neurotic Iraqi wife
May 31, 2008
Three Years Ago...
All of a sudden it hit me when I realized what today is. Today is 31 May right? Wowww, In Neurotica’s day in history, it was exactly three years ago, three years ago to the day that I stepped onto Iraqi earth after a long time of hiatus. Yup, it was only three years ago that I stepped off of that C130 onto BIAP. For me, it seems like a lifetime ago, yet, I can still remember every second, every minute, every tear and every smile on that day. I can still remember the excitement, the anxiety, the adrenalin rush. And then the extreme shock.
Although HUBBY tried to tell me many times prior to my arrival about the mass military presence in the area, I thought yeah probably one or 2 humvies here or there. But OMG, everywhere I looked I was surrounded by men in uniform. I never anticipated the image before me. It was a strange feeling. You can say mixed feelings with a slight tinge of contempt. Yes I knew my country was occupied. Yes I knew it wasn’t all hunky dory BUT I never thought it was gonna be like that. It took me a considerable amount of time till I finally got used to that camouflage colour.
It was three years ago, yet I can still remember how poor HUBBY was pulling my two huge suitcases together with my protective vest and helmet in the sweltering heat of Baghdad through the uneven stoney road. I can still see the droplets of sweat forming at the tip of his forehead, and his biceps twitching. Yet he never complained. He never uttered a word while I pranced casually infront of him trying to grasp everything around me just like a child in wonderland. Even when I was clicking away with my camera laughing at his dissheveled state, he laughed with me and enjoyed the moment through MY eyes.
Yet those same tears of laughter, turned into tears of sadness many times during these long three years. Oh yes, I can probably have my own Neurrotica’s salty lake if I wanted to. Wow. On 26 April 2004, HUBBY and I tied the knot. On 30 April, HUBBY was long gone to Baghdad leaving behind a very very UNHAPPY Wife. Funny thing is, I knew he was going to Baghdad, but whats even funnier, I had hoped (yeah stupid delusional me) that by him spending three days with me, he will forget ALL about his job offer….Im actually laughing big time right this second while writing this. I mean HOW RIDICULUS could I have been then…Damn my naivety.
And on 31 May 2005, I had those exact same hopes, lol…I guess I never learn do I? Three years later, I still have have a teeny weeny bit of hope remaining (Yeah I never give up that easily) that one day, one day very soon, I can join the “normal wife” statistic and be just that. A normal wife living a normal married life. Yeah it was three years today, and my, what three years. Met loads of people from all walks of life from all over the globe. And waved many painful goodbyes to people I sincerely liked and respected for the risks they took just to come to work everyday.
Yeah three years ago I stood infront of those same dull brownish concrete walls oblivious to what was waiting for me inside. All I heard then was the chirping of the birds. All I smelt then was the beautiful freshness of summer. All I saw then was the famous clear blue Baghdadi sky. Today, those same chirps turned into annoying helicopter noises hovering over me. Today, that same summer freshness is a suffocating wind of sand storms that chokes you out. Today, that same Baghdadi sky is filled with dark clouds. Dark tearless clouds. Yeah, that was years ago...Three years ago…
May 26, 2008
The Contagious C Fever...
In “normal”, “civilized” places like the Kings Road in London, you have guys cruising in the latest models of cars or motorbikes in attempt to show off their wealth and taste in what they might think is the best of the best. Unfortunately in this Twalled environment, there is no place for cruising. As for the games and gadgets, these are confined to ones own room.
But Cameras, now that’s a completely different story. Although Iraqis are not allowed to bring in anything inside the workplace, no mobile phones, no memory sticks, no laptops etc, they are allowed to take out newly purchased cameras. In fact they can take out anything as long as there is a paper from an expat declaring that he/she has given the specific item to so and so.
Cameras have become the only tool to shed the frustrations that we go through around here. It’s a means of communications to the outside world. Although its prohibited to take photos of certain places inside the GZ, people still find a way to capture moments, precious moments. It has become such an addiction, that some try to take a picture of something as trivial as a grain of dust from all the sand storms we have been experiencing.
