ali, I was there. Infact, I was leading a group with my slogans. Why do you ask? Are you a saddamist Neurotica? Cuz if you are against the war, then you sympathize with Saddam and his rule, he said. I smiled, for Ali knows who exactly is my family, and what our views are. Ali, don’t be lame, don’t start that stupid argument. No Im not a saddamist and you know that extremely well, Im an Iraqi, an Iraqi humanist. Is that wrong? Is that a crime? Is that a sin?
No Neurotica, you are wrong. War has to take place. We have to get rid of the scum. We have to free the Iraqi people. I can feel the conversation going sour, sour just like the red plum sauce Im dipping my prawns in. Who is WE Ali? WHO IS WE??? Reason you want this war because you were promised some kinda position. But no Ali, NO. It doesn’t work this way. Iraqis suffered under Saddam, millions died. You want more to die? You want more to suffer?
In the name of freedom, YES. He said. If people need to die to give the rest freedom, YES. They will die for a good cause, he continued. Tears started welling in my eyes. I couldn’t believe how can someone be so inhumane. And if Ali is reading this, he will remember this conversation very well. I was utterly shocked. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to throw up all the prawns and the rice crackers. Then his wife with her fake smile, asked coldly, what do you wanna have for your main course. Do you want Pad Thai or the Stir Fry Prawns? I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t F* Believe it.
Here we were talking about war and deaths, and she is asking me about the damn main course. I shot her one of my killer looks and said, No Thanx L, Im gonna leave very shortly. Im not feeling too well. Aaaaah poor thing, you shouldn’t go to these rallies, she said. You never know what youre gonna catch. By then, I could feel my forehead veins bulging out. If they weren’t my relatives, I would have definitely thrown the green papaya salad on their faces and walked off. But here, I had to exercise a lot and I mean a lot of PATIENCE. Ali was trying to convince me that war is good. I on the other hand was telling him, Yes I wanna get rid of Saddam but surely there is another way to do that. When I said that many people were gonna die, he used the “smart bomb” excuse. No not many will, they came up with the latest technology. The smart bomb he said. Smart my ass!!!
After a few minutes, I grabbed my coat and got up, thanx for dinner, I said, but I have to leave. Im tired and I need to sleep. L caught my hand, No we will drop you off. No L, I will catch a cab, my house is close. No no really we will drop you. I sat back, for I didn’t want to make a scene. But I was fuming. Fuming inside. I couldnt wait to go back home. That day, the 15th of Feb 2003 was the last day I ever saw them again. I was angry at them, angry at the way of their thinking. Angry how Iraqis can think this way about other Iraqis. And when Saddam’s statue was dragged down, L was the first person to call me. I was crying. I was in shock. She was jubilating. She was having a party. No L, thanks, you guys can have your party, but this aint the end you know. This is definitely not the end.
So No Im not gonna ask if it was worth it, nor am I gonna question the whole war saga and the WMD’s that were never found, nor the unfounded relationship between AQ and Saddam. For there is no point. No point in discussing things that happened already. Im just gonna say this to Ali and all the likes of Ali, especially Bush and rumsfield. I hope and pray to god that you will find forgiveness from all the women that got widowed. Forgiveness from all the children that got orphaned. Forgiveness from every Iraqi that suffered. Not only Iraqis, but all the soldiers that died. Died due to your selfishness. Its one thing to want freedom for Iraqis, its another thing to want people to die in the name of the so called freedom. Saddam was evil, But I never imagined that there were people as evil as he was. I guess I was wrong!
Am I being biased and unreasonable? Yes, Maybe. But all is not lost. For I have seen smiles, and I have seen signs of life in my outing. I no longer will complain. Things will change. Maybe not during my life time. But it will. Five years is nothing. Ten years is nothing. It will take years upon years to get rid of the cancerous cells, and remember cancer can only get cured in stages. Long painful stages. Right now though, I can only hope that maybe my kids, yes my future kids will find a better Iraq, a better Baghdad thirty years from now. Rivers filled with fresh fish instead of corpses. Streets filled with lively green palm trees instead of pools of red blood. And most importantly, houses filled with real love instead of fear. I can dream cant I? I can hope cant I? For without Hope, there is no Life. A year, two, three have passed. Four and five years too. Five Gruesome Cyclonic Years...
