Tuesday, 30 December 2008
First I have to mention, my immediate family. I spend more time thinking up revenge at them, than breathing air. Some of my more creative plans have included telling them the price of laham has gone up, but even I'm not that mean. :D
Secondly, iraqis in general around me. From body popping on the streets to the resumed shouting of " Yabis wa Timaaaaaaan!", we are a lively bunch. :D Oh, and Leymouna. I left Baghdad, it wasn't there, I came back, and there is a dessert shop around the corner. It sells the coolest fruit juices, which it smashes in front of you. Cool. :D
Thirdly, to the new friends I have made. Both offline and online. hhhhhhhhhhh.
Iraq is slowly blooming, as i watch through half closed eyes (I'm sleepy..), my education seems to be on the yellow brick road again, and I've found love in the form of blogging incessantly, and then deleting the posts, just to watch the confusion on people's faces.
Other than that, 2009 will bring me analysing society in general, and my many other trips and falls as i try to wade through the mess that is life. With some politics thrown in of course, as i desperatley try to re assure myself of having some intellect. :)
from the sidelines,
no i'm not having an identity crisis, its just the word nakhaly sounds so weird, i had to try it out. And I have. And it was good.
Iraq is slowly improving. According to those who stayed here during the bad times (understatement of the year), the killing/explosions are slightly less. Electricity is up to three hours a day in some places (that's considered excellent), and the water- really shouldn't be called water. Just had a vision of reality I'm afraid. :D Still, at least there's been a decrease in rats. The cats which i run away from seem to be breeding at an extrodanary rate. hhhhhh. :D
Sunday, 14 December 2008
As news tell the tale of how Bush has visited Baghdad, and how he is 'walking freely' around and attending electricity filled parties with maliki (yes, i've managed to pick the habit of complaining about how politicians seem to have an endless supply of electricity..), I really but can't help wonder, what do we think? hhhhh, I'm betting thoughts right now are along the lines of "why weren't they football boots..", well all i can say is its clear the next two days, no one will mention politics, electricity or water.
Do Iraqis love him, do they hate him? ('him' being either muntathar or bush) Being politically challenged, I decided it was best not to make an opinion until I had all the facts, or at least had some facts.
And most importantly of all, what are the views of the war in general?
I'm not sure, but I do know I care. But...this post was actually just to complain about the electricity. At a recent eid party, it closed off, and trust me, there's something very creepy about having no electricity in a hall full of people....As soon as the lights opened, it looked like a scene from one of a future films, where everyone has not moved, and it seemed as if time had frozen. I actually laughed when the electricity came back. Why? Because everyone had been holding their breaths in the darkness, and when the lights came back, there was a mass sound of "haaaa". You could even smell the breaths in the hall after that. :D
Muntathar al Zaidi, you deserve an award. I was hoping he would mention the electricity rather than "This is the end". Oh well. :D hhhhhhh.
I am still curious though..was he tackled to the floor minutes later? I was too busy laughing to actually notice. Jail would be terrible for such a .... controversial journalist.
I was unsure of how to react really. Well apart from the immediate laughter of course as I watched action replays with commentaries again and again.
And, did he come up with the words beforehand or on the spot? "From the iraqi people". I think some iraqi people would have done a lot worse.
Nevertheless, I should take this opportunity to say that Violence is not the answer . Even against politicians.
If any of you listen closely, The journalists voice states that the first shoe is " For the Widows" and the second shoe was "For the orphans".
Perhaps I should use this oppurtunity to remind everyone that widows and orphans were made of not just iraqis, but of the soldiers who died. the death toll and the casualties of the war spread so wide, that in my personal view his aim was to subject Bush to a little of the pain that he had caused to so many people.
And, now History will always remember Bush went out "wiya al kanadar" as they say, which basically is he went out with shoes. As a family memeber summed it up, there would have been more honour to Bush, if he was shot, but Muntathars aim wasn't in anger, but for disgrace.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
The day started with me struggling to live from the ground. There's no television here either, but the niceness of the people make up for that. What I mean is here everyone smiles at me. I don't even know them. Even the scary looking people smile. But the soldiers here are not as nice. They scowl and one american soldier raised his gun at my father and told him to stop for no reason. Apparently our family came to close to them. I didn't even realise they were there. The ordeal was quite scary, and as weird as it sounds its because even after spending half my life here, I have never been in such close distance to a foreign soldier. That and its from the fact that during the worst time of Iraq, I was abroad. Anyway, i almost started laughing . The situation was quite funny. One soldier had his gun aimed at my dad. One was running around trying to find the iraqi soldiers, and one just kept repeating a badly rehearsed "asaaallaaam aleeeekim" whilst talking about our family to the wandering soldier. Oh i understood, but I just wanted to see what they would say about us when they thought I didn't understand. But all teenagers are allowed to be a little crazy right?
We were finally allowed to pass, and behind me the tension between the iraqi soldiers and the foreign soldiers was almost tangible. It wasn't like this in baghdad, although I've never been close enough to examine the relationship, but in baghdad everything and the soldiers were a lot more ...separated? The foreign soldiers on one side and the iraqi soldiers on the other side. But here in Diyala, they stood next to one another, and although they looked uncomfortable i realised it was for safety. Gangs are still apparently popular here, and they refuse to become lawful like the ones in baghdad. Diyala's gangs are apparently the teenage farm-boys who steal in order to live. Their lack of education, their lack of money has lead to an inevitable turn to crime. What i got told about them was naturally harsher, but in my mind, it is unfair for me to judge by listening to others. I have experienced no crime here whatsoever. So what if a few guys dressed up in black and agals and stood in corners. They didn't approach anyone, nor did they carry guns. But of course, how can i judge after spending a week there? All I can conclude is Diyala is made up of villages, where sheiks and tradition plays a huge role. Meetings of sheiks were common (and inexplainably booring), and it seemed like an organized life. I still am in awe of the pure culture here. Although much of the culture in the villages was unfavourable to females, it wasn't as bad as you think. And the respect here is also cool. In Baghdad, the youth can get a bit disrespectful, but here, it was wonderful. Each neighbour had such respect for one another.
