Tuesday, 30 December 2008

1429/2008: what it brang

As i sit on my bed, I think about my relatives and the people i have met over the course of my life, that have managed to bring a smile to my face, and giggles in my throat.

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

Bush in Baghdad

I will mention the shoe incident, forever preserved in history, but first, some good honest complaints.

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

Of Cats and of Men

I was going to write about eid in baghdad, but I need to finish the diyala thing. Well almost finish it. So i think this may be the last post on Diyala, and if you want more, you can ask. ;)

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

Souks, Sheiks, and a lifetime of embarrassment

So, next day in Diyala, I had the pleasure of visiting the souk. It was male dominated, with a few black clad abbaya women, dragging their children through the toy stalls.

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

Don't fall in!

I'll start with the first night I spent. After reaching the relatives, our family was immediatley separated- my brother and father was dragged into the depths of the house, and we were led to the kitchen and an adjoining room.
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