As for the Iraqis, they’re catching on. But their addiction isn’t into grains of dust or the eye of an insect (Yup there ARE people who actually do that). Instead they take photos to post them on their personal facebook to keep intouch with all the friends and family that have long gone or the ones they haven’t seen in a long time because of the violence. H, told me that the facebook has now become like a gahwa (coffeeshop) for all friends to meet up and post the latest happenings, photos and events in their lives. That’s the only way we can keep in touch and still stay alive, he says.
H, a shia, hasn’t seen his friend M, a sunni living in Adhamiyah, for over a year now. “I miss him, and I miss the good old days where we used to be able to meet up for an argeela (Hubbly Bubbly) and chat the hours away”. But now meeting up has become impossible, and only possible if we want to end up in pieces thrown away in some side street. Facebook has become our own gahwa. We post pictures of ourselves and share jokes. We can actually share sectarian jokes without having to look over our shoulders to see who is eavesdropping and end up snitching on us.
I like facebook, H says. We can atleast pick and choose who we keep intouch with. If there’s someone that asked me to add him and I don’t trust the guy, I just hit the ignore button. Its as easy as that, H smiles and gestures with his finger. I asked D, an expat, to purchase this camera for me from amazon. Its very expensive, but I like it. I used it when I went to my university re-union, H continues. Sometimes we even forget where we are and start acting stupid and clumsy infront of the camera.
We pretend we are in a normal place and start posing with our girl colleagues. Then I post it on my webpage. Do I look fat, he suddenly asks me. My girlfriend Reem who is in Amman now said I gained weight. Do I look fat Neurotica? H asked. I laughed so much, he caught me off guard. I noticed he was inhaling to keep his beer belly inside. I said, H, exhale, cmon exhale. And when he did, I laughed even harder. I guess that was my answer to him.
He looked disappointed, then said, Ok that’s it, Im gonna have to work out more. You will see, I will work out every day until I end up like Schwarzenegger. I just cringed and made a gag gesture. And on that note I will end this post. H and many many more Iraqis have caught the fever. The Contagious Camera Fever…
May 22, 2008
The Latest GZ Craze...
No, it aint the ipod. Noooooo nor the iphone. Nope it aint it the 3G gizmos or the Xbox either. It’s a craze that many are obsessing about. Every time I pass by their cubicles, theyre either talking about it or surfing the net for it. Have you guessed yet? Will give you a few days to figure it out…And I hope from the 250-350 visitors I get daily, I better receive some good guesses!!! Cmon, give me a Guess. Whats the latest Craze? The Latest GZ Craze...
May 21, 2008
Neurotica's Bens Cookies...
I called my coworker and asked him if he wanted to try them out as well. Answer was YES OFCOURSE. He called them, made an order of 2 dozen, a dozen is not 12 pieces but 13 and it costs $15 a box. Delivery time took about 20 mins from the time of the call, which isnt bad. A white van pulled up outside our compound and an American got out holding our boxes of doughnuts.
So for yesterdays morning meeting, I suggested to order some of those doughnuts. Would be a nice compliment to go with our bland coffee and our boring meeting. This time they were even better and FRESH. I kinda am getting hooked and that’s NOT a good idea. What is the expression? A second on your lips, a lifetime on your hips? But one consolation, I haven’t been eating much lately so I guess I can do with the extra sugar for now. Besides, it’s a tiny reminder of home.
I don’t get hooked that easily on food because Im a very fussy eater, hence the underweight issue. But when I do, OMG. Id be willing to travel three hours by train just to get a particular thing. That happened to me in London. When I was much younger, my parents would send my sister and I to summer camp in Bath. There, I got introduced to the love of my life, the greatest Bens Cookies!!!Unfortunately they only had them in Bath which is three hours away from London. As the years passed, during which Id travel to London for short breaks, I would board the train and go to Bath, just to have those cookies. It was kinda like a secret pilgrimage I would do every year.