March 10, 2008
An Amazing Baghdadi Day...
I really didn’t wanna leave that spot in the road. The spot where I was looking at the only house I ever knew here, the only place I ever lived in as a child, here in Baghdad. But M said, Neurotica, we look abit suspicious just parking here, we better leave. I nodded silently to M. As we turned away, I kept staring at its image, until it became a very faint silhouette in the distance. I waved goodbye and in a slight whisper I said “I left you 29 years ago, but I came for you today. Although Im leaving you again today, I will definitely come and see you one day. One day very soon”. And with that we continued our tour of Baghdad.
As M drove on swerving left and right avoiding the uneven street humps passing from one area to the other, he was explaining what each and every area is, and who occupies it, Sunnis there, and Shia’s here, Christians here, and its mixed there, I kept hearing him say. He reminded me of a real tourist guide. Unfortunately his voice began trailing in the background while I kept my eyes wide open trying to engrave every single detail in my heart and my mind. Al Mansour was by far the most happening place. Filled with shoppers, going about on their business.
There were also areas lined up with newly renovated buildings and stores. State of the art designs, but unfortunately as M told me, the owners either fled the country in fear of their lives because of the violence or were actually kidnapped or killed. A whole strip of unoccupied shops. What a pity I said to M. A real pity. Then we passed by a restaurant called Crispy. I loved the floor to ceiling glass windows, reminded me of café’s in Chelsea, London. And no Im definitely not exaggerating. Crispy was filled with families and children enjoying the Friday afternoon. I swear I couldn’t believe my eyes. I turned to M and said, Wow, look at this place, its filled. People are actually out and about. “Yes Neurotica, life goes on, we will not just give up and lock ourselves in our houses. We love life, and we will live it, whether AQ wants us to or not, whether the militias allows us to or not”. I smiled and turned to my little window. My window to the outside. We passed by atleast a dozen cafes. City café was another one, and many many more.
After about 2 hours of being stuck in the car roaming the streets of Baghdad, M asked “aren’t you hungry Neurotica?” “Aha, Im famished, where are you taking me for lunch?” I asked in a cheeky way. “I booked in Saj il Reef”, M replied. “You booked? You actually have bookings here M???” ”Yes, this place gets overly crowded and I don’t want us to stand in line, so I booked for 330. Wowww, I could not wait to see what this place was like. Just before we head that way, there was a small shop M wanted to go to, its called Style and its close to the restaurant.
“You wanna come inside with me?” He asked cautiously. Ofcourse M, ofcourse I wanna come and see. But Neurotica, make sure you don’t slip a few English words here and there ok? Just to tease M, because he gets worked up pretty easily, I said, well, just because you said that, Im gonna ask the shop owner “how much is this please?” in English. A look of horror appeared on M’s face. Noooooo, please Neurotica, no, just don’t say anything ok? I smiled and said Don’t worry M, Im only kidding. The look on his face was just priceless.
Again, if I didn’t know I was in Baghdad, and someone had blindfolded me then removed the blindfold from my eyes, I woulda definitely have thought I was in the middle of a normal toy store in a normal place. The owner had every single Disney character on display (which you can see from the photos in my last post). And without me even thinking, I said “Oh wow!” In English. Then I immediately covered my mouth, bowed my head towards the floor and stood behind M like a child who just broke something and was trying to hide. Don’t you wanna buy anything? M whispered. I shook my head. Are you sure? Look at those mugs, don’t you want one? No M, its ok, they’re in English, had they been Iraqi stuff I woulda definitely bought something. But theyre not.
After Style, we finally went inside the restaurant, Saj Il reef. To say I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me is an understatement. Everyone, every single person, just sat there staring at me. My heart began to thump so bad, I thought I was gonna have an attack. I couldn’t understand why? I mean, I was dressed as normal as can be. Jeans, shirt, jean jacket, and trainers. I felt as if I was some kinda alien who just got dropped in the middle of the restaurant. The nicely dressed waiter approached us and as M told him we made a booking, he took us to the empty table which had a “Mahjooz” (reserved) sign on top of it.