Now, after visiting Amo X's house or another house, I went home. We had been given large plates of meat from people. hehe. yes you heard right. Meat. So i went to the darkness of our room. It was around afternoon time. So I opened the curtains and bright sunlight streamed in. My brother and father had gone to the bisateen (farms). Although I desperatley wanted to go, its not suitable places for a girl. You know the big bad scary farms. I could get mauled to death by a chicken or goat.... :D
So brother and father came back. Since the house hold was literally split ( one room for men, one room for women), me and my brother and sister had genuinely not talked to each other for ages. So we all talked and talked. Then, food was served. It included a lot of meat again. As a joke, my brother has somehow managed to take a large piece of meat out of his plate, and carry it to our bedrooms. It was funny watching him trying to convince our little sister to eat it. Then, he and my sister suddenly left the room laughing. I sat down and replayed the information my brother had told me about the farms. Suddenly I heard meowing. My brother and sister were leading a cat into the room. They fed it little pieces of meat, while teasing me. I don't like cats. At all.
As i watched the cat jump trying to claw at the meat, my brother led the cat closer and closer. What followed was kind of a blur to me.
I jumped and stood on the bed screaming. The cat came closer and closer, its evil eyes surveying me. So naturally when it approached the bed I was on, I jumped on to the other bed. that is how almost an hour of my time was spent. Jumping from bed to bed. As the cat hissed.
My mother came in after an hour asking what the hosa (mess) was about. After I screamed to get the cat out, she looked at my brother, signed and said " P, why did you use the good meat?".
She didn't say " stop being mean to your sister, its not her fault cats are evil horrible creatures" or " take that dirty clawing cat out of the room". But apparently the waste of good meat was the problem. The cat then went.
I then laughed with my siblings for an hour, before finally going to sleep in the dark where I had nightmares of cats attacking me. I hope you feel guilty now. ;)
And so passed another day in Diyala.
And I might add some Fotos of the bisateen when I am not lazy to transfer them. :D
Sunday, 7 December 2008
Anyway, after purchasing more village friendly clothes (for some reason I keep thinking of the village people and the clothes they wore- I don't think that would have been very suitable here...), I wandered into one of the few internet cafes-BIG mistake. It was basically boiling with puffs of smoke clouds more common than air. Walking in hesistatingly, I had no idea whether to run out, but I stood my ground. Eventually an old man (the owner I presume) asked me if I wanted to sit down. One of the guys sitting down, asked whilst his jackal like friends cackled in the corner "Why don't you tell her the rules. You know, the one that we're not allowed to look at naked pictures of women on the internet". More grins. Then nothing, absolutley nothing could have prepared me for the answer or rather action of the old man. He walked up to the guy, and slapped him around the head, hard, and said "Respect yourself and apologise!". After the apology i tried my best to close my gaping mouth. I felt almost eternally grateful to the internet cafe owner, as I sat down quietly closest to the door. Maybe I should open an internet cafe when I'm older. I mean the respect and the power that comes with it- why bother going through university education? Internet cafe owners get more respect than doctors these days. :D
On my return to our house, I realised we had guests. I prayed it wasn't the family that I slept over with the day before. It wasn't. It was neighbours who had known us for decades, but not seen us for years. Everyone talked, with the focus being placed on everything and anything. After a while, the talk turned to politics, and the sheiks of Diyala etc etc. I remembered the yashmaghs and male abbayat in the other room, so I ran out, and drew on myself with a marker pen, a mustache that would put saddamists to shame. I then decided to dress up as a sheik, with all the added extra, like the sibah they usually carried. i them made my entrance back to the women's seating area and made a few stereotypical jokes. Unfortunatly, the men in the other room were curious to see what the laughter was all about and walked in. At that point I could do nothing apart from cough and choke. The worst thing was seeing the eyebrows of people disappearing off their faces. I took off the agal and yashmagh and abbaya, and walked out of the room, my fake black mustache refusing to be wiped off.
One day, when I get over the embarrassment, I may post the photos that everyone enthusiastically took. But until then, I will simply pretend that none of that day actually happened, and I dreamed it all. The worst thing, was having to go back after I had tidied, and look them in the eye seriously, as they asked after school and other trivial subjects.
Saturday, 6 December 2008
First rule of iraqi meetings=Food, Food, and more Food.
Since we were in a village, I kind of knew what to expect, but that clearly didn't mean I wasn't going to embarrass myself. And embarrass myself thoroughly is exactly what i did. :D
After getting changed into colourful dishdashas, we all had to head to the kitchen. To help with the cooking. So off i stalked, and asked around awkwardly if they needed help. So I got asked to make some rice. I looked around helplessly for my mother, whilst agreeing and smilingly saying "anything else?". Ahhhh, this was such a mistake. I carefully looiked at the bowl of rice and utter despair ran through me. I really have no idea what to do. I know boiling and hot water is somehow involved, so I look around for a clean source of water to start boiling on a gas fire. I see one of the girls my sisters age, laugh almost hysterically as I look between the raw rice and the boiling water. Immediatley, she gets up and uncovers my shameful truth. More laughs, including my own mother. Within seconds I get assigned to do the dishes. I don't know how to cook. And frankly, I'm not really ready to learn yet. So I'm simply just not going to remember all the tips and recipes that got drilled into me in Diyala.
I manage to trip over the long dishdasha while standing. How? i can't really answer that. Anyway, dishes over, we all head to the sitting room. At this point I should mention, that there are absolutley no sofas, chairs or beds here. Everything occurs on the ground.
So plastic sheets are rolled out, ready for the food to be placed on. We have to sit around on the floor. Then large large plates filled with Cuzi, and other meat filled dishes come. I waited for smaller plates and the cutlery to come. It never did. My relatives now had started eating. Oh yes. How could I have forgotten. This is the arab style of eating. So my sister lounges towards my mother, who proceeds to start hand feeding her. I try to mask my shock/annoyance. She smiles smugly at me whilst being continually hand fed.
