Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Fool's paradise

I'm not the same person i was, this time last year, and i am definatley not the person i want to be. Yet anyway.

The problem with making your own decisions in life, means that you will spend at least 6 months dealing with everyone talking at you - I took a gap year, a big no no it seems to Iraqis.

Maybe its a big no no to lots of people, but i've noticed arabs are particularly against delaying anything...in fact i'm not sure how many times i've been patronised by the same sentence "but why waste a year of your life? You're a woman and you've got a lot of things ahead of you, and women age quicker..." and so begins my eyebrow raising expressions, as i try to understand exactly why what I choose to do is any of their buisness.

I dont understand what the rush is for. But i've come to the conclusion that we (iraqis in general, or maybe just my family?) have a certain outlook in life, which is achieve as much as possible, as quick as possible....perhaps its that atmosphere of death always lurking, or perhaps its the pessimistic 'we could die any second' mentality.

Aside from those pondering thoughts, I witnessed something funny in the middle east charity thing i went to. I'm not sure that it is funny - in fact its not, but for some reason, at the time it happened i was overcome with laughing at what i couldnt believe was happening.
A verbal sparring match occurred. The sides were marked as so: Palestinians and lebanese vs egyptians and jordanians. The topic was about palestine/israel, and somehow the whole class got involved apart from a select few.

Some colourful language got used, and i couldnt help laughing, or trying to imagine how and if the insults they were using were possible...;) It carried on for almost half an hour, with myself wondering if i should try to break up the verbal insults. But i was too busy giggling. Unfortunatly, one of the lebanese guys (in his 30's) saw me giggling, and decided to rant at language like that being used in front of girls, and consequently he walked me out of the room.
In the end, tattoo iraqi guy interfered too, and the politicial 'debate' died down. (but you could still feel the angry atmosphere in the room).
On re entering the room, i had to bite my lower lip so hard, to stop the inevitable bout of giggles that bubbled in my throat. I think i succeeded, apart from a few moments when i couldnt help giggling at everyone's faces.Though i covered them up with coughs.

What my point in telling you this story? Well, it got me thinking of the political situation in the middle eastern countries, and it unfortunatley reminded me of this quote:

"Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country."
Ambrose Bierce

Merry Christmas and Happy Ashura.
I'm still trying to figure out who has better voices- the sufis, or the latmiya during ashura. Hmmm.
oh yeah, and someone called to tell me my phone is (finally) ready, but i forgot which of my friends i gave it to.....hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Inquest

Whoever tells you that humans all have te same value and are all equal are lying through their innocent teeth. As much as i wish for it to be true, the reality is, it will never be.

Whats brought my mini tirade of politics- well The Iraq War Inquest has begun, and suprise suprise, the results are disappointing.
Wait, no they're not disappointing-they were expected. I expected it, but wished for it deeply to be not to be true. I wished deeply to have my faith in equality restored.

Alas, it was not.

One thing that annoys me to no bounds, is when someone looks at me patronisingly and wonders why I am not grateful for the War.
Now Read that sentence above slowly- who in their right mind would and could ever be grateful for a war?
To make my viewpoint more clear- i do not believe in sacrificing human lives. Lives cannot be measured in quantity - the death of 10 people is equally as devastating as the death of 1000. I refuse to put a value on human life. (quantity is not quality where life is concerned).

Whats even more annoying is the clarity of how unequal we are. I'm not going to lie here, or even try to be politically correct.
Its so blaringly obvious in politics, its depressing.

As this inquest progresses, all that seems to be clear to me, is there never was any intention to 'rescue the iraqis' until the terrorist attacks occured. Is anyone really suprised?

Who cares anyway? The baddie got killed, the revenge for the terrorism was brought, and armies got to test out their new toys and flex their muscles. Never mind the thousands that got killed...or the aftermath.

It was too late. It was too selfish. And it was too ignorant.
Did anyone even know where Iraq was on a map? Did they know of the suffering? Did they realise people died as families brought medicine from the black markets, that were actually little more than aspirin and flour?
Of course not.
For all your objections, the truth is, the average person did not know. They lived in a hyper world, being pumped by the media, that the upcoming War was fighting terrorism. It wasn't. It was a piteous revenge. And IF there was any good intentions, then why did it take so long?

But then my annoyance slowly fades, and i ask myself, am i truly that naive, to think that when our own government and people, lied and lie, will continue to lie to us (past, present and future), that other governments will always tell the truth?
Maybe i'm just overly pacifistic? Or overly trusting? Two qualities which perhaps are going to get me into more trouble than i'd like. :D

Political rant over. I think. I'm not sure, maybe I'm just annoyed.

In other news - mmmmmmm, i'm too tired to carry on and write personal stuff. I wouldn't know where to begin. :)

So i'll stick to the required:

Happy Eid!!

(and my sister informs me there's something called thanksgiving now as well, so happy thanksgiving).

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Your Name

I was staring at a guy when the memory came flooding back. He gave me a smile, and i turned away, half trying to smile back, half not caring.

Why did I remember now?

It was 1995 perhaps, where i made my first friend- my first friend who wasn't part of my family.
I walked into the gates, and so began my first ever day at school. I sat next to a girl who looked at my shoes and told me they were pretty. I grinned at her and repeated the exact same compliment she gave me- without even looking at her shoes.

I remember the classroom being hot and cold at the same time. But it was generally a lonely boring first day at school. I lack the excitement that everyone else seems to have experienced on their first day.

It was the second day at school where i made my first friend. He was sandy haired and had weird coloured eyes.
I remember him extending the hand of friendship and asking me if i wanted to be friends. i doubt i even knew what friendship was, but who wouldnt happy to rush home and tell everyone they have a friend? We spent the entire day together and i remember fun, arguing, and being taught how to throw a ball. It missed the hoop, but his laughter still rings in my ear, as i said it was easier to hit him with the ball then the hoop.

Our friendship grew and grew and we both ended up in little bubbles...i'd wait for him until he finished football with his male friends, and he'd wait for me while i talked about dolls with my new girl friends.

Soon our parents got to know each other, and i remember one car ride where my mother told my father that his family was Jewish. I had no idea what it meant, and i bugged them until they told me it was a religion. When i asked what 'religion' was, my parents sighs told me straight away that i wasn't going to get an answer. Now i realise there is no answer to that question.

We starting going to each others houses, and running in to greet each other. I remember his older sister looked his exact opposite. In fact, he looked like no one in his family. My eyes kept flitting between him and his sister and parents. Though i was smart enough not to ask him if he'd been found in a bin like i had....(i had the stupidity to ask my older brother where i came from, before i asked my parents...this meant i spent most of my childhood convinced i was found in a bin, as my brother so convincingly lied).

The first time I went to his house, he rushed me upstairs to his room. I sat on the bed, swinging my legs and looking all around his room. It was a messy room. He was busy looking for something, and his face was full of concentration, his seriousness made me giggle.
Out of the wardrobe he took out a neat straw basket. The basket was lined with a pink sheet, and in it lay a beautiful baby doll. Under its head was a pink pillow, and a small pink duvet lay on top. The cutest thing, was the doll had a hat, he removed it once he saw me staring at it. 'She got cold in the wardrobe so i put it on'.

There was a silence where we both just stared at the doll in its pink bed. He looked up awkwardly and said 'Its for you'. I stuttered and replied 'me?'. He pointed at me and smiled and gently put the basket and baby in my lap. i stopped swinging my legs, and he sat next to me on the bed. 'Actually my sister said the baby is mine and yours, not just yours'.
I reply - 'so its ours?'.
A nod follows and we both end up happily smiling at each other. I dont know how long we smiled at each other, but i remember thinking it was long time.

He then helped me off the bed, and as i kissed the baby, he told me so seriously 'when i get bigger and cleverer, I'll look after you, and you look after the baby'.
I grinned, but a second later i frowned...'who will look after you?' i asked him earnestly. I don't remember getting an answer, maybe i did, but i forgot what he said. I keep straining and i honestly cannot remember.
The next thing i remember is him showing me his talking toy, which scared me.You pull a string in the back, and it talked in a weird voice. He hit it for me, and i laughed at how limp the toys body was. Suddenly i wasn't scared.

We made sure the baby was sleeping and we tiptoed downstairs to play in the garden and eat various sweet things.
In the garden we had a water fight, where i used a bucket instead of those plastic water guns. This meant i ended up sloshing half the bucket on myself as i struggled to carry it to wherever the hiding spot was.

I remember when he came to my house, i taught him how to eat ice cream, and i introduced him to jigsaws. I loved jigsaws. I still love jigsaws. I gave him one, but i remember him telling me he would never open the jigsaw until i go to his house, so we could do the jigsaw together.(meaning i would do the jigsaw while he talked)
He checked up on the baby every time he came, telling me i needed to wash her clothes, or i'd been buying her too many toys.

We moved so quickly i don't even remember saying Goodbye to him. My parents don't remember his family name- he had a weird family name - it was probably hebrew? I alone remember his first name.
We never got to do the jigsaw together.

Today, I couldn't help interrogating my mother. She doesnt remember his family name, and my heart sank. The prosecution of minorites in Iraq wiped out a lot of people, and gangs do have a habit for targeting the guys in the young adult age range.
In my mind, as various horrible scenarios creeped in about what could have happened to him, i remember asking him 'who will look after you?'. Still no answer.

My mama tried teasing me about him, usually i would deny everything vehemently, or perhaps go along with the teasing and ask for her blessings. But this time, i was quiet. I'm never going to be able to thank him for being my first ever friend.

She added 'Touta, he moved out of Iraq. His family is in London. I heard about it when we were in Diyala.'
My mind blanked for a few seconds...what?!
She laughed and told me..'as long as you're alive, and he's alive, you might see each other one day. Life is strange'.