I tried to be normal and took my seat, but people were still staring at me. I whispered to M “Why the hell are they staring? Is there anything wrong? Do I look odd?” M smiled, No Neurotica, its not you, its them. Don’t worry. Just relax. But how could I relax, when I can feel their eyes burning right through me.
We ordered our food, and I sat there leaning my back to the wall, looking all around me. That place was crammed. People were coming in and then leaving because there arent any free tables around. I looked at the people, they were happy people. Young ladies dressed in the latest fashion with make up, large fashionable sun glasses over their heads shielding the hairs from their eyes and large hoop earrings dangling from their ears. Everything and everyone around me looked so colourful, so lively. And most importantly, so NORMAL!!!
I had the urge of taking my cam out and snap hundreds upon hundreds of pictures. I wanted everyone in the world to see that no matter what happens to Iraq, the rockets, the bombings, the assassinations, the kidnappings, there is Always Life. ALWAYS. But unfortunately I did not want to attract more attention than I was. So I just sat there, enjoying the surroundings in utter silence, snapping the pictures in the only way I can, in my head. One by one. A cute couple sitting side by side teasing each other and whispering in each other’s ears, SNAP. A family of elderly parents with their children and their grandchildren, the kids jumping up and down asking for finger. We want finger, they kept saying in a chorus of tiny voices. We want finger (finger=fries), SNAP. A group of young men sipping their teas and laughing at some joke, SNAP. SNAP SNAP SNAP.
After eating the yummiest Iraqi food ever, I started feeling fidgety, I really really needed to smoke. I looked at M munching away his salad, and said to him, Umm M, Im sorry but I REALLY need to smoke. Looking at M after saying the word smoke, I truly believed he was about to choke on the burghul (buckwheat) of the Taboola. I bit my lower lip and said, Yes I know it isn’t really appropriate, can I go and smoke outside though? I think at that moment M regretted the whole idea of taking me out, lol. Poor guy…I looked around and realized that not a single woman was smoking, only the men with them were. Had I been with HUBBY, I wouldn’t have cared and smoked, cuz Im with my HUBBY, but M is a stranger afterall and besides he is a non smoker. Unfortunately, I had to wait until we got in the car. After we were done eating, M paid the bill and off we went.
On our way, I saw teenage girls walking in jeans carrying shopping bags. I also saw covered women shopping at the grocery stalls. One scene though that I will never forget, and unfortunately wasn’t able to take a picture of, was just along one of the roads, I saw a little girl aged probably between 7 or 8, with braided hair shining like gold, pink top and jeans, standing right next to barrels of fuel. I turned to M and said what is this? This is where I buy fuel for my car, it’s the black market fuel he said. I was horrified. Why would a little girl sell it. M explained that the parents use their children because there is no law for impeaching kids, but instead they’d be placed in a juvenile home for a few days then get released. It caught my eye for a reason, how the hell will the little girl be able to carry a barrel that’s twice her weight?
As we got closer to the GZ, I stared at the river, the Baghdadi sun shining its rays on the glistening waves which shined like Swarovski crystals. How can a river so dazzling, so beautiful, so calm, end up being the morgue of thousands upon thousands of decapitated dumped bodies. I looked at the sky, the clearest sea blue sky I have ever seen. How can a sky so gorgeous, so pure, end up being the birthplace of the horrendous shock and awe that ripped the city apart. That changed the whole world???HOW?
My thoughts were cut short as we needed to get out of the car for the GZ checkpoint guards to check for explosives with the sniffer dog. We stood there for about 15 minutes until we were given the ok. And there I was, once again, back in that drabby green zone. I wonder why they called it the green zone in the first place. All its greenery is dead, dull and boring!!! I was extremely devastated that my trip came to an end, but again I knew that one day, one day I will be able to do this again.