Okay, I have to start eating now, they are all picking on me, and asking me if the food is not to my taste. I vehemently deny this, and reach out to one of the large large plates. I lose my balance and almost fall into the plastic food mat. hehe, luckily only my sister see this, and spends the next minutes laughing. I really have no idea how to eat sitting down on the floor. Its one of these things, I lose all balance. I also don't know how to eat with my hands properly, I know I shouldn't use more than three fingers. Thats a start.
I try to eat with two fingers, and end up dropping everything on my lap. Oops. I see everyone trying to not raise their eyebrows. Eventually I give up the act, and reluctantly ask the twelve year old girl next to me for a spoon. I really didn't expect the reaction that I got. Laughter and suprise. This girl decided to shout out about the unbelievable fact that I wasn't as cultured, and didn't know these traditions. I smiled. Inside I whinged, I did know these traditions, I just had no idea how to carry them out. The spoon came half an hour later, after the WHOLE household was informed of my hilarious inadequetness. I tried to eat with the spoon, but then I kept dropping it into the large plates of food. This wasn't such a problem until I dropped the spoon into a bowl of Tishreeb, which is like soup. I sadly watched the spoon swimming around. I gave up eating. It was hard. Trying not to fall into the spread of food, and getting it from the plate to my mouth became an increasingly difficult problem. And now the loss of the spoon, which I had endured so much to get....... :D Now I have to get up. With half the spread of food lying forlornly in my lap.
Anyway, hours after, it was time to sleep. I had been thoroughly interrogated into every aspect of my life, and they seemed errm, quiet. The mother told one of the girls to go out and get the sleeping stuff. The girl moaned and I naturally volunteered to help, without being quite sure what I was supposed to do. To tell you the truth, I just hoped to redeem myself slightly for not being able to cook or do anything without messing it up. I followed the girl into the pitch black night, and climbed a cold hard stone stair case. At this point I should mention I was barefoot. I had forgotten where the slippers or shoes were put.I walked around on more cold stone and got handed quilts and pillows. I stepped on something spiky, but I resolved not to do anything. I was not completely useless. I walked in triumphantly carrying quilts and pillows. I got asked if they were too heavy for me as they took them off me. How patronising, although I know they were trying to be polite. Cough.
As I sat down, I looked quite funny. My soles of my feet were literally black. My clothes were splattered and I was trying my best not to show how annoyed I was. Thankfully, we go to our house tommorrow. I was however ordered to shower. The bathrooms of village houses- they are a small room with a bucket of water. No lights or anything. I point blank refuse to shower with the door open, so I end up washing with my dishdasha on. After listening to an hour of laughter, manage to fall asleep. Tommorrow, I hear my mother and father planning to take me to the souk. I have managed to ruin the only suitable clothes I have for village life for a girl my age. Silently I wonder whether I subconsciously ruined everything. For the first time that day, i start laughing as I remember all the mistakes I made, perhaps on purpose. :D
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Baghdad bombings and Iraq shootings: may the dead rest in peace,
mumbai:may the victims be protected,
and everything else- one day something will prove to me that love *does* exist, but now and probably till the end of my life,I'm sceptical. Then I'll be a old bitter woman. And I'll spend my time writing hateful poems or something. Then I'll descend into madness. Or perhaps not, maybe I will grow up and finally start working as hard as I should- university won't be as easy or forgiving. Remind me why I want to spend another 3/4/5 year of my life in education? Because as sad as it is to admit it, I love it really. It keeps my mind off the sadness and confusion. And lack of water. :)
The decision has finally been made. We are spending a week in Diyala, so then I don't get too far behind the school work of Baghdad.
Unfortunatley, the only internet providers in Diyala are internet cafes, as I've mentioned repetitively. This means reverting to old fashioned write on paper diary. I will type it up as soon as I come back though.
As well as this, I have to mention, recently, I have been complaining about my 'freedom', or rather my lack of it. Until, I realised what an idiot I can be. The freedom I 'so badly crave' was already there in front of me- I just never had the guts to use it. After a conversation a few days ago, I realised that complaining about all the plans laid out for me was useless- I have complete control of my life. I just never bothered to really make any decisions, I just accepted everything out of, well, love for my family maybe? Who knows.
Perhaps it was because, deep inside, I never really cared.
But now I do. I have an aim in life, and I can now work towards it. I don't want my life to be perfect, I just want to enjoy every minute of it, because there is no guarentee of what is to come after life. So with that I, Touta, declare, that I am now independently making decisions. Some will be stupid, and result in me having to walk through hell and back, but at least I will be able to say that I lived my life- I didn't quietly follow the paths drawn out for me- I drew my own paths and I made (and enjoyed) my life.
And with that, I wish you a better week than I have had, now I'm off to wear black- news is, those not in black will be shot. By who? I don't know, but my guess is they'll be wearing black. Now the women I see in baggy black abbayas almost remind me of the angels of death, with the black billowing fabric at their sides, looking eerily like wings.
I feel like I'm in a fashion show. Instead of the dusky colours of autumn, black is the new trend. Instead of Gucci and Dior logos, stamps of Sadr adorn bags and clothes. Wailing lamenting songs can be heard from cafes deep into the night, whereas before poignant songs over young love sang out in the darkness. I feel in a different world. One that I clearly don't belong in.
Hmm, well I'm going to wear black, and mourn the world's state, as well as mourning the inevitable responsibility that comes with my new found freedom.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
So no doubt I was not in the best mood this morning. I smile all the time,but today, despite my smile, I looked like I "had awaken from the grave". I just *love* compliments.
So, since yesterday, I have had small butterflies tickling the inside of my stomach- even if you hate politics or know nothing political, today was supposed to be a day that would forever define Iraq's future. No such luck I'm afraid. Again the government delivers an impeccably spotless disappointment of an agreement. That is, the news and the neighbours claim that the agreement has still not been signed.