I went upstairs into my bedroom. I went into the corner of the room that's hidden. On top of the boxes, there's a basket. The basket is angrily frayed everywhere...but inside, the baby sleeps silently.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Iraqi Relationships

Iraqis must enjoy pain. The have to, because there isn't any other reason for it.
The relationship between males and females in Iraq,is laughable. According to many people, it wasn't always like this though.

I'm not going to try to blame it on the guys completely though...girls in Iraq are paranoid. It was hard enough for me -a girl- to make friends (no, its got nothing to do with my occasionally abrasive personality :P). So guys getting a girlfriend is naturally going to be much more difficult. Generally in our society, girls keep to their family, family are their friends. So breaking into their world, or even getting an iraqi girl to talk about something personal is quite a task. And you honestly wonder why friendship or any type of relationship is difficult between opposite sexes here. Not to mention the mentality that friendship between opposite sexes is impossible. The guys don't help either by being overly predictable and sexist-even if he claims he isn't.

1. No Pain, No Gain:
this relationship is basically a guy and a girl becoming girlfriend and boyfriend. Don't get too excited though, this relationship is usually one sided, and revolves around keeping in touch by phone calls, soppy emails, and the occasional meeting. This type involves constant arguing and falling out. It rarely develops further than the shallow stage, and each side constantly tries to win one over the other. Its basically a power struggle, where each side go through self generated 'heart ache'.
Unfortunatley this type of relationship is the most common in iraqi society.
It usually also involves the girl getting annoyed she's not being showered with attention 24/7, and it involves the guy being permanently pissed due to sexual frustration. May end in marriage if guy's circumstances are to the girl's liking.

2.Sexy Time:
This relationship usually revolves around...well, lust. This is almost the rarest type of relationship (suprise suprise). This relationship is usually initiated by the guy, and rarely involves each side talking to each other normally.
Instead it involves boring sentences spattered across talking about sex, arguing about sex, and eventually having sex.
You iraqi guys should beware though...the girl is prone to having her feelings grow, and then you'll really be screwed when she confesses her love. As soon as she does, iraqi guy will pick up his dishdasha and run faster than you can say 'Commitment Crisis'.
It won't be one of those fun 'no strings attaches relationships' either. The guy will be permanently trying to get the girl in bed, and the girl will be constantly trying to get words of love and romance. Neither really get what they want, and end up secretly harbouring anger towards the other. Though i suppose once issues are resolved anger may turn to passion (?).

3.Familiar Friends:
This relationship is a friendship between iraqi guys and girls. It will be full of hypocrisy as the guy in this relationship will always be judgemental and at times tyrranical. The guy will eventually drop hints at you to stop speaking openly, wear more modest clothes, and learn how to do housework.Its more than probable he'll always nag you on how to pick up girls etc. Though he's only trying to be 'like your brother' and 'advise' you. In other words, the girl is supposed to shut up and listen, and preferably have no opinion of her own, and accept his proud objectification of women. The girl in this relationship will eventually start avoiding the guy, using such excuses as 'people might get the wrong idea about us' etc. But really its because neither side put effort into the relationship..the conversation will almost always revolve around family, jokes, politics etc. Deep conversations? Unlikely.

4.Marry me!
This is a relationship that involves each side shyly getting to know one another. It then follows by underhand glances, and engagement, and then marriage. It mainly involves a lukewarm passion, based on a foundation of appreciation of one another.
At the begining years, neither side will actually know the other, and you'll get a distinct feeling that each person will always withhold a part of their personality from the other. i.e. they won't be able to completely be themselves around the other. As the years of their marriage progresses, they'll know more about each other etc, and live the standard iraqi marriage life.
I suppose planned marriages also fall in this category.

This is the rarest rarest type of relationship between guys and gals. Even rarer than the sex relationship. In this type of relationship, neither guy or girl will have to think about what they're doing with the other..i.e. they can be completely themselves without any barriers. Of course Love exists in different ways, and so the outcome of this relationship also depends on the type of Love involved.
If its the passion roses and rainbows love, then it may result in a loving marriage if each side sacrifices certain things. It depends on each situation as to what will have to be sacrificed. Sometimes everything may be sacrificed, sometimes very little will.
If its not that type of roses love, then it will probably end in the most solid friendship you can ever find, a 'connection' type friendship.
Either way, this relationship is perhaps the nicest in that it lacks the arguing, which is otherwise vastly present in all other iraqi relationships.


Do we need a social revolution? Well, the news flash is that we have had several social revolutions since the war, each worse than the other. Though as a nation, we've never actually managed to have any good social changes...

*feel free to correct me, i am simply just writing what i see (and we all know that our eyes can deceive us...) :)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Arab Association (part 1?)

It was one of those old rotting red building which look gothicy, but actually look really good when you compare them with the blocks and straight lines of houses everywhere else. The constant spitting rain and grey clouds lulled me back into sleepiness. I spent the next few hours wondering why my need for self gratification through charity had over ruled my need for sleep.

Walking in, I had no other thought other than the fact that i was late but i was the first one there. Its a course which teaches first aid etc with an emphasis of all charity work we do during the course being directed at helping the hornets nest of woes that is the middle east. Am I cursing the middle east and the grandfathers and uncles of the middle east for making my life so tiring? Yes,i am.

We're taken to a room where we can sit down, and the seating arrangement is around a large circular desk.
Everyone sits down, and i can almost laugh if it wasn't all so ironic.
at one side of the circle sit-
-emiratis (2 girls with bright coloured jilbabs flicking manicured nails left, right and center);
-saudi(a guy wearing sunglasses indoors);
-kuwaiti (2 guys with wackiest hair sticking out at unnatural angles).
Followed by
-egyptian (vodka lover);
-jordanian(2 guys swearing extensively).
Somewhere in the middle of the circle is us 3 iraqis..(me, long haired tattoo guy,sad poems girl), then next to us on the other side sits ;
-the palestinians(a newly wed woman, a gangsta palestinian);
-syrian (talked about UN and tibet);
-and lebanese(sport addict and said he 'loves girls').

For the next half an hour, everyone's busy talking.I and poem iraqi girl end up listening to iraqi guy showing off his large and bold black tattoo spiraling down his arm. (Well done, you have a tattoo. You're so bad and such a rebel. Oh you're so cool). After my mental sarcasm, i couldn't help telling him my granny had more tattoos than him.
He then proceeds to show us; his earrings (which one do you prefer? he asks us..), and his necklace, which he tells us he never takes off. For some reason, i wanted to move his necklace to see if it had become glued to his skin by some chance.

The organiser threatens us all that we're going to be placed in random groups next time. Clearly someone's unhappy of the way we all huddled into gangs.

That really wasn't worth me waking up early for. I can't help but wonder how the conversations going to go when politics come up. I'm going to stick to the 'why can't we all love each other and live in peace' phrase, and hope everyone gets bored enough to never talk to me again.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Its been one year since my first post here.

I can't remember who i used to be. Does that mean I haven't changed? To be honest, my thoughts haven't changed. I still think the same, only now there is a darker (*halo flutters uncertainly*) edge to my thoughts.
My personality is different to my thoughts. I used to show off. I used to not care about anything beyond what mattered to me. And i used to have one bad sulking tantrum after the other...
Now I'm suprisingly calm. I seem to subconsciously take out my anger on ripping paper into shreds. (its a vast improvement to my previous breaking things habit..)

This blog and the people i have met throught it has changed me in so many ways, its almost unbelievable.
I started as a 17 year old, whose main purpose in life seemed to be to finish all the school work, and read. It was supposed to be a diary, which i can re read and laugh at, if i ever got bored.
Instead, I ended up with a different perspective on almost everything.

I, as well as almost everyone who knows me, will realise i think too much.Maybe i'll change that some time soon...or maybe not, i'll decide later.

"The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel".

It seems horrible to either live by thoughts or emotions. I do occasionally worry that one day i'll retreat into my thoughts, but i'm far too talkative for that to actually happen. ;)
I wonder why I manage to laugh so much these days, when I've come to the realisation that my life is a mess. Perhaps i love Messes.

I want to say I have the same ambitions and dreams that i used to, but i've become a lot more realistic;( my dreams as a little girl were to bring world peace and harmony...thankfully life isn't that simple).
My main ambition now is to be happy and bring happiness to the people around me, (although i warn you not to mistake me for being generous..i just don't like hearing people complain :P).

My thoughts before were always so mundane and boring. Seriously, had you been in my head a year ago, you would have tried to scratch your way out of my skull. The only interesting thing i thought about, was what if i had chosen to lead a traditional simple iraqi life. It would have been so simple to live each day as it came.
Now I feel like i'm drowining in knowledge. I know so much more about life and people now, that i sometimes just sit and giggle with glee over this, ( i don't really. honestly i don't..)

Ok, I don't think i've changed supremely since last year. My writing seems to have taken a more depressing voice sometimes, but personally i'm just proud i haven't given up.

Oh oh, I also won best post for September 2009, from Iraq blog updates. :D
*bows amongst the deafening roars and thundering claps*

And my other achievement...I managed to write this before it became 10th of October....oweee my fingers hurt, i rushed it in five minutes because i got caught up watching a film. :(

(and talking of achievements, Iraq won 3 medals in the Pan Arab sports league thing. :D)

oh and thanks to everyone. And special thanks to some ;) you know who you are. hehehe
(i'm kidding, special thanks to all...)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Memorable Mistakes

Waking up on a wet bed is not nice.
Don't get the wrong idea, i love practical jokes, as long as they don't interfer with the little sleep I do get.

'You look ill'. I do indeed. I've been mourning the loss of my nails. On Friday they were so pretty and long and nice. Now, my dear nails are nothing less than chewed and neglected. I don't even remember biting them off so viciously, but I suppose i have a vague feeling of when i did attack my nails.

Before I get too sidetracked, I realised how much posts i've neglected to publish.