It was only a few years ago that Ben’s cookies got a stall in High Street Kensington tube station. The whole station usually smells of freshly baked soft cookies (if you ever visit London go there, have a cookie and remember me). Yummmm. So my three hour secret pilgrimage stopped, but the cookie devouring definitely didn’t. After having the doughnuts, I remembered the cookies and decided to google it. Lo and behold, they have their own website now!!! I shrieked with excitement. PLUS you can order online, BUT unfortunately they don’t ship to an APO address. My coworker though supplied me with an address he registered with in the States that can have these delivered to us. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY…
May 20, 2008
The Hollow Green Dream...
I may have lived almost all my life outside this country, but Im always, ALWAYS proud to be an Iraqi. I display it in every way possible not caring what others might think. I didn’t go to the UK and came back as Shirley!!! God, I cant even imagine that…Nor did I go to the UK and left with amnesia regarding my language!!! OMG. I hate, no, no hate is a light word. I LOATHE, I LOATHE anyone who disassociates themselves from their origin. I loathe anyone who decides to push that delete button and copy and paste a new persona. What a shame!
F, used to work here for a while. I used to see her around and talk to her from time to time. Until one day, she came into work, asked to be transferred to Jordan because she was being threatened by some gang. Everyone who worked with her, knew she kinda bullshits a lot to get her own way, or so I was told by very close coworkers of hers. Her ex-management refused to transfer her to Amman, but in the end they succumbed to her wishes due to a certain coworker who was kinda besotted with F and he inturn threatened to quit if F didn’t have her way.
When I found out she was joining the group I knew trouble will be brewing. So far we don’t interact that much, thank god, although she sits next to me, I cant get myself to talk to her. I cringe every time Im forced to communicate especially when I ask her something in Iraqi and she replies to me in ENGLISH!!! Yes it’s a personal choice, I agree. BUT, and there’s a big BUT. You don’t come here prancing with a nose so high up in the air and pretend to be better than your co-workers just because you have a piece of paper that makes you eligible for a blue passport! Naaaaa, doesn’t work that way.
That piece of paper doesn’t make you better than your Iraqi peers. Nor does it give you the right to treat them in a disrespectful manner, knowing well enough that you too were once an Iraqi citizen just SIX bloody months ago!!!! Infact it should make you humble. Humble and REAL. I personally think its pathetic, but again from what her coworkers told me about her, she was always pretentious. Always wanted to be someone else.
I was shocked and disappointed the other day and very ready to gag, after being forced to listen to her conversation with one of the Iraqi IT guys. She was almost spitting into the phone while talking despicably to the poor guy. I quote in a mimicy way :) “Cant you see I am an expat now, I don’t need a supervisor to approve this application. Cant you understand!” She went on and on, and her tone of voice became far too degrading towards him that I had to really stop myself from getting off of my chair and slapping her face a couple of times to wake her up from the delusional life she is living in. I just got up and went for a cig break instead. Id rather have my lungs poisoned than my ears!!!
At first I was very angry. Angry, and disgusted. But now, all I feel is pity. The whole saga has actually become an inside joke with my Iraqi coworkers who find her attitude towards them pathetic. I ask them what names they will acquire once they go to the States. A few suggestions were Harold for Haider, Alex for Ali, Orlando for Omar, Rick for Rami, etc…Sorry F, oooops I mean N??? I really hope that you will wake up from your Green Dream…The Hollow Green Dream…
May 18, 2008
Trumpets of the Silenced Voices...
A group of three Iraqis living in the Emirates decided to help with Naseer Shamma’s campaign. It was a kinda of a continuation to his January one. They gathered money, appliances from fridges to fans to ovens and food vouchers for the refugees in Syria. The Syrian government is against any individual going there to help out. It has to be done through the UN or the Red Crescent. You cant just go and give cash out. It doesn’t work out this way. So when the three people went there, they had to do it through a high connection in the Syrian government. And the only reason the man helped out was because the appliances were bought from his company. Tells you a lot doesn’t it?
The donations that were gathered were only enough for 500 people. The three Iraqis tried for more. Until they managed to accumulate an amount that would be enough for 1500. They said they found great difficulty from people giving money. People weren’t ready to help. It took one Emarati Sheikha to donate the majority of the money. I spoke to one of those three that went on the mission and she described to me what they went through and how they were almost gonna get killed!!!