There was much talk of curfews, not going to school/college/university to either celebrate with limitless joy or scream with unmeasured frustration. I don't live in the greenzone, but despite this, american panzers and army stuff can be seen to be occuring. Not today though. Not even a flag was seen. Today is perhaps the first day of my stay in Iraq, that I have actually seen no sign of americans at all in Baghdad. I didn't realise this, until I nervously passed an armoured check point thing, inhabited entirely by iraqi troops. No whirring helicopters, no swearwords shouted, (which the americans assumed were not understood :D), no flags flying from jeeps. Just nothing. Its clear though why. If the governemnt had signed anything today, the reaction would have been as unpredictable as weather reports.
Today was a classic day for what iraqis clearly love to do- watch the t.v nervously all day, and then discuss the events deep into the silent night. Since I am pretty bad at talking, I thought I'd type it all up instead. :)
Older people reminisced of days gone past that had defined Iraq, whilst the younger generations hung in cafes, sipping tea or coffee while shouting with their friends at the t.v in the corner. I didn't do either, but my reliable sources are my brother (the cafe is in all practicality his home) and old neighbours/ my new friend- the old man of the corner shop. He decidedly wanted all americans out- he missed all his family who had relocated into Jordan for security reasons.
Today I also noticed that the usually cheery, and often wide awake iraqi army troops looked tired and on edge. The reason? They were worried of the backlash. This caused me to further speculate into some 'ridiculous' claims that had been made as soon as the agreement had not been signed. These claims? That the agreement had actually been signed, but the government wanted to grease Moqtada Sadr's gangs, and ease their, well, anger.
Touta silently guffawed at such rumours. Another, was that Washington had already decided what it would do regardless of whether the Iraqis signed or not. This was not such a laughable rumour, and was rather depressing.
As the day grew longer, the conspiracy theories stretched further and became more imaginative. At one point I felt like saying "Israel has dibs on Babel, according to the agreement, and they signed it!", just to see how far it would spread. But around an hour ago, the child like excitement of everyone seemed to fade away. Most of the rumours were laughed at, and discarded carelessly, while some rumours have been circulated on national news.
To tell you the truth, I don't think anyone cares for any rumours any more, or talking, or anything really.
We are all just holding our breath, silently waiting, silently clenching our jaws, as uncounted days pass by. Did I mention, an excellent occurance has occured, because of the tangible atmosphere of improvement, people are slowly beginning to remember normality. It won't be long until I can actually start to have a 'life' again. Not that I ever had one to begin with-my boredom just increased over the past few days because of the tension. Actually boredom is the wrong word to use, its not boredom, as much as a feeling of confusion and pure emptiness.
Personally, I blame the iraqi flu. Its so vicious it makes the day pass dizzily. Well, either that, or I need to start organising my hectic sleeping times. Why do I sleep in the awkwardest hours? Well the story began with the warm hug of the duvet at 8pm. I get so tired, I end up sleeping from 8-12. Then I wake nervously at 12.30am, remebering the work for the next day. Oh well, its 9.00pm now, and I may succumb to the warmth of the hug of the duvet again. *Snorrrre*
(I think the word *snorre* excellently sums up this slightly political post about what was supposed to be a momentous day...if you get my drift).
Saturday, 22 November 2008
Now for today, I woke up quite late- almost 12pm, that's actually quite early for me. :D
Anyway, after yesterday's fiasco, everyone had gathered around the tv to watch the debate in the iraqi parliament (majlis), in the evening.
So sitting on the couch I am surveying the iraqi channels. My nana, sister and mother have all gone into the kitchen, and I guess that my uncle and brother are outside. My father and grandfather have decided to walk to the shops. leaving me all alone with the t.v remote, which I can't help but smile at. So, I decided to change the channels,and see the views of each of the iraqi channels, concerning the military pact.
Al sharqiya, Al Iraqia, and Al Baghdadia al show the same events taking place. The camera is focused on a balding grey haired man, who is making large hand gestures, and is throwing pure distilled rhetoric at the guy sitting in the high chair. the rhetoric is full of grandeuar and self righteousness. The guy in the high chair,clearly gets bored and asks the former opera singer "Eee, Leash tham rasak?" - translated "Yes, why hide your head?". Basically the parliamentary official is being sarcastic to the rhetoric guy. Writing whizzes across the bottom of the screen, informing the viewer of yet another economy crash in yet another country.
Al fayhaa has a different part of the meeting. It is quite funny- I think they have chosen the funniest parts. It looks like the guys on the high chairs- the official, are playing muscal chairs, a lot of them get up, and swap chairs. A guy in a suit is now replaced by a guy wearing the shia turbans. The guy in the turban is now shouting at an unseen member of the audience. He exclaims "Mu ibkeefak azizi", which basically translates as " Its not up to you, my dear". Yes, these are actual iraqi parlimentary officials.
I finally encounter Al Forat channel. This kind of shocks me. there is no news whatsoever about the agreement, and instead, there is a cleric being questioned by iraqi youth. First he talks about how coloured hijabs and decorated jubbas are wrong. The colour and decorations attract looks. then he says it is preferrable for girls and boys to dress modestly even in front of the same sex. A guy stands up from his plastic white chair and basically asks him what the hell he is talking about. The cleric replies that there is all girl parties, where the girls go to and dress up in tight revealing clothes and dance. The guys eyes light up, then the cleric warns that these are wrong and hypocritical. The guy sits back down smiling nevertheless, and writes something down on a clipboard. The camera then turns to the women's part of the hall, where the women are listening intensely. All wear hijabs and jubbas, but many of them are clutching their handbags pretty tightly. I actually start worrying about the safety of the cleric, because these women look like they are about to inflict some serious damage.
I finally end up on MBC where another turkish soap opera begins with its wailing songs, and gun shots. Silently I wonder why women are watching this over here, when our actual lives are a lot more dramatic than all these soaps put together. Only difference is, our lives doesn't have a music backing track.