I've learnt a lot, honestly I have. So here's a lowdown of the mistakes I made, that I can remember in chronological order-

Making fun of Hussam
I used to hate him and his greased hair and sleazy bedroom eyes in his music videos.
As you can realise, i didnt actually listen to his music and just hated his stereotypical personality. But after hearing his songs at every possible turn, i gave up, and thought; 'what the hell, this hussam guy can sing!'. i'm unsure whether my mind is tricking me to make me feel better about having to listen to his songs every hour, or whether he really does have good songs.

I was also unsure of how people could dance to his songs. well, the general rule turned out to be- just jump everywhere, and call that dancing. I still wonder how cool it would be if someone remixed one of his songs with rock music. I think the combination of jumping dancers, drum beating and his whiney voice might actually work.

platonic doesnt exist
After the few initial first lonely days in Baghdad, I made new friends, since my childhood friends all seem to have moved. Unfortunatley, i learnt friendliness has its price.
Here you must realise i mean friends in the boy-girl sense manner.
Our neighbours sons were kind of egotistic. They had taken the machoness, and beefed it up to a level where it was cheesy. One afternoon one of the sons asked if i would be his friend.
Of course! I replied. Then he walked off, and i waved smiling. Its nice to have friends....
A few days later while dragging my sister and cousin to the corner shop, we passed the usual gang of adolescents with their coughs and fiery cigarettes. As i walked passed, one of them elbowed the other, the other one pointed and me, and then one of them said -'heeey heey, thats mustafa's girlfriend'.
Their conversation that followed was loud whispers as to whether they should ask me or not.
After a quick mental scramble, i decided they meant girlfriend, not girl-friend. I wondered what to do, and then decided on what i usually do-nothing.

You'd be suprised how i didn't learn a lesson from this. I would keep thinking that they meant 'friends' friends, only to realise a week later, thats not what they meant. I remember thinking- 'screw it, let them live in their own little world'. I also remember that a lot of people told me to 'use the opportunity'. What this meant was to get them to help me educationally, or send me phone credit etc.
Urgh. The idea disgusted me then, and disgusts me now, and more often than not, I ended helping them with their maths and english and work, because i realised very quickly, they spent their time on everything but their already fragile education.

never stay in the room with your aunts and mum
ahhh, when all the women of the family gather in a room, you have no idea what they start talking about. I considered whether raising the volume of the tv to block out their talk was rude or not. That day, i felt myself actually blush to the point where i started stuttering when i talked. My sister was scarily enjoying the conversation, and i decided that i really did need to see a psychiatrist one day.

never enter a room full of foreigners in your homeland
i did once, and now i realise the folly of it. It was in the international zone, but i dont recall much of that day apart from waiting endlessly bored for my father.
I sat in a room completely full of british, american, philipino and some other nationalities. I was the only iraqi. I concentrated on the murky depths of my coffee, but a conversation caught my attention. It was a british guy(soldier? contractor?) talking about something or other. His conversation then turned into making fun of iraqis, and laughing loudly. Everyone else was quiet, and one of his friends oh-so-discreetly nodded in my direction.
"she's iraqi?". He almost saunters towards me, and i meet his gaze. Then he points at me and shouts "Iraqi? Baghdad? You?". He points more on the 'you'. Instead of showing him that I do have the ability to understand, I nod silently.
Then he cracks a few more jokes. I stare hatefully at him. He then says- 'i betchya she's f****** saddam or one of them guys'.
this took it to a whole new level, and I get up (knocking my poor coffee all over the table. There goes a dollar or two), and i reply 'go f*** yourself, because no one else will!'. And i stormed out, pleased at hearing the laughter of everyone in the room.
This event is oh so memorable because, aged 16, it was the First time I ever used the F word. Out loud anyway.

You can't handle the truth
I'm a terrible liar, and its because of that, I cannot be bothered to lie. I'd have to remember the lie anyway, and to tell you the truth, my memory resembles that of a senile 98 year old granny.
When i was asked by people about my opinion on certain things, i simply told the truth. Unfortunatley, that created problems for me. Ranging from people from university following me home, to rumours. You'd think i would suffer from privacy issues, but instead i seemed to become even more carefree.I suppose having a bad reputation means you don't have to meet anyone's standards apart from your own.

Sleepy Street
I know walking around in daylight in your pajamas isn't the 'norm'. But I've done it before in countries ranging from Turkey, to the UK.
I have family (grandparents, aunt, uncle) that each live around two houses away in Baghdad.
If they called on my mobile, that meant i was to wake up, and go straight to their house. Sure. That meant i wouldnt have to do anything apart from lie under the air conditioning.
They rang, i sprawled out of bed, and decided to make my way to their house in my pajamas. They were nice modest comfortable pajamas.
On walking through the door, and seeing their faces, I made a quick mental assesment of wondering who i had murdered.
Walking in your pajamas is a big bad no no.
I'm not sure why, and everytime i asked, i got the same reply of 'we'll tell you later'. Now I'm beginning to suspect that it was all an elaborate hoax or practical joke.

Freedom in Iraq
I admit it, my parents give me the independence i argue for. But woe befall me should i mention the freedom i do get to other iraqi families. Then everyone else ends up thinking I am either some poor neglected child, or that i am a hardcore rebel punk.
I'm neither, I have earned the trust of everyone around me, simply by being the most boring and sensible creature to walk this green earth.
:D or so i seem to my poor unsuspecting parents...(mwuhaha)

So those are seven of my sins i made.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Lunar Year

I got reminded and the realisation couldn't have made me more happy...

I've been blogging for a lunar year. When the actual year anniversary passes, i think i might actually set off fireworks.
You may be wondering why this seemingly overreaction at my blog's anniversary...well...the truth was i never though i would last. :D Talk about lack of faith.

I was going to write a whole how i've changed since my first post, but, i'm going to leave that for the actual year anniversary.

I've got many many stories and stuff to tell, but for some reason I'm actually too busy to sit down and write them..*cough lie cough*. Fine... i screwed up my finger and had to have stitches, and now every letter i type brings a whole new meaning to the word 'pain'.
I would tell you how i cut my finger so badly, and it would probably make you choke with laughter, but of course I'm embarassed. =D No, really, shameless touta is actually embarrassed.

Where was I? oh yes, I was guilt tripping everyone ;) Perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic about the pain thing, but it does hurt to use, since it is my first finger, which is the most active member of my typing.
Its taking such a long time to type this.

I rediscovered how much I shudder at Karl Wolfe... I recently heard not one, but two of his 'songs' played loudly, and at that moment, I think a part of me died.

i didn't really understand what there was to dance too (the 'music' or lack of it), yet i was still subjugated to scary looking women barking at me to get up and dance, as they jumped around, bumping and knocking everything over.
I actually wished they were in abbayas, then at least their dancing may have looked graceful, covered by billowing black silky fabric. But no such luck, they all wore metallic tight dresses and shook their long excessively straight hair in a way that would embarrass any 'gypsy' (iraqi slang for slutty girls in music videos who shake to the music-i'll leave it to your imagination as to what they 'shake'. hehe actually its only their hair you one track minded people! :P).

I found refuge by walking outside and making calls. Unfortunalty i couldn't hear most of what was said - loud music, loud laughter, loud crying...there is honestly only two tones of speaking for iraqis: loud and louder.

Lesson of the Day- my silent smile and nod tactic backfired, as one woman shouted across the room to my mother - 'is your daughter deaf? she might be DYKLEXIC ya habeebti, get her tested', followed by her pinching my cheeks in a way that meant i walked around cursing violently in my head as the pinch stung for minutes after. I felt as if she had just announced i should be tested for a sexually transmitted disease, as pairs and pairs of eyes glanced at me quickly, and then looked away with the same lightening speed. And no, I wasn't imagining it.
I had to bite down my tongue pretty hard to stop myself from telling said lady it was her fault i couldnt hear anything (she arranged the seatings and made me sit next to a blasting speaker that was over half my height), and that being 'dyklexic' has nothing to do with deafness.

But in my head, the 'what i want to do scene' was brutally crushed by social etiquette, respect for elders, and generally an 'i give up' attitude.

Off to dream now..Good night. :)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Don't you forget

I'm at rest. I've made a decision. :D

Other than that, life is becoming pretty much unbearable to the point of i'm walking around the cold cloudy nights. At first I used to love the sheer amount of bright orange lamps, lighting up every meter of where i wander. They used to look like fiery jewels above my head.

Now they're just a nuisance, blocking my view of starry nights. Blocking the quiet dark. I have to learn to stop comparing countries. Iraq's dark and somber, but I could see the stars twinkle above me. Here I have everything, but its the small pleasures that i miss, such as the whining stray cats, and the buzzing of electricity appliances on the brink of breaking with the ever stopping and surging of electricity.

And the stars. I miss those.

I actually managed to convince myself for ten minutes that the twinkling and moving red and yellow light in the sky, was not an airplane but a star or a planet. Then i dragged myself back into reality (unwillingly).

I'm back to learning the piano, but suddenly, its taking up a lot more of my time. There's an eery feeling of change. I've changed.It suddenly seems as if everyone is annoying me, and the truth is, i don't think i'm looking forward to taking life seriously. I know i should, but i always prefer to float through life.

The other day i was stunned into one of the most gut wrenching silences ever.
'Which life do you prefer? The UK life, the Iraq village life, or the Baghdad life?'.
For the first time in my life, i had the horrible soul sinking realisation. I have a split life, a split mind. A part of me cherishes each one. A part of me hates each one.I wonder if a mixture of the three is possible.

Do I even have a life?

*shouts of 'get a life' touta!*
haha. Funny how i don't think i want to change a thing. Apart from perhaps learn to be patient and sleep a bit more.

pondering life.....
The Decisive one

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ramathan in Rusafa.

Ramathaan in Iraq has its joys.