The mission had everything ready and organized. All the food vouchers had the names of those 1500 Iraqis. When they first entered the building, people started pushing and shoving. There were no lines, there was no discipline. The lady said that at the start, things were going ok. They managed to organize everything. Once those 1500 received their vouchers and day one was over, they immediately went out and started calling everyone else they knew to come to the venue. That’s when trouble started.
By the second day, the mission had nothing to give away. They gave everything they had. They gave out all the appliances, all the vouchers, all the money. But people kept barging in. Not only barging, but they started calling the three people names, swearing at them, throwing at them stuff. Cursing them for not helping. The lady said, a woman started screaming and crying. My daughter is sick, my daughter is dying. She needs help. We need money. Give us money. But the mission couldn’t do much. They had nothing more to give.
By mid afternoon, the three needed to leave. Mission is over. But the whole building was surrounded by angry refugees. One of the workers who worked at the building got punched in the face. Another was pulled by his collar. It was chaos. The three were trapped among angry protesters. That’s when the Syrian govt had to intervene with their security. Police cars came around and surrounded the area. Men with weapons tried to calm the situation at first but it didn’t work. The three people couldn’t even get out of the door without being pulled and pushed at.
Shots were fired in the air to disperse the angry crowd. One by one, the three were carried and thrown in the car. I just sat listening in shock at the lady’s story. I think she too was in shock as she recounted the events. She said people were calling them criminals. Cursing them. Even some started praying to god not to make them succeed in life. She said they couldn’t do more. Not then anyways. They ran out of everything they could give away. It’s a lesson, she said. A lesson and an eye opener. An eye opener to do more.
It changes the way you look at life she said. Its MY mission now to do everything I can to help those people, she continued. The stories of some of the refugees who spoke to them were beyond belief. The living conditions were worse than living in a haystack. I stopped clicking the mouse. I didn’t wanna see more. I had seen enough already. What was supposed to be a relaxing visit to my sister, turned out to be a heart wrenching one. Heart wrenching and depressing.
Strange thing is, here I am in the middle of it all. I tried to give some cash to a few of my coworkers awhile back to give to the needy but they refused. I said fine, give it to the Mosques, the minute I said the word mosque their response was even harsher. They’re too afraid to give out cash. It will just put their lives at risk, so I stopped asking.
The best thing I usually end up doing every trip to the Emirates is donate through the Red Crescent. You get to choose whatever amount you want to donate and for what category. You can never go wrong there. By doing that, it clears my mind for a little while. Just a little while. I always ask for Iraq. I remember one time, I went to one of their stalls in the mall and said I wanna donate please. He immediately handed out a voucher for Palestine. I shook my head. No, Im here for Iraq please. I felt some kind of discontent from him. I gathered he was Palestinian. Then I asked for more for Iraq, I had a substantial amount that I wanted to help with. You could see from the contortions of his face, he was getting uncomfortable. But I didn’t care. I may sound cruel, but my country is bleeding to death, and for me MY country is a priority for now.
Although most of the time my blog is intended to be personal regarding my marriage and my own situation, a lot of the times I try to make the world aware of whats going on around me. The majority of the Iraqi bloggers do just that. They are the trumpets of the Silenced Voices. I know that I don’t get as many responses as I would like to have. I know that many people are just sick and tired of hearing us whine and complain. Im not after your pity or sympathy, nor your oooooohs and aaaaaaahs. All I want is for you to read our stories and understand where we are coming from.
Maybe next time you’re browsing the net, search for ways that you can help out with too. Sometimes even the little stuff can go a long way. But just remember, us bloggers have no hidden agenda, have nothing to gain. We are just Trumpets. Trumpets of the Silenced Voices…
It was just brought to my attention the sad and devastating news of the killing of a fellow Iraqi blogger, BlogIraq!!!He was one of the very important Trumpets. And now a Trumpet has been silenced forever...
May 15, 2008
Those damn Mahdi Militia Suicide BUGS!!!