Friday, 21 November 2008
Today, I had the intention of going to the mosque. Recently I had talked with someone, who reminded me of the all too real sermons at the mosque, and their sometimes ridiculous views, and I wanted to remember said sermons, but I couldn't. So I resolved to go to the mosque and silently listen and note exactly what was being said, and the views of those around me.
So, in preparation for the mosque, I washed and wore a long dress. Obviously no jeans and tight clothes were welcomed in mosques, and I didn't feel like attracting more glares and whispers, after the laughable first day of school.
Since the dress was strapless though, I had to wear a cardigan in the blazing sun. I honestly had expected it to rain. Anyway, travelling by car is a nightmare, I have waited at the endless, unmoving petrol queues, where 13 year old boys would try to sell you cold pepsi while you silently simmer in the heat , and frankly, I would rather walk, despite the dangerous implications that comes with walking. But then again, what isn't dangerous nowadays? Getting into your car and driving may mean that you are hurled into heaven at the speed of sound, and all that is left is the charred frame of the car. Getting into a taxi may mean that you are kidnapped and held for ransom, and walking, may mean that armed gangs will stop you in the middle of your leisurely walk. Then again, you might just live. And for that reason, I refuse to confine myself to the house, but prefer to wander the streets, surveying the smouldering remains of metal car, and listening to the wails of the annoyed housewife concerning the fact that the water has been cut off mid shower...
Anyway, my parents, siblings, grandparents and uncle all headed, walking into the main street. it took us around 15 minutes to get there. Then a taxi would take us near to square of Firdous , and near some mosques.
Less than half an hour later, we were at square of Firdous . And in the middle of what would unravel to be a pretty funny demonstration. We went quite early in the morning, and as soon as everyone had realised what would take place, plans were made to send all of us home. So, two taxis were called, my grandmother, mother, sister, father all got in, leaving me and grandfather and uncle to get into the other taxi. But we didn't. My uncle had spotted one old acquaintence and had stopped to talk about what most 26 year old iraqi men consider themselves to be experts at- politics. This would no doubt take a long time. So I used this oppurtunity mercilessly to convince my grandfather to let us stay in square of Firdous . Amongst the answers of "Its not safe out here for you" and " you could get killed or kidnapped", I managed to guilt trip my grandfather to allowing me to stay- after all I was denied the mosque visit. As well as that, i got the distinct impression that because my grandparents hadn't seen me for soo long, they would quite easily crack under pressure. And I used the excellent argument of " I could be dead any minute, at least let me have the satisfaction of saying I was there when that event took place, otherwise I would die with no achievements in life". I know this was cruel to the point, where it was evil, mentioning death around family and seeing them wince made me mentally slap myself for being so insensitive, but it was too late. i had said it, and my grandfather was convinced.
Now, it turned out, after walking a while, that there were plans for all muslims to pray together. Men at the front, and the women behind-so the men wouldn't be perving on the women as they bent down to pray. hahaha. Well, that's the reason I got told when I first asked why men prayed in front of women. I think i was about 11 at the time, and didn't get the meaning, but I remember the exact statement, and how the woman was trying to put it into a less vulgar way. I get it now. 6 years later.
Unfortunatly, i had given the hijab for my mum to take home with her, as the mosque trip was cancelled. So basically I wouldn't be able to pray. I was silently thankful. The floor was sandy concrete, and some of the men had purposely waited behind silently for the women to start praying first. but perhaps it was just my imagination.
Anyway, the demonstration got on its way, and again I stuck out ridiculosly. Most were men at the demonstration, and the other women were clothed head to toe in black. We stood calmly at the outskirts, as we watched a group of youth shout insults unneccessarily, in rejection of the military pact. Then we saw some guys doing, what can only be described as semi dance, semi jump towards the floor, it almost looked like a iraqi variation on the russian cossack dance done whilst they were on some halluciogenics. It made me giggle amongst the insults and chants.
Anyway, group by group, different 'sects' wandered into square of firdous. Each carried certain pictures and banners. It was quite fun trying to identify them, and naming each one a silly name. Though I did this mentally- I didn't want to find myself being heard by any. I even came up with some names for the foreign/american vehicles that worriedly passed by every hour or so. How did I name them- according to who was sitting on tip of the vehicle. Shallow to the max, but it spent my time until the real action began- which was the shouting and running.
This consisted of a guy baiting everyone about how we were betrayed by the government, and how America would stay to only kill more and rob iraq the chance of becoming independent. Then the people would rush right into the centre of square. they would then jump, whilst chanting. To each group there was a distinguished chant. To the Shias, it was about Muqtada, To the Sunnis, it was something about the government betraying the people. Anyway, everyone got along fine, as a mutual hatred bound both the shias and sunnis. Yes, nothing would bind these two sects apart from a mutual hatred. How typical. And quite cool in a way. We would have to find something which all iraqis hated to really bind this nation.
However, when police and the national guard started appearing, i got told it was time to go. And I think that it was- the crowd had become slighlty frenzied, and at one point I feared they would turn against each other. But they didn't. They continued to burn american flags. Just before I went, I heard a suggesting shout of "why don't we burn the english flags?". This was answered with "what english flags?". It made me laugh. I had to ask, where did this vast supply of american flags come from? My uncle relayed this to one of his friends who replied " we take them from the americans ". I laughed so hard, I had to wipe a tear away. the guy just carried on grinning. I really did want to know where though. i found it all just strange.
Anyway, I had not brought my camera, as I envisaged that i would visit the mosque and come home. Shame really, I haven't had a picture for such a long time. Walking out, we were met by some of the iraqi police force, and some militias who had joined to the iraqi police force. It was quite endearing to see gangsters and police working together hand in hand. Or rather gun in gun. each carried a AK47, pointed at the floor, which still made me shudder. It could kill.