I asked M to drop me off abit further down as I did not want any of my coworkers to see me. As I made my way into the compound, I called HUBBY with the adrenalin rush still in full blast and said “guess where I had lunch today?” He named a few places in the GZ, then I said “Nooooooooooooo, I was out. Out in Baghdad”. Needless to say, I wont be sharing the details of how that conversation went, all Im gonna say, it took a bit of a nasty turn. Getting upset is an understatement, HUBBY was flabbergasted with me, bringing up the Karradah bombings of the previous day. Ofcourse, my brother reacted the same way when I told him, and made me promise that I will never ever do it again. I seriously don’t understand what the big deal is or was for that matter. Im back safe and sound, all in one piece. Oh well…
Although on my trip I passed by really bad areas as well, areas filled with destructed buildings, areas with sewage flooding the streets. Haunted street shops with broken windows and destroyed tiles. With all that, with all the destruction that was around with all the trash that was scattered about, Baghdad will always remain a Jewel, A Jewel in my eyes. For I will never forget the 7th of March 2008. 7th of March was truly a day, An Amazing Day in my Life. An Amazing Baghdadi Day...
March 08, 2008
My Iraqi Childhood Memories...
He calls me just after I published my Blog post on Friday afternoon. Are we still on? Do you still wanna go? He asks. Yes I said. You suuuuuuure? You havent changed your mind after yesterday’s bombings in Karradah? No M, I still wanna go, Im waiting for you. Ok then, come outside, Im waiting in the car he said. I grabbed my handbag which I carried just for this occasion and walked fast towards the gates. I was trying to be incognito, as I didnt want anyone from work to see me. He stopped his car, and I quickly jumped in.
First thing I did was put the seat belt on, it was a natural reflex I guess. What are you doing? M asked nervously. No, dont put it on Neurotica, we dont use seat belts here, you will definitely look like an outsider if you do. So I immediately unbuckled it and sat back. As we approached the last checkpoint, M looked at me and said, this is it Neurotica, are you sure you still wanna do this? I looked him in the eye and said, M, please, we have planned this for a long time, dont worry about me, Im not scared what so ever, just drive on. He smiled and said ok this is it, this, Neurotica, IS the beginning of the RED ZONE. Welcome, welcome to your home. Welcome to Baghdad. The Real Baghdad. And so my journey began.
I coudnt believe that after almost two years, two years of being inside that gray place, that lifeless dull gray place, Im finally out. I finally got away from the prison of the Twalled green zone to my beautiful beautiful Baghdad. The real Baghdad. And it IS beautiful; I don’t care what anyone else says. As we passed that checkpoint, I took my cam out and as I was about to take pics of the Salhiya buildings, M immediately turned towards me and said, what are you doing Neurotica? Umm taking pics of the streets I said. No, not here, look there are checkpoints just infront, wait until we pass them. Suddenly I felt like a child being scolded. But at the same time, I didnt want M to be in more trouble than he was in already. He is risking his life by taking me out. So, like a good kid, I hid the cam under my scarf and waited eagerly for the right opportunity.
I haven’t told anyone of my plans except L and V. I had to give them HUBBY’s number incase they don’t hear from me by 7 in the evening. I really wanted to tell HUBBY, but I know he woulda freaked out especially after the Karradah bombings on Thursday.
M took me everywhere, from Alawee to Karkh, to Rusafa, to Mansour to Karrada, to everywhere except Adhamiyah (I cant even remember half of the names anymore). And after nearly 29 years, 29 years of just memories, 29 years of just looking at old Polaroid photos, 29 years of nostalgia, I finally saw the house, or I should say what remained of the house I used to live in as a child. My God, a rush of feelings just like a film strip passed afore my eyes. I remembered my room, I remembered my parents room and their Jacuzzi looking bath. I remembered our beautiful red tiled kitchen and the immaculately maintained garden. It was too surreal. It still is surreal after all these years.
I just couldnt believe that here I am in 2008, at 33 years of age, looking at the place where I used to play as a 4 yr old in our garden. Its funny how I can remember all these things. Even my parents get shocked at my childhood memories when I relay to them what I remember. Just staring at the wall of my house was worth this whole trip.