Being shaken awake at 4am to gulp water, was not something I looked forward too. Occasionally this dangerous job would be allocated to someone who wouldn't be shouted at by sleepy people. A few times i choked as my sister helpfully poured water into my mouth as i slept.

I remember the men of the family grudgingly walking off into the mosques. But their return was always happy, and it wasn't to do with praying or the maginficence of the building. It was definatley because of the chatter and laughter of the gathering. Jokes, losing at chess and verbally showing off your children is the gist of what seemed to happen in the men's mosque. My brother bored me to tears continually talking excitedly of cars and guns he and his friends had discussed.

When my mum repeatedly stressed that I go, I did. There was a shop just a few centimetres from the mosque. I took my little sister to it, who to my frustration could not make her mind what to buy. The guy questioned why she wasn't fasting. I stared at him for quite a while. Without saying anything, i walked out, my bright gold hijaab trailing behind me.it looked like fluid metal. Reading the quran and listening to the Imam was something that we were bribed to do. The guys got colourful guns, and the girls got flower hair clips. Occasionally i was emotionally moved by the passion of the Imam's voice. It would quiver and choke in the silence, as he talked of how everyone should give money, as orphans starved and had no joy.

Sneaking past the men's section once, meant that i saw the act that the middle aged guys all did. Each competing against the other to give more money. It was almost laughable, but since the money went to charity, i suppose its a good thing. Their jumping up from the floor, their leather wallets in their hand readied. It almost looked as if they were going to fight.
The older men sat on chairs, in the middle of the hall. Prayer mats folded neatly at their feet, their sibhat (prayer beads) furiously glinting in the neon light, as their skilled fingers flicked bead after bead, or their hands twirled the beads round and round in a hypnotising action.

The young guys were always outside the mosque. I realise now that perhaps it was an act of rebellion. At the time i thought that it was to do with the endless cigarettes smoked. It gave a surreal look; puffs of cloud snaking around, with the multicoloured lights illuminating the smoke, making it look like a genie was about to pop out and grant all my wishes and dreams.

Back to the women's section, the women would endlessly try to get rid of their children, to the extent that they managed to get a toy room built. It was a good toy room.
Their talk would start of religiously, all filled with Inshallahs and Alhamdullilaahs...but then would inevitably lead to their husbands and children. There was 2 groups, those that complained about their family, and those that boasted about their family. The they'd talk about cooking. I'm almost sure that every time we visited the mosque, my mother would leave holding a piece of paper, with another new recipe, that wouldn't quite work. It was fun making it while not being able to taste it, so there would be too little salt, or too much sugar. Hunger meant it was eaten anyway.

After the mosque, we would either have people at our house, or we would go visit someone's house. The three or four hours until sunset would be spent half watching cartoons, half excitedly talking about plans for eid. The girls, myself included, all happily helped in tidying up, all the while talking and laughing endlessly.After tea, we all seemed to get really tired. Me and my friends would trudge upstairs, only to be bombarded with pillows by my brother and his friends. Unfortunately, after a vigorous pillow fight, the tiredness combined with the pillows littered on the stairs, meant that the younger children would just sleep on the stairs, surrounded by pillows.

The last few hours of the night were spent coaxing children awake, and sitting on the steps planning revenge.

During Ramathan, Baghdad always seemed so brighter and more colourful. Everything had a new appeal. Shoes and Clothes looked better in the shop windows. The air seemed to glitter, as fiery lanterns and metallic decorations hung on rackety stalls, ready for the inevitable end.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Bored I am

I'm alone again. I’m 18 :D. Its 6am, and it seems i have developed a very bad habit of staying awake until the sun slashes the sky with red and orange.

I lack passion. It seems everything these days seems so trivial and meaningless to me and i don't know why. I swear I’m almost approaching a catatonic state.

The romantic heavens opening each sunrise to let your dreams wander above, the deep prayer call resonating in the dark, the red and orange landscape fused with crumbling but proud buildings. Your senses are always assaulted by the most overpowering scenes and smells. The dream like state you feel yourself in. The list can go on forever, and you would still not understand.

At the same time, the very things that i hated, are the things that i secretly long to see. I want to see the tiny lizards walking on the ceiling. I want to see the layer of red sand that would engulf every possible thing. Swirling sands keeping the whole city still. I want to feel the waves of heat that tire you out, before your day has even begun.

There is no place like home. I have learnt the majority of Iraqis have a love hate relationship with Iraq. But what that really means is we yearn for Iraq. There is no hate, just an empty resentment that life couldn’t be different. That it’s taking so damn long.

I lost my flag the other day, in the mess of travelling. I felt such a deep remorse, that i would have grieved for it, and wore black for a day. The badly sown piece of fabric had been with me for so long. It had re enforced me through times of feeling lost, calmed me through irrepressible anger. It almost seemed to define who i was at one point. Everyone has something which reminds them of their very foundation. I went on a mission to find another flag. Every day i became more agitated. Almost afraid that if I didn’t replace it, i would lose my identity.

The queues are endless, the vocabulary of the people now resembles a almost South Park-like frequency of swear words. Baghdad has piles of rubbish rotting on pavements in most areas, even next to some of the most prestigious hotels and streets. Old men sit on white plastic chairs, sipping tea whilst commenting on the messed up generation of today. Young guys walk around street corners irritably, as if waiting for something that will never happen. Girl’s loud laughter rings through your ears, as their strong perfume wafts into your nose, even though they are meters away. Children sell you sweets or cling onto their mothers, their eyes yet unfilled by a childhood lost.

Is it possible to love something that brings back so many bad memories? That leaves a bitter taste in your mouth? And instead of any emotion, all you feel is a longing? Passion? It is possible, though at times, it would be easier if it wasn't. Iraq is the first place that i learnt how to smile. How to laugh. How to see beauty.

I often forget, amongst the sour scenes of Iraq, we all learned to appreciate life that little bit more with every round of gun fire, with every smashed window, with every dark stranger lurking.

It also instilled this great fear in me. This aching fear that i need to do everything now. Achieve all that i wanted now, before i ran out of time. Do good, do bad, be stupid. I rarely thought about anything, and acted on impulse. (I still do, these days, it seems i have no moral sense of right and wrong anymore)

These days are Iraq is seen as a political orgy. I rarely see people refer to Iraq as a country, a Land, a Home.

My Home.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Almost Asleep

Done. I don't know how, but i've finished.

I'm supposed to be packing, but urgent matters need addressing first, such as sleeping. Something i don't remember doing for at least 2 months.

Mother quote concerning my sleep deprivation: " you have the eyes of an old woman-no an old man! " (عندج عيون مرأة عجوزة، لا والله ،عيون رجال عجوز، )

I'm sleepy, but Sleep refuses to enter my bed chamber, and instead stands in the door frame in the depth of the night, creepily teasing me with its shadow.

This is why i look forward to going back. The waves of heat induce sleep whether you want it or not, and if that doesn't work, you always have the option of being sent to sleep by the lullaby of cursing traffic, humming generators and the distant voices of strangers.

The past days, the only thing i accomplished is probably arguing with everyone within a one meter radius of me.

I'm not looking forward to tidying the bomb ravaged mess that was my room. I haven't seen the carpet for too long a time. As for the paper perpertrators of this heinous mess, I'm going to destroy them, and the bitter memories of stress that they hold.

I'm Happy. I've realised i stopped caring months ago, and it feels blissful. I don't want to lose this euphoria. Not for a long time.

Its the imminent joy that comes of not knowing whats happening around you or in the world. The evil glee of not caring what people think anymore. Choosing how you act, what you say. Its my freedom, and it seems almost out of place sometimes, but then i remember. I really couldn't care less. Life's too short. :)

'I'm about to lose my mind,
and i think i like it.'

Livin' La Vida Loca....

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Love to leave you baby

I sat on the table swinging my feet, which came nowhere near the ground, and I'm leaning forward, my neck bent down. I could feel my hands clutching the side of the table unnecessarily hard, and my hair falls around my face, plunging my eyes into darkness. I concentrate on the strands of my hair which occasionally move, everytime someone walks past. The surroundings blur.

"Hey wacky iraqi, you're late again!".

I've never been on time for anything in my life, and i mean that with utmost sincerity.

I hear a laugh, and realise that its mine.

I jump down from the chair, mentally cursing the fact that I’d worn heels in a vain bid to reach the unnatural heights of my English friends. Ouch i repeat for 10 minutes, although i cant keep a straight face as i complain.

After three hours of wistful wandering, we end up in the same place we started.

"Man i can eat a horse" comes the voice of guy 2. Rather untastefully, he put on a french accent while saying the sentence. Apparently a french social stereotype is that they eat horses. News to me.

We crowd round a white plastic table. There's around eight of us around a table for four. We spill onto the pavement.

"Thats it, Mcdonalds.".

I sigh inwardly. I still don't see the appeal of mcdonalds, apart from the brightly coloured toys.

The next two hours spent in Mcdonalds is officially one of the strangest times i have ever spent. The conversation revolved around how Mcflurries are in fact made of creamed lard and sugar.
As i walk down the stairs, i feel a flush of guilt at the mess left behind, although i actually made no mess, and spent 5 minutes convincing the group to bin their trash. No luck, it was left on the table.

"what do you think the cleaners are for? they should work for their money" someone joked.

The rest of the day passes like a dream, where i was there, but i felt as if i was a mere onlooker. Even the photos are hazed, and i look positively as if i'm in a far away place in my mind.

I was aware of a strong shower, where there was no time to seek shelter. I was aware seconds later the sun brightly shined, apologising for its absence, and warming our soaked selves.

I don't rememeber talking much. I often think so deep, i stun myself into dumb silence, and i cannot recall how many times i've been told this is 'unhealthy', but i really can't help myself.

"When you leaving then?".
I smile, and reply "soon".

Twenty minutes are spent with my group, recalling moments that they've shared with me. I'm silent. What am I supposed to say?