By the time we left, the demonstration was now a demonstration worthy of mention. People were being shoved, the crowd looked like they simultaneously jumping together, an doll was being carried by waves of arms to the center of the square..it was almost surreal to watch. One of the guards/militia men decided that he would accompany us to the head of the street, for our safety. He kept chewing, and asking where I came from. We kept answering baghdad, and he nodded in clear disbelief. "No, kurdistan" he said. I pretended to look shocked at his very incorrect analysis. "Yes". My grandfather then clearly coughed in annoyance and stared the guard up and down. The guard then said ma asalaama (good bye) and scurried off. (Oh, and I got told that he guessed kurdistan, because most girls here don't wear bright colours, and usually have hijab, or uber long plaited hair.)
I wondered if a girl wearing a abbaya and hijab would have been offered the same treatment. Secretley I loathe that depending on what you wear, you could get killed or protected. For example, if I had worn what i wore today, to say, a more holier place in Iraq, I would probably have found myself being buried into the ground the next day. I kind of understand now, why some girls chose to wear a big black sack, to make them undistingushable to the outside world. Almost hide them. Sometimes, I do want to hide.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
I thought I would tell an iraqi fairy tale.
Once upon a time lived a king. he was old, and his greying hair was falling onto his thick robes, which were filled with glittering jewels. One day, when he counted that his 99th hair had fallen, he called his son, the prince.
Now, the prince was spoilt in material wealth. Not only was he an only child, but his mother's death meant that he had little emotional support through his life. His father was generous, and all lands were at peace with his country. The prince would often watch his father shower gifts among his people. But the King's one shortcoming was that he never taught his son the gift of love.
As the prince stepped into his father's court, the father thought of how brave and handsome his son was. After a moment of silence, the King stepped down from the throne and held his son. " Son, I am old and grey, and your time on the throne approaches. However, first I ask of you one thing. Before I hand you the crown, I ask you to find a wife, so that I may live to see my grandchildren before I lie dead in the cold embrace of death".
The prince smiled. All could see that the King had many years left on the throne, but it was clear that he only wished for his son to take the throne. "Yes father".
That night, as the prince lay awake, he thought of all that he had. He thought of all the fine carriages, of the robes spun with threads of the finest fabric. What would a wife bring he thought? I need nothing. So he resolved that he would marry the woman who offered him that which he did not have.
The next morning, the prince rode into the city. He declared his intention. Soon, the news spread like wildfire.
The entire evening, the prince spent sat in a tent where the women would present their gift. They came from all over the land. Spices, Silk, and coins lay at the feet of the prince, scattered as if they had no value.
Outside, only three girls remained. They had been friends since childhood, and each gave the other encouraging words.
The first girl came in. To the prince she offered cake that would never finish. The prince thought. It had been the most interesting thing all day. the prince replied:"But why would I need cake that never finishes, if I have a kitchen that is so full of food, there is barely place to walk? Soon I would tire of the taste of the cake". He rejected her.
The second girl offered the prince a embroidered rug that changed its pattern every day. The prince sat up in his chair. "Every day? There is no doubt that this rug is fine, but something that changes its skin so often cannot be relied upon". With that she too was rejected.
Finally, the third girl came in. The prince asked her what she had to offer. After thinking for some time, the girl replied " I will bear you twins. One a boy, and one a girl. One will have silver hair, and the other will have gold hair. When I wash their hair, the water will turn to silver and gold."
The prince's eyes lit up. This would mean that his country would never run out of supply of coins. And having children? He had often envied his friends who spoke of their 'angels'.
"Yes. I will marry you. Do you have anything you wish to ask?". The third girl remembered her friends outside in tears. She asked that they be brought to live in the palace. It was agreed.
10 months after the prince's marriage, his wife was heavily pregnant. The princess was loved by all. her innocence and kindness won the hearts of all the palace and the people. However, her friends had watched in envy for many months. Although her friends were given the finest rooms and clothes to wear, their hatred burned brighter and brighter as the princess's stomach grew.
The day of the coronation of the prince came. The king wiped away a tear as he saw the happiness in his son's face. The news came that the princess was giving birth on the same day.
As the princess was in labour, her two friends cloaked themselves, and visited a poor pregnant widow. They spilled precious gems and silk into her hand, and carried away two silent bundles.
Soon cries of babies were heard, and celebrations rang throughout the land, not only for the coronation, but for the two new royals. Meanwhile, in the palace, as the midwife carried away a boy and a girl, she was met menacingly by the two friends of the princess. They snatched the babies out of her hands and placed the two silent bundles. They then paid the midwife all the money that they had hoarded, for her silence.
When the prince, now king, asked to see his children, two lifeless bodies lay before him. Rage and anger consumed him.
The two friends carried the actual children of the princess far away. At the coast, they saw an old wooden barrel. They placed the golden haired boy and silver haired girl into the barrel, and threw it into the raging sea. Evil smiles were stretched in their treacherous faces.
Back at the palace, the King felt betrayal. He stormed into the chamber of his wife. She had lied to him. As he looked at the two bundles, he shouted and cursed. Where was the silver and gold hair that she had promised? He told her, that if only they had the silver and gold hair, he would forgive their deaths. The princess wrung her hands in despair. "Those are not my children!" she cried again and again, but to no avail. Why were they dead? The princess was sure she had heard their tears!
The next morning a solemn crowd had gathered outside the palace. It was rumoured that the King was going to kill his wife...
The king marched out, accompanied by his old father. He addressed his people. As an example of how he should never be betrayed, he sentenced his wife to be buried neck deep in sand for the rest of her life. Tears silently streamed down the princess's face, as they dug her living grave.
The babies in the barrel had by some miracle survived the grave that the 'friends' of their mother had devised for them. Waves brought the barrel to the coast safely, where an old poor married couple lived. They heard the cries, and rescued the children.
Through the years, the children grew. One day, after receiving a good pay, the elderley man declared to his golden and silver haired children of the sea, that he had brought water, with which they could wash with. Before, they had been too poor to have such a luxury. As the children washed their hair, the couple watched in terrified delight, as they saw the dirty water transform into liquid gold and liquid silver. As the water cooled, the elderly couple were left with a black of pure silver, and a block of pure gold, both too heavy to move.
