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

8 comments:

C.H. said...

Well, it sounds like you had a good time at least, even with all of those events :D

One time I went to the mountains with my family to stay at a log cabin, and the "shower" consisted of a 5 gallon jug with lukewarm water, LOL

Hmmm...I'm going back to the mountains again this year, but this time we are going to stay in a Mariott Hotel in Lake Tahoe. Hopefully it will be a little more comfortable!

Late last year, I visited a mosque and after prayers, I was invited to eat with the worshippers. They had a similar setup as the villagers in Diyala did, haha. So I can relate to how you feel :)

pepe said...

Hehe, looks like an episode of The Simple Life.

touta said...

c.H.,
It got better,soitsallokay. And i thought the point of going to the mountains was to experience nature...not five star hotels.hehe.

Pepe,
Haha. Shudder. I can't think of the simple life without wincing in horror. :D
I think that its because they live so close and place family life as a first, that I was completly clueless. All i can say is I'm glad I didn't fall head first into the spread. :D

Najma said...

I'm glad you made it okay.. I really don't envy you. I'm sure I would've left hungry. I can't imagine eating without a fork, let alone without a spoon nor a special plate!
And the shower!
Really glad you made it okay :D

touta said...

Najma,
its rude to completely not eat, so i didn't have a choice. It was only one day, so i'm not as traumatised as i thought i would be. hehe. :D

BAGHDADENTIST said...

Hi Touta,
i kept laughing after reading your post coz once happened to me when a Sheikh in Al-Ramadi invited us (my father and bother with me) for lunch.i was 16. i couldnt eat by hands,the rice was escaping from my fingers so that my hand reached empty to mouth.there were no spoons.it was so embarrassing and difficult.but i learned something about others traditions and life,more experience.

BAGHDADENTIST said...

Hi Touta,
i kept laughing after reading your post coz once happened to me when a Sheikh in Al-Ramadi invited us (my father and bother with me) for lunch.i was 16. i couldnt eat by hands,the rice was escaping from my fingers so that my hand reached empty to mouth.there were no spoons.it was so embarrassing and difficult.but i learned something about others traditions and life,more experience.

Touta said...

Baghdad dentist,
haha, it is embarrassing and difficult. at least i am not the only one. I do have more experience about other traditions, but i think i still will drop eevrything if i try again. hehe. Thanks, touta