Sudden synchronised ringing of mobile phones begins. Our ringtones making a delicious harmony despite its extreme variety. The ringtones vary from my Nathem el Ghazali, to 50 Cent's Candy shop. The music rises up into the air, accompanied by a cold breeze. As I leave I get kissed and hugged by teary girls.
A few of the guys cough, and pat my back so hard i almost fall over.

I may never see any of them again.

Actually, I probably will never see any of them again.

A guy hugs me, and i'm in midway between shock and indignance, because well, I was caught off guard, and I have enough problems with Culture shock due to consistent travelling.
A photo is taken while my face is still in silent shock from said hug.

me:"errrr that was weird"
"T its not weird to miss your closest friends *cough* "

Iraqis always have to leave. I always have to leave.

Is it bad that when i walked away, I felt nothing. Just nothing as usual.

Monday, 4 May 2009

No thanks.

As i sit here listening to 'zedene' by kathem el saher, i can't help but type to the beat as i sway my head.
Yes, the stress is clearly getting to me, as i get concerned looks by my head swaying. "Want to join the sufis Touta?".

Anyway, I shall share some occurences, that i wanted to type up, but just didnt have the time or ambition.

My relatives managed to gain a win, where i was concerned. At first I should explain, amongst iraqi families there is an ongoing battle to who can control, and decide the future of the children. Recently my father had to spend two hours arguing with his cousin, over why he didn't want me to get a tattoo (the tribal ones). This whole episode began when my grandmother (Allah yirhama) once asked my father why i had no tribal tattoos. I sat and listened to this surreal conversation (have you ever seen a 80 year old woman telling her granddaughter to get tattoos?), it went along the lines of my father telling my grandmother, that the tribal tattoos were outdated, old and had no place in modern society. Annoyed, she replied I could always get colourful, pretty tattoos like the american soldiers had. The conversation ended with, 'she's not old enough'. My grandmother made a snorting noise, and remarked that in the days gone by, girls my age would have been running a house.

Notice, that my opinion was not actually taken into account. Nice.
So, this argument was once again brought up, and it was funny watching my 'modern thinking' father trying to find any excuse to stop me from having circles and lines tattooed onto my ankles and back. One point was something about HIV, and i had to suffocate a laugh. Unreal.
After this conversation ended with silence, and tension, i think it was my dad's aunt, who then questioned why i didn't have my hair dyed blonde. This time it was my time to choke and throw any arguments.
Two hours later i am sitting freezing cold, while old women are putting a gooey substance on my head. Worry not though, it wasn't blonde hair dye. It was Henna. By some miracle, they managed to convince my parents to have henna put on my hair. And all my arguments, and objections were quietened with shouts of approval and 'its good for you'. I honestly felt like crying and/or screaming. 'Its only going to make it tinted red' whispered my sister, 'don't be such a baby'.
She wasn't the one who was going to end up looking like Bree from Deesperate Housewives.

I heard my mobile singing 'Ashgar bil Shama' in the distance.I relaxed slightly at the song.

Eight hours later, and three buckets of boiling hot water later, the women, as well as a small boy, were looking at the efforts of their work, unsatisfied. The Henna had doen nothing. Not even a red tinge. Nothing. This was pure henna, that could easily dye afros to flaming red (i've seen the proof). I couldn't help laughing with relief as well as bemusement. But to my relatives, this was a challenge.
The whole next day, was spent dyeing my hair twice with henna, and leaving it on overnight. By the end, they had dyed my hair three times with henna.
You can imagine their suprise, as they dried my hair, and it remained the black it had always been. I giggled, and unsteadily swayed (sleep deprivation).
They have their theories though, old wives tales cover every possible aspect of life. So once they decide I'm not the awar al dajjal, i'll get back to you on their predictions of my future.

And lastly, i am not sure whether to be offended, or shrug my shoulders and realise it was inevitable- the Pope will visit Palestine and Jordan, but has ignored Iraq. I never liked him anyway, (Pope John Paul II was undoubtedly better), and nor does most of the teachers and monks in the catholic school. As i recall, catholcism has had its fair share of 'things evil and inhuman' (iraqis have impossibly long memories). Remember St Batholomews massacre? Each religion has its problems, and dark patches. So there.

Now back to listening to why my hair didn't dye. An old woman coughs that at least the henna has made my hair healthy and shiny. Yes, so shiny that it now looks like a greasy wig.
Oh look, they're now using my hair as a mirror. Well, at least some good came out of it.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Classes in Iraq

I miss my iraqi classmates.
I did spend almost all of my secondary education in the UK, and it wouldn't really be interesting to tell you about it- it was stereotypically normal, with funny times, bad times, and times when i wanted to scream.

However going back and experiencing education in Iraq, was surreal. As you know, I stopped going to a certain school, not because i got kicked out, not because i was a menace, but because simply the education system was failing, and still is.
Being tutored was not fun. Not fun at all. But time goes by suprisingly quickly, and i now find myself facing the last high school exams. Then university. 'wooh'.

At first, I tried hanging out with my cousin's friends...they even took some time off university to try and help me intergrate into the class, and i am forever grateful. I got a thousand questions asked, although they all comprised of the same 'Why?'. It was different being in an all girls school, and seeing their attitude to society and life scared me out of my skin.

But despite my lack of being able to converse with any girl, i had deep respect for all of them.
In their short lifetime, they had experienced and done so much more than some 90 year olds i had met.
They would look after younger siblings, clean the whole house, revise until late into the night, put up with war after gunfire after explosion, and they had the guts to have dreams and ambitions in such as a place like Iraq.

Here is my class, they have stereotypical groups as well as defined personalities, and as i visited more schools and universities, it was clear that any stayed in their respective groups.

The baby sitters-
these girls were supergirls. Seriously, they had more skillz than a football player on steroids. If you had any younger siblings who would not shut up, hand the screaming kid to them, and within seconds they were turned into gurgling angels by the baby sitters. Their manners often puts ghandi to shame, although i occasionally found their excessive patience and niceness scary.

The fashionistas-
this group were constantly told off for wearing hair bands that were too colourful, or socks that were too bright. They would walk around in high heels, although you could tell by their swaying walk that these 'heels' were only a recent addition. They were the first girls to talk to me, although after finding out that my interests resembled conversation other than about what colours go with green, i was duly abandoned.

The rebels-
this was the next group to take me in after the fashionistas realised i liked books. These girls were funny, but at the same time were rebels without a cause. They didn't speak out against anything, rather they didn't always do their homework, wore lipstick, and generally looked moody at all times. Though underneath that exterior they were all girls which were lost amongst the craziness that is life. They would have 'relationships' with boys- i.e. texting, secret calls and small gift giving to each other. Made me realise that the reason they were like this, is they had no idea what life was about and needed a purpose.

The mothers-
the group that weasled me out of the rebel group. These made me smile with their optimistic outlook, but at the same time infuriated me by their overly motherly personalities. They spoke like my mother and aunt do, rather than teenagers, and generally would never leave me for a second, out of fear and worry that i might get lost in the three rooms and courtyard that was the school. I kind of worried that they had had no childhood to turn out this way.Had the view that girls should never speak, approach or look at any males. It was funny watching them during physics lessons, where their heads would never actually look at the male teacher.

I just sat there. I tried to contribute to class discussions, until i realised that schools in iraq, had no such thing as 'class discussions'. In iraq, its called speaking in class, and you get told off for it.
I realised that many girls had no idea what i was talking about half the time, because they weren't used to sarcasm. I got many lectures about slowing down (I really had no idea what they meant by that, but i've decided perhaps they meant i talked too quickly?).

At the end of my time, i was planning to make a CD, but many girls didn't use computers that much, and i ended up printing photos of the year and giving them to my clasmates. It was fun, and quite touching. Girls that had been warring with each other for years hugged each other while sobbing their apologies, and i sat on the steps while smiling to myself. I may never see any one of these girls again, and i can't help but wonder about the lives each one of them will lead.

All in all, I would like to thank these girls for teaching me about optimism, humour, persistence, and i have to admit, that the so called 'worst' girl in the class was an archangel compared to me, as each girl would tell me the 'horrendous' reputation of N and S and L, i couldn't help but smile, and tell them that they were angels. Because they all were.
It only saddens me that they had never realised their own strength and value, until i told them story after story about how other girls live their lives, and how they would never revise for 7 hours straight, or spend 3 hours cleaning after sand storms.

And this is the impression I got after spending less than 3 months with them. And you all know what a harsh judge i am...

So girls of Iraq, congratulations on your lives, and i hope the rest of your days brings you hope, happiness and health.

The weather is quite sunny with a breeze, and i have managed to convince my class to play volleyball. There's no net, and i had to borrow the football from my neighbours, because i have managed to accidently throw my sisters ball into the road (where we witnessed its demise as a hummer flattened it), and i lost my brother's basketball in that big rubbish tip down the road (don't ask how).
They know the rules, and the game comprises of just laughter and arguments amongst the class-its not actually a game. Half my school clothes is covered in dirt, because there's no grass-its mud, and i keep accidently hitting people when i serve. The result being is that everyone thinks i have an anger problem (I SAID I DON'T HAVE AN ANGER PROBLEM!! :D).
We're all tired, and we end up trying to play football instead, because naturally its much easier. Goals are made from whatever is to hand, although the goals are ridiculously small. We laugh at the goal size for five minutes.Photos are taken by mobiles, and the ball rarely moves, as it stays in the middle as every girl tries to tackle it off each other. I leave the game and try to referee after i realise all i am doing is laughing and falling over. I'm an exceedingly harsh referee, so harsh that i interrupt the game almost every five minutes and find faults. I am sacked as referee, and have to act as a center player. I kick the ball and the game goes quite as we all watch my purple trainers fly off into the distance.
Two goals and three flying shoes later ( one belonged to S, one to Y and one to D), the game ends.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Decide 'dear'.