The couple started selling and buying more goods, and before long, they found themselves in the highest cirlces of society.
One day, at a party held at the palace, the elderley couple arrived. They didn't bring their children,but they spoke openly of where their wealth had come from. Many of the upper class had laughed at them, and proclaimed them to be mad, but they ignored them all. The rumours of this 'mad couple' and the cause of the wealth was gossiped all around the party, until it reached the king's ear. With urgency, the king rushed to the old couples side, and fell to his knees. "Tell me, please, can I see your children?". The old couple looked at the sadness in the King's eye, and told him the story of how they found the children. The king listened in dumb shock. Stuttering, he asked them the date that the couple found the children. They replied to the king "the day of your coronation".
With almost fear the king jumped up and ran to his buried wife. He started to dig her out of the sand with his bare hands. Soon, he carried his aged and weakened wife. Crying, he told the whole palace of his mistrust and hatred, as he sentenced his wife to a fate worse than death. the couple cried and immediatley called for the children. As the king and his wife saw their real children they hugged. The king stooped to his knees and begged forgiveness from his wife. The queen replied that she had her children and she had the love of her husband. That was all she ever wanted out of life....The End
Even at the time when I was told this, I wasn't sure of the moral of the story, but I was told, that the moral of the story is forgiveness and patience. Although secretley, I hoped that the queen wouldn't forgive the King. Being buried in sand for ten years, then forgiving in a minute?
My ending would have been, Queen says to king " I'm filing for divorce, and I'm taking the children.".
Hopefully though one day, I hope that part of my pessimism washes away, and I would believe in fairy tales and happy endings, but right now, I prefer the bitter taste of reality.
Monday, 10 November 2008
That was understandable. But what isn't , is the fact that my parents cancel the trip to Baquba, and two days later, bombs explode. I know its expected, but the fact that life here is constantly on the edge is horrible in the least. I'm suprised the nation as a whole is not on drugs.
As well as that the normality of this situation is what annoys me the most. People who go to bed at night worrying about money, what they will do tomorrow really cannot appreciate the feel of life here.
After the sound of explosions, people will usually look up upwards, mutter something, then resume what they are doing. Now I know this approach is better than mass hysteria, but the loss of life here has been taken as an everyday occurence. And that is what causes me heartbreak.
Another thing that annoys me to no bounds is some of my 'friends' from abroad:
'friend': " yeah, but you have to admit, its better now than in Saddam's time", to this statement, I cannot help but reply:
"a) neither me or you truly knew iraq in saddam's time so how can you judge? I was a child and you were in a different country.
b) how the hell do you know its better now? Drag your ass to baghdad and tell me exactly how better it is.
Of course, this approach and answer has not increased my 'coolness' or popularity at all. Oh well.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Before I digress any further, I am going to have to chronicle the events of Monday, even though I have avoided it as a) I don't want to ever think badly of iraq. b) I don't want to ever be one of those whiney high pitched people. Ever.
Monday started off with high spirits. I enjoyed my trip to Baghdad University on Sunday, and was still giggling over some of the conversations I had with various students (revolved around euphemisms, half of which I didn't get at the time. I've been out of touch far too long). I went out on the roof, because it wasn't raining. I remember going to the edge of the roof and stretching my arm. I really wanted to reach the palm tree that looked like it was only a few millimeters away. I think I managed to stroke one withered leaf. I then got a call from my cousins. They had no water, and there were traffic ques all around their house. Something about pipes was all I really got. So I informed my mum, who then told grandad. Within minutes we were all running round filling water bottles. The plan was for my brother, uncle and dad to take the water. My uncle was in Baghdad centre, stuff in traffic. My brother was at his friends house, no doubt playing on the playstation. We couldn't get hold of either of them, so I volunteered to help take the water to my cousin's house.
Sitting at the back of the car, I listened to music, as the traffic seemed to engulf us in a pile of angry metal and horns. After 2 hours, my dad left the car to walk and see what all the traffic was about. Another hour passed until he returned with no news whatsoever, apart from an angry red face. Then we all got out of the car. Unfortunatley, a motorbike whizzed passed at that exact moment, and I was elbowed sharply in the back.
Then men completely in black with yashmaghs covering their faces suddenly appeared everywhere. They carried guns. No suprise there. Three quarters of the population carry weapons. Nevertheless, everyone immediatley quietened down. This was beginning to get quite eery. Luckily however (after an initial hour show of machoism at its best), one of these 'militiamen' ( I really have no idea who they were), laughed out loud. they said they were making sure no attacks took place in the traffic queues. I think one of them gave a lollipop to a baby that would just not shut up. After some time, we finally reached my cousin's home. To find that the front of the house was engulfed in water. The drainage pipe had burst. Why? I have no idea, and at this point I didn't care. the whole infrastructure of Iraq is at best shaky and unpredictable.
Now I have a bruise on my back and my shoes are soaked with weird stuff. They were good shoes. :( My bruised back is annoying me and making me as cranky as hell. I can't lean back on the sofa, and going to sleep today will be a laughable matter. I usually fall off beds, and I can't sleep on the floor, as its cold hard marble. I am contemplating being awake all night. I'll be able to watch sunrise.
In two days I'm going to Baquba. All i remember from my deceased grandparents from baquba is that my grandmother favoured my brother, and my grandfather favoured my little sister. I used to have competitions with the next door neighbour to see who could blow the biggest bubble. And I remember another neighbour. Current news of Baquba? One of the most volatile areas in Iraq.
And from what I remember, quite conservative. Unfortunatley, I have nothing conservative to wear.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Friday, 31 October 2008
I saw the abandoned/closed iraqi theme park in Baghdad. A lot of it looked ready to use and so cheerful amongst the sombre buildings around it, and the fence around it was definatley not a fence. It was a prison. Maybe I'm being too melodramatic, but the bars around the park just vividly made me picture a prison.