After Greece we headed to Cyprus, Limassol to be precise. Since it was Easter, almost everything was shut, Yay meeeee, no wake up at dawn morning tours!!! Instead we enjoyed spending some real relaxing time basking in the sun. We did ofcourse ask the cab driver to take us to the best icecream in town when we first arrived, since that was the whole point of us going there in the first place. HUBBY was like a little child again, too excited by the icecream cone he was holding. I was all eyes watching him have his first licks. I gave him a few seconds then asked him whether it has the same taste as 20 years ago. Funny thing is, he couldn’t remember, lol.
After that we headed to Beirut. Yup. We missed the fun by a few days. Beirut was just beautiful. The scenery breath taking. You have the mountains on one end and the beach on the other. Pity we didn’t stay much there, but then again, had we delayed our plans, we would have probably been stuck in the airport by now. I gotta say though, I was getting pretty cranky with all the travelling so I wasn’t really in my best of moods. HUBBY just wanted to go and see nightlife, I just wanted to crawl into bed and watch a movie. We managed to hire a cab with a driver and told him to take us to all the places we should see.
Since this wasn’t MY first trip to Beirut, I had seen many of the touristic sites, but I wanted to see them again with HUBBY. At the time, things were just starting to bubble with Hezbollah. I remember HUBBY asking our driver what the consequences will be. Sameer just smiled and said “Oh don’t worry, every summer theres a problem, we got used to it. Nothing will happen. You guys should stay longer so I can take you to the mountains.” Little did Sameer know I guess. Pity how every damn summer, Hezbollah decides to have some action going, knowing that Lebanon thrives on tourists, especially the ones from the Gulf. I was extremely angered by the whole muscle show. It just goes to show you how much power Iran has all over…
AD, the last leg of our trip, was kinda hectic this time. Im not really sure what it is, but in the four months since I have last visited the place, things have changed dramatically. What used to take me 2 mins by car now takes me about 20-30 mins. Traffic has become a nightmare!!! Literally a nightmare. And since HUBBY didn’t have his International License with him, I was the designated driver for the whole stay. I used to enjoy driving, especially after being stuck here. But after that trip, I don’t think I wanna drive anymore. My back would ache non stop, it felt like it was being split right in the middle.
I didn’t even get a chance to see my family as much as I wanted to. An ex-coworker of ours who used to be here with us in Baghdad and left 2 years ago, decided to make a visit to the Gulf with his American wife. I wasn’t that keen to entertain them and take them around, since I needed some relaxation time myself. So the R&R went by so fast, and was getting hectic at the end. Instead of coming back refreshed, I was exhausted J but I aint complaining atleast I did have a break and celebrated my wedding anniversary far away from all the chaos.
I remember when we were in Limassol, it was our last day there and we had to check out from the hotel pretty early, since they only gave us 2 more hours. So we decided to walk around the city for abit just to pass the time. We found this small road which lead to the sea. We sat on the rocks and I just closed my eyes, then I realized, I realized that I haven’t been in such a peaceful place for a long long time. There weren’t any annoying helicopters hovering over our heads, nor those noisy loud generators that bug the hell out of me. It truly was a peaceful moment.
Having flies swarming all around me now and mosquitoes having a blast with my freshly tanned skin I know Im back in Baghdad. Was actually overwhelmed with work the minute I stepped into the office. It was like everyone was waiting for me to come so I can solve their issues. I’d hear my name being called out from the end of the corridor, all I did is roll my eyes, open skype up and tell HUBBY, I wanna leaaaaaaaaave nowwwww!!!
That’s that for now, I have loads more to say, but will keep it for some other time. Im so glad tomorrow is Friday. I’ll probably end up rubbing some of that anti mosquito lotion and just lie in bed with my pifpaf in my hand to safe guard myself from their vicious bites. I’ll take a guess and say those are Mahdi Militia Suicide Mosquitoes coming from Sadr city to blow themselves up here. They must be, for they go right through my clothes and bite, ughhhhh. I hate those damn bugs. Those damn Mahdi Militia Suicide BUGS!!!
Im gonna leave you with this picture I took of an area in Beirut. This picture says it all for me...Means alot to me. This picture is how it REALLY should be...But unfortunately BUGS are found everywhere...
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