Like I'm going to do what you choose anyway...let's just do this for the pretence of 'democracy' okay?

What do you want?
Blogger comments
Haloscan thing
Spank (comment thing,honestly!)

Friday, 10 April 2009

Black Cats and Voodoo Dolls

I'm not superstitious.

In fact, I occasionally go out of my way to prove superstition wrong.
I always walk under ladders , walk on pavement cracks, and i have the ability to crack mirrors just by looking at them (:D), and I enjoy opening umbrellas indoors.

Today is Friday, the start of the seventh year since the start of the war. I hope that the 7th year will bring peace and happiness, and luck. But I don't know what to say. In fact, I am suffering from lack of emotion if anything.
Our house has chocolates and sweets littered around because of the anniversary. But they leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Yesterday, as my father called for us to see some guys on tv make fun of saddam, i didn't join in. When Sadr called for anti US protests nearby in Firdos square, I didn't join in.
I'll start by telling you a story, because I don't know how else to start.

In Al-Aathamiya, lived a family. There was a father (a teacher), a mother (a housewife), a son, and two daughters. They lived in Saddam's time normally. Not rich, not poor. They suffered under Saddam, as the father couldn't get a well paid job because he hadn't joined the Ba'ath party. They suffered under sanctions as their daughter had jaundice. but they couldn't get supplies because the world had decided this was the best way to stop Saddam-by killing the population of the country he ruled.
The war came. They rejoiced. Freedom to go the the Kharij (outside Iraq), Freedom for the father finally to be able to get the job he deserved. Instead, the father got kicked out of his job. He was a 'saddamist'-living in Al Aathamiya and having a job-he had to be one of Saddam's favoured right? Wrong. His older brother had been killed by Saddam. That's how favoured he was.

No job, and a family to feed, he resorted to selling everything. First the furniture went, the car, the extra fridge, but soon he ran out of stuff to sell. He sat on the kerbside and sold vegetables and herbs.

During a particularly nasty time in 2006, he was shot by american soldiers. His wife complained, the soldier's reply-he was about to attack them.

Yes, with that deadly broccoli and lethal courgettes.

It was concluded he was shot accidently, as there were many militia men in the area. The wife had no qualifications and could not get a job. The recompensation was equivalent to $100.

For a while, the family depended on their uncle. Who was then kidnapped by militia men, and beaten to the point that he couldn't walk, by his fellow country men. His ransom was so high, that it cost them everything.

And yes, its a true story, and no they had no reason to lie, and yes i met the mother and her orphaned children. What made me smile, is I met the two girls. One is the age of my little sister, and the other is around 9. She had a son who at the time was 'out'. Two hours later, a depressed looking guy walked in. He was one year older than me, but despite this, his mother angrily called him to the kitchen, no doubt to ask where he had been.

The morale of the story? The reason I wrote their story? I hate it when child like rumours are spread- 'and they burnt him alive and some dogs ate him after'.In war, there's always bad guys and good guys, but no one should take the action of a few to represent the majority, but out of frustration and in country recovering from war, it is suprisingly easy to point fingers.

I want to rely on facts, not rumours and stereotypes, and since this is fact, I believe them. I believe them because the mother was so kind. I believe them because the son looked like he had died. I believed them because the girls looked half their actual age.

If Saddam was not removed from power, I would have never realised I had family. I would have never seen Iraq. I would have felt lost for the rest of my life.

Despite this, I shall not for one second celebrate. I shall not smile. Because I refuse to put a value on human life. Where human life is concerned, it cannot be argued that quantity is more important. Would I sacrifice the life of one person to save the life of ten? I don't know.

Things have got worse, and things have got better. But to think that war does not have horror stories is naive. I do understand that Iraq cannot be built in a day, and like all important things, rebuilding a country needs time. It needs patience. I just hope I won't curse the day I lost ignorance, because ignorance can be bliss. Was the loss of lives worth it? I don't know.

Celebrating the removal of Saddam from power is a completely different thing to celebrating the start of a war to me.

Why would I celebrate the start of a war? Instead, I choose to remember and celebrate all those who lost their lives. All those who could have changed the world, but never had the chance.
All those who selflessly sacrificed their lives. But with that, I also have to remember their killers. Which is why I cannot bring myself to ever say any war is Just or Good.

And for this reason, I shall never celebrate the 9th of April.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Sheik

Above is a metal statue. Its dark beauty made me smile amongst today's troubles.

The guy who owned the house left. Violence increased, and after a nasty explosion in our area, some US soldiers used the house as accomadation-it had a pool and was nice generally.

Months later, our area was quite, walls were not put up, and the area was handed to the charge of the iraqi army, and some police men. They inhabited the house to play cards etc, basically used the house in the same way that the US soldiers used it. Then, they left, area became normal, they didnt need to keep watch for long hours of time, and so they didnt need accomadation.

However, one officer apparently did something good and was awarded the house, and stayed in it. Awarded it by who?! When it was still owned? Well, thats where the story gets a bit hazy (suprise suprise), enter more corruption-everything depends on who you know and your connections here. Its laughable to think you would get anywhere unless you know someone or unless you belonged to a certain group-its almost like non violent gang warfare.

Getting back to the main story. The man could have got lawyers etc involved, but this rarely happens, and the man said that he had no where to stay until his case reaches court, and he has no money, 9which is why he returned to sell his funiture).
Enter gang boss, aka well known sheik of the area. This is baghdad by the way, not a tribal-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-bedou-camp.

He called a meeting thing, and said the house was not the 'government or whatever idiot had given it away', so although he felt sorry for the man in the tracksuit, because it wasn't his fault, the house belonged to the guy who returned from jordan.
He said that the tracksuit guy had seven days to 'adil his umoor' (straighten his stuff), and then the original owner should move in, and check that nothing is missing. (although stuff is bound to be missing, especially since the house has had two sets of soldiers and a tracksuit guy living in it, not that I am insinuating the soldiers or the tracksuit guy are theifs, but come on, be realistic).

Its a happy ending, though i am sure the original owner is going to find absolutley nothing valuable left in his house. Perhaps objects of sentimental value may be found...

It was weird that no police and no lawyers or anything got involved, and it was solved suprisingly easily, but if the old owner visits us again, i am sure he will be lamenting the loss of many items from his house. The involvement of the sheik was something of a novelty to me, although in diyala this is the norm. I have always been angry, yet interested in the bedou lifestyle, and remembering my grandparents (allah yirhamhum) of diyala telling me their childhood, fascinated me, but after living in the UK, it also made me quite bitter.

But for this to be found in Baghdad was....quite funny. I am glad that the rightful owner had his house back, and the sheik told the tracksuit guy if he didnt find a home, then tracksuit guy and family can stay for free in sheiks house. (house prices are through the roof, and a years wages would not suffice for months rent, let alone to buy a house).

This phenomena that is occuring throughout all of Iraq, of inhabited houses are not always so easily solved. In fact, they are rarely so easily solved. One of My father's relative was on the phone the other day telling us of how it had come to punches over a fruit tree.
As the stability of Iraq depends on the services and the money the country has, it might take a long time, for Iraq to become an okay place to live in. I pray and wish with every atom that I am wrong though.
(Iraqi coffee- half the cup is a coffee sludge...only the beginning half is drinkable, after that its just too strong, resulting in half the istikaan being left behind in a gooey bitter mess)

Maybe I'm just bitter like that coffee, but I don't think so. Yesterday was dubbed 'Black Monday', as multiple explosions occured which made you jump out of your seat. One explosion occured in the neighbourhood next to us,and one explosion occured near a market, and one near a private clinic, those are the ones that we heard straight away of, but apparently there were many more. This resulted in at least one hour dedicated to calling and making sure every member of the extended family was nowhere near the attack.
In happier news, yesterday I revised chemistry for at least two hours. Actually I think it was 3 hours. :) I then watched 'Never back down' on MBC2. It was ridiculously cheesy, and the main attraction of the film, was probably greased up/sweaty guys punching the living daylight out of each other. And even then it was laughable considering that they had a perfectly okay lifestyle but choose to ruin it by unexplainable 'anger'. Over what 'dudes'?

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Screaming corridors

Well, i get bored easily, as you can see, and i found i had some spare time despite school work, so i did some volunteer work in Baghdad. It was suprisingly easy, and unlike when i did volunteer work elsewhere, there was no paperwork, no insurance, no certificate given out. I was overjoyed that there was no forms to fill, but I got a serious talk, where i was looked in the eye by a greying man, who asked me to consider that i was only 17, and perhaps i would like to enjoy not knowing for a little while longer. Not knowing what? i replied.

I have been doing some volunteer work for a few months, but now exam season is here, i decided to stop to concentrate on study, and i was actually quite sad to go. I helped in a hospital and an orphanage. It was fun, but some things you don't forget, and my first day at the hospital is one of them. I do wonder why i almost punish myself like this, i mean it was my choice, and i do occasionally wish that all i had to worry about was homework due dates and what style i would wear my hair the next day, but i suppose you always want what you dont have. A perfect example of this would be when me and my cousins both walked into a salon. They have the most gorgeous natural curly hair, while i have just straight. When the hairdresser asked what we would like, our answers came in a flash. As I had my hair curled, and they had their hair straightened, i could not stop the laughter that made my shoulders shake. Oh the irony of it all.

The beginning of the hospital was what i guess was the emergency. It wasnt a private hospital, so as you can guess, it wasn't well equipped. Some people lay on the floor bleeding as they waited to be seen. Doctors rushed around in stained lab coats. I felt overwhelmed, but I'm determined one day to help Iraq stand on its feet again, and perhaps that might mean I have to face horrors, but what doesnt kill you makes you stronger, right?