Can we step out M? Can we walk around here? No, its best not to Neurotica, but I will make another U-turn so you can take another look. As M did exactly that, I pressed my nose like a little child against the car window and kept saying, OMG, OMG, this is my house, this is my house M. I felt my eyes well up, I cannot describe in words no matter how much I try what I was going through during these few short moments. Short moments that last a lifetime inmy mind.
I so wished HUBBY was with me. I so wished my parents were with me, I so wished my siblings could see what my eyes were looking at. Although our beautiful house is no longer there, instead its an empty land with rubble stacked up inside of it, yet the beautifully designed arches, one of its kind at the time, miraculously appeared like a hazy mirage before me. That’s all I saw and that’s all I wanted to see. I so wanted to touch it, to feel it. I so wanted to live those memories again. My beautiful childhood memories. My Iraqi Childhood Memories…
To Be Continued…
These are the pics I took yesterday through the window of M's car...
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March 07, 2008
About two weeks ago or so, I went out to smoke in the courtyard when her colleagues rushed to me and said “did you know what happened to Tereza, did you hear?” I said no what happened. She lost consciousness last night and they took her to hospital. She is suffering from a brain hemorrhage. A brain hemorrhage? I asked, She is too young for that. Yes they replied. Two days later, Tereza passed away. There was a very solemn atmosphere all around us. Everyone knew her, everyone liked her. Everyone is definitely gonna miss her.
And to honour Tereza, and Tereza’s life, everyone, from civilians, to military to contractors, everyone from Americans to Iraqis to Brits, to all the other expats, donated to a fund that was setup to help out her family members. Not only did they donate but a special ceremony was organized to commemorate her life by inviting her husband and 18 yr old son to plant an olive branch tree in remembrance of Tereza and her sacrifices.
One Iraqi expat coworker did try to transfer Tereza to the GZ hospital, the Ibin Sina, but unfortunately the Iraqi hospital refused to release her. Apparently and I did not even know this until a few days ago, an Iraqi hospital will only release patients for them to be looked after in a military one (ie American) if and only if the Ministry of Health will issue a statement that it is not capable of treating the patient due to lack of specialists or proper medication. The lady said that there is no way for the ministry to issue such a statement because that just undermines the Iraqi health system. WHAT A FRIGGIN JOKE. WHAT IRAQI HEALTH SYSTEM? There is virtually none. And so we lost Tereza. But her memory will always remain.
I just loved the way the whole ceremony was organized. It was called “In Celebration of Tereza’s Life”. Iraqi sweets were offered to everyone. After the ceremony, my program manager asked me whether the tree planting and sweets are part of our customs. I smiled and said J, I don’t think you wanna attend any Iraqi funeral, they are far too heart wrenching and draining. And so I told him about how WE do things. It differs from family to family, but mostly its all the same.
Iraqi Muslim Way
When someone dies, a funeral is held and is only attended by the men. Women do not walk in the processions of the burial. Then the men would go to a mosque and pray on the dead person’s soul for god to forgive his sins, and to bestow his blessings upon him. After that, usually three days are appointed for the mourning family members to receive condolences from people. These are either done in a house, or a mosque. Women and men are segregated from each other. A cleric will be present reciting Quranic verses. And if no cleric is available then a CD or tape of Quranic verses is played.
Really dark black coffee is served all day long. There are no sweets, there is no food. Except on the third day, which usually is the last day, a huge banquet of food will be offered to honour the deceased.
In the olden days, you’d be able to hear the women’s wails miles and miles away. Its all so sad and heart wrenching. That’s why I tend to always avoid going. I get far too emotional, so I usually give my condolences over the phone. But some people keep count of who attends and who doesn’t. In our culture its an obligation to attend, its sort of a respect thing towards the deceased and his/or her family. And sometimes, it becomes a tit for tat situation. Where if you didn’t attend one person’s funeral, then if god forbid someone in your family passes away, then that family member would say, well so and so didn’t attend my uncle’s funeral why should I go to theirs, etc.