When it was time to go back, we also had to get a taxi. However, the driver insisted that I was to sit in front. He said that it would be less likely to be stopped if a girl sat in front. Then he kept asking everyone's name. Then our ages. Then which school/university we went to. Then he kept smoking. Like a chimney is an understatement to how much he smoked. And he hadn't heard of deodrant. All I could think about was opening the door while it was moving. Unfortunatly the worst was yet to come. It takes no more than 10 minutes to our neighbourhood. He took winding paths and kept changing the gears every few seconds. Then kept opening and closing the glove compartment to get water. In fear that he was paying more attention to the glove compartment than the road, I held the water. Then he stopped drinking so much.
After that taxi ride, my nana talked for a hour and a half on how the manners and etiquette have deteriorated.
*Grin*.Managed to get a blurry photo from the ordeal though.
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Walking up to my grandparents house in the cover of darkness was slighlty reassuring. The first shock was seeing that the house next door was now a rubbish tip, filled with feral dogs.
A few seconds later, the gate opened and I rushed in straight away, failing to notice that I had jumped in the garden in my eagerness. Many flowers lie trampled in my agitated wake.
I saw my nana first, and after kissing me she immediatley commented on the length of my hair to my mother. " You are nearly in university and it just reaches your shoulder toutaaa! You haven't been eating properly either! Come eat!".
To myself I thought, yup, that's what is important right now. Iraq has a probably corrupt government, and Baghdad feels like a ghost town whose spirit has been chained up, there are nightly bombings, none of you here are safe, but, the important thing is the length of my hair.
But to tell you the truth, I immediatley scolded myself. I love them so much, that I promised them and myself that I would grow my hair so long that I can use it as an abbaya, (I can even cut a box into my fringe where my eyes can peek out of, or I can go for the cousin Itt look-google cousin itt on images- Addams family).
They looked at me for a while like I had lost my mind (perhaps I have?) then told me "laaa" (no) they just wanted it as long as all girls my age..(i.e veryyy long).
Dolma and Chillifry and Bamya, Biryani, Tepsi, Maqlooba, Durshana (yay finally!) , and a host of other dishes greeted us. All made by my nana, whose cooking is perfection. :)
Nine plates later, everyone is talking. My grandparents have bought a pc for my 26 year old uncle, but he has been too busy 'socialising' to set it up. For all you unlucky non-iraqis out there, when the word 'socialising' is used to describe an iraqis guy activity, it basically means scowling the streets with friends to find a suitable girl/job/cafe.
Have you ever been so drowning in emotion and nostalgia that you just stare blankly? That is the best way I can describe my current situation. My older brother is busy drinking a 2 litre bottle of sugary pepsi, and my little sister (14 isn't thaat little, but her behaviour is... ouch, that was mean touta.) is sleepy, so naturally I have volunteered to set it up.
Half an hour later, and I have joined onto the nearest wireless network, and am busy blogging, while family continue talking. My grandfather has appeared, and soon he will tell the tales of his life. Too exciting to miss, so I bid the internet adieu.
P.s. Forgot to mention, that although I love Iraq unconditionally, the weather is schizophrenic.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
After waiting 2 hours at border control in the seemingly endless queues, we were immediatley stamped and shoved, after I told my parents to"بحبحوها", which translated means to 'ease' it. Basically give money out to the workers, so that they get to work faster. I heard mutterings and occasional laughter that we were going back. Hmm. Not a good sign. I am now at the Syria-Iraq border, and you can literally feel Iraq looming behind all the guards and barricades. Through the unmoving, deadly silent traffic, everyone waits.
Its unbelievably cold, and only a few minutes ago I started opening the bags of luggage, just to find something to keep me warm. Currently, my mother and sister are asleep, my dad has wandered somewhere, and I can hear him heavily debating politics with someone, and I can see the shadow of our driver leaning outside, talking to a man who has a lorry full of water.
I feel extremely disorientated, and frankly I can not get to sleep, despite the lullaby of snoring around me.
I'm not sure whether this is sunrise or sunset. I have waited almost a day to enter Iraq, and the most annoying thing? I have counted up to 5 military cars driving up and down across the border.
I hear the cries of babies throughout the record long traffic line, as well as the complaints of thousands of iraqis, syrians, and other quiet dialects which I can't make out in the hushed silence, who have been in this forsaken no man's land for apparently days on end.
After scrambling out of the car, everything feels even more weird, as there's no lights whatsoever, just the barely audible whispers of hundreds of people waiting. And not to return to Iraq.
I almost fall as I walk, having spent over two days travelling either by car, airplane or bus. After being motioned to come over, by an old woman wearing completley black, I kind of feel awkward, and oblige unwillingly, (but not before nudging my mother awake). Apparently its sunrise, and today is Monday. She talks about everything and nothing, and then after a while asks me my age. I reply, after not having said a word for half an hour. She gasps dramatically and makes me say "wallah" (honestly). " You seem and act much older". Frankly I have no idea how to answer to this. How is a 17 year old supposed to act?! If I so much laugh higher than 1 decibel I get told off for being 'childish' and attention seeking, and if I act like myself I get told to loosen up, and enjoy myself.
What the hell?! I loathe the rules and ettiquette of iraqi families. Especially with regard to females. They expect me to be a 'lady', and then tell me I shouldn't take everything so seriously.
Well, old woman, I DON'T CARE.
I obviously need sleep. I am getting waaay too cranky.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Anyway, the venue is kind of split into three sections; the women area, the men area and the everybody else area. Since the rule of thumb is that you cannot sit with the men or the women unless you are married, me and my friends were left hanging in the middle of a cold corridor.
Whilst in the cold corridor, I resorted to doing what I do best; listening ( that is, eavesdropping).
Basically, my father was talking to the son of the brother of the aunt of the mother etc... of Nuri Said. And the funniest thing is? This guy literally announced his entrance into the party, mentioning to everyone his 'lineage' or rather how he was related to Nuri Said. A 20 year old girl from Al Hilla kind of leaned and asked me if Nuri said was governing Iraq now. Ermmmm...
Apart from that, the party was great, and people from every ethnic group (and religion) from iraq was present, and guess what? No one fought.