I was wearing a shirt and trousers, both black, as I had been instructed, because other clothes 'might get dirty quickly'. I remember giggling when they told me this, as i had a horrible feeling they were about to hand me a mop and tell me to start cleaning. Instead, I ran around supplying bandages, spirit, IV fluids to the most needed. I even bandaged a few people. i remember after an explosion or something there was a lot of bleeding people. The hospital ran out of bandages and i spent two hours cutting large towels into strips. Everything happened in a daze, and i never really thought about what i was doing.

Apart from one day.I think it was the far right wing of the hospital. I was so tired, and annoyed from an argument with my parents over who i befriend. Anyway, i wandered in, and walked around the ward making some bad jokes, and generally trying to be witty. Everyone was sad. Mothers were sitting on the floor, and fathers had tear stained faces. I continues with the jokes, with a few weak laughs, and I handed out water and toys. Then I heard the most pained hurtful cry ever. It was one of those that chills you to the bone because you can almost feel their pain.
I hated the patients who were children. I hated the patients who were old. I hated the way they smiled at my jokes and swallowed their pain. it was heart wrenching. I would always feel so empty after i visited some certain wards. i tried almost everything to get them out of my head, but it didnt really work.

I was never actually faced with a live death at the hospital, but I think I would have preferred that to the amount of pain i witnessed.

Luckily life isnt all doom and gloom. The guy who came back to find his house inhabited came to our house.He drank coffee, and i took a photo of his coffee (iraqi superstition is you can tell someones future by looking into their coffee istikaan after they have finsihed drinking) :) I will tell his story, tommorrow I promise. I wanted to be sure of the outcome before I posted anything, so now everything is over, I'll write it up.

I'll also begin revision tommorrow.
Honestly. Tommorrow. Touta. Will. Begin. To. Revise. :)

Friday, 27 March 2009

And That's how it goes down

I have to pinch myself to make sure what I just witnessed was in fact reality and not a dillusion from my flu-ridden state. Yep, it hurts. It was real.
Nowadays its wonderfully sunny, and in general I lament every hour that i have to spend inside revising, or trying to anyway. Exams begin at the beginning of June and last for quite a while, so basically, I've got plenty of time to waste (or rather enjoy) before drowning in self pity and 'if only i revised'.

Getting to the main story before I get sidetracked, Friday's are most definatley, and always have been my favourite day. Nothing to do with the fact I spent the entire day looking at dresses for graduation parties at all. And I haven't graduated yet. Talk about optimistic thinking. Anyway, I was supposed to walk around the empty campuses of my cousin's universities (Mustansiriya University and Baghdad University), but I found it exceptionally weird to spend a day walking around universities. My cousins like most Iraqi girls are unbelievably dedicated to work. I admire them for it, but I swear it can't be healthy to work so hard. So after one of my embarassingly awkward and cheesy talks, i mananged to get them to think about something other than work and work. And thus the day was spent. :)

Getting home was normal. I realised why i found Rumadi weird- because of the obvious presence of troops and military. Despite checkpoints and police lining the streets, its not so military, and getting home was relatively okay, apart from the excrutiatingly long and slow traffic. Traffic annoys me to no bounds these days. My parents and Grandparent both end up having to wake at 4am to queue for petrol, most of which is then wasted while the engine whirrs in a non moving jam.

Reached home to find the national water was open, and a few minutes was spent happily throwing it at each other in the garden (this way the plants get water and we get a wash..hahaha. :D). It smelt chloriny today in comparison to its usual sandy smell, and was greeny rather than its usual milky look. At first i would feel bad for watering plants when there was so little water, but then all my efforts to turn the water drinkable did not go well. I brought a filter, but it took an hour to produce half a cup of clear water. Which smelt weird. I then boiled some of the national water, but the pan got covered in a powdery substance. Finally I succumbed to what they repeatedly shouted at me: Its untouchable. Uses of Iraqi water include: washing clothes, watering plants, cleaning in general. And thats it.

Interrupting my contemplation of water in the shade of the garden was a very loud knocking, which physically made me jump. Ignoring all better insticts, i ran to the gate and opened it, trying to look out. A few seconds later the unavoidable "What are you doing?" talk came. Followed by the "you can't go out in that!" talk.
What gets on my nerves here is it is perfectly acceptable for a guy to go out in his dishdasha, and you are kind of respected if you do, but if i just *stand* near the gate wearing my dishdasha, i get the 'its ayb' talk, which consists of a lecture of how i am bringing the image of the whole family down. Its inevitably followed by my mother commenting on 'why can't you wear a long skirt or smart clothes', which is inevitably followed by my 'because i'd die of heat'. My father might then say 'wear jeans then'. To which i may reply 'no, they're too hot too', or i silently walk back into the shade. Perhaps I should just don an abbaya and really embarass them, but for now, I'll stick to jeans and 'made in china' tops, which always have incorrect spellings of word on them. But I am kind of liking this more and more. A few of these t-shirts read: 'cutei buny', 'everning', 'renbow & lov' and the infamous 'flour power'. :D Needless to say, at least they make up for the spelling mistakes with colour and design. Ish.

So, loud knocking, half my family at the gate spectating and speculating what is happening, and your truly contemplating running to my room and staring out of the window. Instead i hang around. Shouts of "GET OUT!!" follow. Silence. A large metal gate creaks open. Its all happening a few houses down. A heated discussion follows, where i cannot hear a thing despite straining my ear drum. Cars start to slow down as they pass the house where all this is taking place. I creep outside and peer over my parents shoulders (Gosh, I never noticed how short they both were). A family stand outside the house with luggage. The wife is clearly angry/upset, and her children wander round in small circles. The man was the source of the shouting, and the heated discussion was with the man, and a guy in a tracksuit at the gate of the house.


Suddenly the man points an angry finger at the guy in the tracksuit at the house's gate. He says (translated badly by me): " Look! Look People! Look at why we will never be at peace, why we will never have success and power! This is my house, 20 years of work! 20 years! Who is this?! Can any of you tell me who is living in my house!? By my blood, i built this house brick by brick!". His voice breaks at the last sentence, and he really looks like he can't talk anymore.
Ever felt a deep stab of pity and sorrow. I did for the man. Why would he lie? He walks round in a circle, and i somehow feel he is trying his best not to scream/cry.

I don't know what happened after that. As is the nature of my parents, one of them led me back inside and closed the gate on the way out. I always feel I have been cheated of life, because they do allow me a lot of freedom. But at the slightest hint of trouble, or sad news, or anything negative, they hide it. The only reason I heard of the hospitilsation of one of the closest people to me was because i accidently eavesdropped on a conversation. Talking to my brother and sister about it, they both like it my parent's way better. Not hearing about anything until its a death. Not hearing about the economical problems in Iraq. Not hearing about the fact that the large child population of Iraq are on the streets and not in school. I don't like my parents way. I want reality, which is why i dedicated exactly half an hour of complaining at the gate, until my parents finally explained everything.

The man who was shouting was a normal iraqi guy. Worked and worked, and built his house. During the war years, his family got threatened with death, and he got beaten up, and accused of working for saddam, because he had a nice home.

He left Iraq and lived in Jordan. Came back this year to visit family, and sell carpets and furniture to provide money for his family, because they needed money as Jordan is much more expensive than Iraq. Came back to find a family in his house. 'shay sowee hisa?' (what's he going to do now?) I asked. My mother turned around, and looking into the distance, replied 'I don't know'. My father has walked off and joined into the group of men who were trying to solve this problem on the pavement, and again, my mother led me back into the house.
As twilight came nearer, perfumed tea was served. I went into the garden barefoot and drank the boiling tea while looking into the multi coloured sky. As the sun disappeared further and further, all I could think about was the pain of the man. What could the police do? If the house was given back, where would the tracksuit guy and his family live? Why were they in the house in the first place?

Just before i walked back in, I overheard something, but I really have no idea who said it 'at least he still found his house standing. at least he didnt lose something more important than bricks.'. Again the stabbing painful pity came. A child gurgling with laughter than broke my contemplative sadness. It laughed further and further into the distance, until it was overpowered of someone calling my name. As i walked back into the house (leaving sandy footprints on the floor), I smiled at how surreal life could get.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Rolling in Rumadi

I've typed this from my mobile, as my cousins watch in amazement. I'm in Rumadi now. The trip to here from Baghdad is a story in itself.

My cousins who live here visited us to our house, but we never visited them. Now I sit comfortably on a recliner that is only a few centimeters of the floor, making it quite difficult to actually get up once you've sat down.

To transport us from our house, we hired one of thos cars with black windows and large tyres, driven by a tall, quite intimidating guy.It really comfortable and large, and he bellows in laughter as he talks about the rumadi stereotype. I think we had to pass three checkpoints through the whole journey, and I didn't really do anything apart from stay seated as soldier after soldier would peer in suspiciously before exclaiming 'Family!' and letting us pass.

After the usual talk of politics and water and electricity between my father and the driver ( the talk was accompanied by me popping chewing gum- I had no idea I was doing this until my mum leaned and said 'ayyb biteee, sirtee chibeera'-'rude, my daughter, you're grown up now'.), anyway, after the man talk, silence ensued. To which the driver thought Hussam alRussam can serve his purpose here. Hussam al Rassam is probably the only singer which i hate to love. His songs are loud, uncouth and funny, and repeated in every shop and every taxi and bus. It will drive you crazy, but then you suddenly start to see why he's a good singer. *cough cough*

Anyway, this time it was this song "arrumadi arrumadi, wadoonee al rumaadi, ya ammi yaboo il jimsee"

I asked what birno meant, and its basically a gun, but I *have* to know what 'jimsee' is, but I dont want to ask more questions. So I'll sit here trying to see what words it sounds like. We've arrived it seemed, and I honestly could not be more shocked. I didn't take the song seriously, but when i look out of the windows, the guys are actually wearing those bright white dishdashas and yashmagh/agaal. I never believe in stereotypes, but unfortunatly, stereotypes always seem to exist just to spite me.