Depending on preferences, sometimes the women will hold weekly gatherings to accept condolences from people who couldn’t attend the 3 official days. Then comes the 40th day after the death which will also be a day of remembrance. And no we don’t go planting trees, nor do we send flowers. Here is a site I found by googling Islamic Funerals. A very interesting read.
Tereza was an Iraqi Christian lady and Im not really sure how the Iraqi Christians do it. Maybe someone reading this post can tell us. Im very curious to find out. As for Tereza, may her soul rest in peace. And may all the innocent Iraqis who lost their lives as well, may THEIR souls rest in peace... Eternal Peace…
March 04, 2008
The GZ Blues...
Ive been saying more goodbyes than hellos lately. The work environment has become far too stressful with people getting the boot left right and center. Good people mind you. But I realized that the American Bureaucracy here is just as bad as the Iraqi one. Infact its becoming a laughing stock among the Iraqis working with us.
B, an Iraqi engineer, said “And we always criticized OUR people on how they employ ONLY THEIR relatives, friends and family members, but look at the Americans. Look at those people who claim to bring democracy and freedom. They are just as bad if not worse” I said “B, I think this should be their mantra “Its not WHAT you know, its WHO you know”. He shook his head in disgust.
Yes its true. Upper Management has no clue what so ever on how to manage this multi billion program. You would think they’d learn from their predecessors mistakes, but it seems they can care less whether they succeed or not. And that for me is a real shame. Then they wonder why does SIGIR or any inspector criticizes the progress of the reconstruction program. Ofcourse they give excuses like the short turnaround of US govt personnel, which did contribute to some of the difficulties we had BUT that doesnt mean that these huge US corporations arent responsible for their OWN mistakes. And there are MANY of those.
I look around me, and all I see a majority of incompetent people put in program management positions. People who have no degrees, no qualifications. People who back in the States were working in fast food restaurants, or supermarkets. I swear to god I am not kidding you. People who probably never dreamt to see 4 figure numbers in their bank account let alone SIX!!! And no, theres nothing wrong with these professions, but please, don’t put them in charge of a billion dollar program just because theyre your friends or the husband of your sister’s friend’s sister!!!
We as in people working here, from Iraqis, to Brits to Americans themselves, realized that you don’t need experience to manage this program, you don’t need an education, oh no. All you need is knowledge of 1- putting power points together and 2- using the sum function in excel sheets. That’s all you need to do to be considered here. Forget the 20 years plus of field engineering, or the 15 years plus of accounting. These mean nothing. Nothing at all. Theres a saying in Iraqi “Nag3a wishrab mayya” which simply translates into, drench it and drink its water, cuz all your certificates, all your degrees come up to one useless pile.
Im extremely upset. And its not just me, even some of the good hardworking Americans, like L and V. As well as my friends the aussies J and F. We are disgusted at how people are getting treated here. Take this example. T an Iraqi Expat, came in to the office on Thursday Morning, only to find the HR guy telling him that he will be flying outta here on Sunday. T was confused. Flying where he asked. The mean horrible HR said, home. You are going home T. T just stood there having no clue what the hell is going on. He went to his supervisor, and all the supervisor said was, Yeah sorry T, but you were let go. Don’t ask me why. That’s the way it is.
T came barging to my area and said “Neurotica, Im leaving. My last day here is Sunday.” Im like yeah yeah, sure. He said “No Neurotica Im serious. They’ve booked my flights home.” I got sooooooooo angry that I started swearing and cursing everyone I knew. HOW COULD THEY DO THIS? HOW. I didn’t understand. I still don’t. T had only two days to pack all his belongings. He managed to ship the majority on Friday. And although T lived and worked half of his life in the States, he, just like HUBBY says he has never ever encountered such ignorant, stupid, uneducated people in all his stay in the US like he has encountered here. “Where did these people come from Neurotica? My wife is an American for god’s sakes, my business partner is an American, my bestfriends are Americans, but they are smart people. Smart, educated and well mannered. I laughed. I laughed and said, welcome T, welcome to the world of Iraqi reconstruction. Welcome to the REAL world.
So T left. And J is leaving us too. J submitted his resignation because he couldn’t deal with the ignorance surrounding him. As for me, Ive started job hunting, Yaaaaaaaaaaay. Seriously does anyone know of companies in the Emirates, or Iraq or even Jordan looking for someone with a BSc in Maths and a Masters Degree in Investment Management? I have experience working with NGO’s like the IOM plus I have worked in consultancy firms. If you do know any companies send me the details. Journalism is also something Im very much interested in. I WILL DO ANYTHING. Please help me get outta here. PLEASE!!! But Im also interested to know What YOU think I should do??? Shall I stick it out? or shall I leave?
I feel that a moment of insanity, or maybe sanity, will come very soon where I will just pack my stuff including my 35 pairs of shoes, hand in my resignation and get the hell outta here, but I sure do need a job to do that. I will go crazy if I dont work, Im a certified workaholic. Although truth to be told, I was never mistreated by management, on the contrary, but I cant take the BS that’s happening to the people I know, and care for. I just cant. Only reason keeping me here, is a psychological one. Cant leave HUBBY. Even though he isnt with me in the same city, I feel more at ease being somehow closER. As crazy as it sounds, but hey I am Neurotic afterall. But Ssshhhh, don’t want any potential employers to know that do we now ;)
I woke up to a bleeding nose this morning due to the dust storm we had AGAIN last night. And right now I have the blues. The GZ Blues…
Footnote: For those who asked me questions and details about this particular post, I will say this here and now, under the confidentiality disclaimer that I have signed, Im bound to keep my mouth shut. And no, Im not the type that would name names so I can climb the ladder of popularity on the acocunt of others. I have my ethics and my principles. This blog is my venting space. The only venting space I have...
March 01, 2008
Happy Birthday to the bestest HUBBY...
After I got back from dinner, I immediately logged on, lit the candle, called him, started the video and sang for him. He was very surprised but unfortunately very pre-occupied with his work problems which kinda bummed me out. I had to stop midway through the song cuz I started crying and I didn’t want him to know. I forced myself to recover within seconds, continued the song, then asked him to make a wish and I blew the candle on his behalf. We had to wrap it up real fast cuz he was expecting a conference call. A few minutes later though he decided to call me again and apologize. But I guess, no matter how much he tried to cheer me up, no matter how much he apologized, it just didn’t work. It didn’t work cuz I miss HIM A LOT. I miss him and needed him here with me today out of all days.
Its amazing though how a year passes so fast, yet the days seem to pass ever so slowly. It was only last year on a crispy afternoon, I gathered about 20 of our Iraqi friends and took them over to HUBBY’s work for a surprise party. And a surprise it definitely was. I coordinated everything with a coworker of his. Asked him to keep HUBBY busy while we slowly and silently climbed the stairs from the outdoor steps and got into the living room. We then waited for HUBBY to open the door and we all jumped and sang Happy Birthday to him. The look on his face was just priceless. He had that boyish smile of shyness which I totally adore. I had also ordered two yummy cakes and was afraid it wouldn’t be enough, cuz silly me, I didn’t account for HIS coworkers, lol. But thankfully, everything worked out perfectly. Infact HUBBY said it was the best Birthday he has ever had.
All of a sudden I had this urge of looking at last years photos. As I was flicking through the pictures staring at the smiley faces, sadness struck me. There we are, HUBBY and I in the garden, surrounded by S, D, E, A, H, Z, A, Z, H, A, O, M, Z, L, Z, K, W, A, A, M. Then I realized that out of everyone in that picture, Im the only one that has remained here. All the Iraqis have gone to the States, and as for HUBBY, well, he aint here with me anymore.
Anyways, its late, and Im tired. Tired and sad. Sad and extremely lonely. But Im gonna make sure that next year on the 1st of March, we will definitely be celebrating together. Celebrating and blowing the candles somewhere real far from here. Somewhere nice, nice and peaceful. And if Im really lucky, I would like to blow the candles while carrying his children (Yeah I want triplets all in one go ;) ). Our Children. But for now, Happy Birthday to the bestest HUBBY...