I haven't seen one woman or female on the street so far, but we've passed some weird vehichles in between a jeep and a tank, with a small american flag in the corner. They're very tall, (the car things). Anyway, my brother and my sister do not stop complaining of hunger, and the driver stops us in front of a small collection of shops, as we get out, I can feel the eyes of people in the surrounding buildings, and a few guys wearing those black and gold things over their white dishdashas come out onto the street. I hand my sister half of my food because I feel to dizzy from the bumpy ride. Then I take half of her miranda. :D I'm generous but not that generous..:D
Anyway, i ask for another drink, and i sit drinking on the stone steps, (there's only four chairs). I see a guy appraoch my dad. He's quite tall, and is wearing his yashmagh around his neck rather than on his head. He greets my father, and asks if we are okay..need any help or directions. Then he starts asking about our family. I pray my dad does not start telling him our life story. My mini wish goes unanswered, as my father starts riighhhht at the beginning. My sister gets up and the man sits down a while later. I think its been an hour, and so me and my sister walk around the place for a while. Some of the shopkeepers leave the inside of their shops and stand at the doorway as they see me and my sister walking around. My sister gets intimidated, and I spend the next half an hour trying to convince her, that no one is going to kidnap her, its just too hot inside the shops. I even go into one of the shops alone and buy chewing gum. She smiles nervously, and i end up walking her back to the chairs.

I don't know who this guy is, but he has to be one of the most patient men in the world- he's still listening and is actually concentrating. i kind of feel annoyed. I don't like people knowing too many personal things. Anyway, by some miracle, my dad looks at his watch, apologises profusely with this guy, swap telephone numbers, kiss each other, then leave. I can say nothing apart from how still impressed i am at the friendliness of Iraq in general,despite this always being the case, you always take it for granted. People call strangers their 'brother' or 'sister', and i can tell you out of experience, this doesn't happen with the nations of other countries i have lived in or visited.

Back to the black GMC car. The conversation now revolves around family, and old singers. I manage to both be embarrassing and impressive in the following conversations.

Destination reached, I see that i'm not only going to be meeting my aunts family, but the extended extended family too...There's so may people who I do not recognise, and I know that they aren't actually related to me.

The ritual kissing and tight hugs will follow for half an hour, where strangers will pretend to know me, and I them. Quite fun, its like guess work, you get asked silly questions, and you ask sillier questions. To a really old lady "How's your health?", to the jubba clad woman: "how's education?", to the children: "how's life?".

It turns out the whole of Iraq is suffering intolerably from unemployment, and lack of life. No money=no life. Its simple. All work seems to be handed out not to the best qualified, but to members of the same family, and this is the case for all sects and groups of Iraq. Same with the government. If you're lucky enough to have a foreign degree you can expect a job, but even then its sometimes hit and miss, and depends whether you have a head big enough to boast of how great you are.

One of the older guests spends half an hour complaining about the iranians. At first I get up on my high horse and complain of racism, but then he quickly and quietly reminds me of how many friends and family he lost in the war. "Why do you think they hate us too?".

There's a lot more foreign soldiers here. i didnt really expect it, but seeing them, after an absence brings back the whole Iraq situation again. It was fun in Rumadi, my 13 year old cousin actually felt it was necessary to walk me to the shop opposite the road. Then he spent 15 minutes trying to pay for everything. i know its out of niceness, and its the way they have been brought up etc, but I like independence. A bit too much perhaps.

The day was mainly spent talking and I have to admit, most of the talk was about this family and that family It occured to me, like all humans, iraqis like placing themselves in groups. This time, its not political groups but tribes. i would love to say that this occured after the war, but it didnt for my family anyway. Diyala was always quite tribal orientated, and i was taught all this about family and certain words which would identify you to a fellow family member.

(I got taught that in times of trouble, this word would be shouted, and every part of that asheera would rush to whoever said the word, to offer help....*ahem*).

Baghdad was different and the same, but more emphasis was placed on the extended family, rather than the whole 'sheik and tribe' thing.

Spending a day in Rumadi, made me realise not the divisions of Iraq, but rather how large families and communities are. I liked it. Okay, sometimes the whole tribe thing does annoy me to an extent which you cannot imagine, but at other times, I just resign myself to that fate. But today, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I saw how everyone did everything together, and I saw the respect they have for one another.

Now if only some idiots would stop killing innocent people.

Monday, 9 March 2009

How I introduced Nuggets into the land of War

Today, to prevent a possible explosion of my head from the mess that is life (you know that i really mean lack of...), I went shopping. Such Normalcy. In Iraq. :)

Basically this is an unspoken rule, where when it starts to get hotter, you need start actually visiting people and places. Forget the occasional bousts of gunfire, 'its just people protesting against the iranians'.

Therefore I cannot wear anything with a smart coat on top as I have been doing for the past months. Around December time, I was far to preoccupied with sulking on a sofa, so when it came to getting ready to visit Z or N or whoever, I put on jeans, and a coat. On top of my Pajama top. Should I really mention that when the woman of the house finally wrestled me out of my coat, and exclaimed how "pretty, but aren't you cold habebti?"(-mental response: well why do you think I wanted to keep my coat on?).

My grandfather chuckled loudly with laughter. Fortunatley, no one apart from my grandfather and sister had noticed I had remained unchanged from my pajamas. Such observation skills do we iraqis have, its a wonder how anything manages to get past us.

So no more pajamas and coats for me. Shopping went well, until one certain phase of shopping was reached. Undergarment shopping.

In Iraq, most of underwear stalls (you rarely get shops just for one certain type of clothes) for women are filled with things from 'al quroon il wusta'. i.e. the Middle Ages. They are greying, and old, and weirdly shaped. And made of material that feels like it has been cut out of potato sacks. Therefore, the only solution is to go to the garishly loud stalls, with all their brightly imported from China goods.

Suprisingly, the garish stalls had nothing but brightly coloured hawain shorts or boxers or whatever they're called nowadays.

An hour later of wandering aimlessly, and laughing at how my dad walked ahead, I saw a shop not on the high street. With headless plastic models showing off scary looking underwear.

Basically, I had found a shop (notice not stall, but a shop), that sold underwear for women. Ones that didn't look like they were sown while the factory workers were drunk/stoned.

The colour inside the shop, was a dark pink, with lighting that wasn't bright enough. It kind of made me feel sleepy. All the shop needed now was a smoke machine.

There was no one there, but usually after a while, the shop keeper comes down to serve you.

So I chose happily, and we waited. Chose some more because I got bored of waiting. Waited some more, and then when i hear the 'naam?' (yes?). I am too scared to turn around, because I've realised its a guys voice. Usually, I have no problem with buying all my clothes from guys as is the case in Iraq. But with underwear...in a shop like this one, I kind of hoped, nay expected, a female to serve me. I mean even in the UK, underwear shops for females had female sellers. Or at least had two sellers, one male and one female. Ah, how I miss the choice.

Leaving the shop, I spend the following ten minutes complaining to my sister who does not consolidate, but rather laughs, and rather loudly too. What do I want? An islamic state like Saudi? Well, you'll be suprised (or not) to hear, all their under wear shops are also manned by guys...http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7908866.stm. In Iraq though, it has absolutley nothing to do with religion, and solely to do with the fact that the souk is a man's world. Its considered kind of not so good if you're a woman and you run your buisness (unless its a salon or food), because buisness requires the 'brutality and bravery of men'. *ahem*. Welcome to the after shocks of war.

I just want the ability to choose who serves me, or at least not have a male seller smirk at me, as I try to stop from explaing myself to a stranger.

I have babbled long enough at the horror that occured to me today. Looking at the bright side, at least I didnt get shot by the distant gunfire heard. Or 'fireworks', (I'm not that easily fooled, nor do I live in a rainbows and butterflys la la land).

Onto the main story. My sister complained bitterly of hunger, to the point that I was sure someone was about to hand her a free meal just to make her be quiet.

No such thing occured, but as we drove past shops, we realised there were no food shops/stalls in sight. ?!!! We make a resolution to stop by the first thing we see. Happens to be a stall selling finger chips. As i look down the road, a wave of food cafes and stalls appear.

People walk past the finger chips guy without even turning their heads. He wears a tattered jumper, and beads of sweat lie on his forehead, as he stands next to the hot metal thing.

Really, when there are Mcdonald-esque fast food stores a few minutes away, no one is really going to bother with the finger chips guy.

The finger chips guy is now a rare breed. Before the war, he was to be found in every park and every fairground and outside most schools . Until the parks and fairgounds and schools became battlefields.

But here he stood. The rare finger chips guy.

My mother is going to kill me for persuading family to eat here, and so risk food poisoning.

I do it anyway, and minutes later, our finger chips are ready, as he smiles and hands burning hot food to us. My father turns away ready to go eat in the car (yeah, I know..), but I complain that I'm going to get thirsty soon, and so we need to buy drinks.

So we end up eating outside next to finger chips guy. A few people buy finger chips 'ala al shaheeha malatkum' - basically this means, they're not hungry, but seeing us eating finger chips made them crave it.

We and a few guys are now hanging around finger chips guy, eating finger chips and drinking pepsi. A few jokes are made, laughter.

A few people leave. A few walk by.

We remain eating and drinking. My father has finished, and now just stands waiting for us. Finger chips guy starts talking about buisness and says 'economic recession' in english.

I mention that people want more than finger chips now. (Was i being subconsciously cryptic? Perhaps). I go to the car, and get a frozen bag on chicken nuggets. My sister has a very select diet...My sister follows the bag of nuggets with her eyes, and my father shakes his head, in the way that says 'what are you doing?'. In an answer to his silent question, I tell him my little sister is still hungry, and if 'Ammo' ('uncle'-this is a reference to Finger chips guy) doesnt mind, he could fry them now for her. Finger chips guy smiles, and says 'itdalilee'. (of course?).My father says "all 100 nuggets?". :D

I explain, that there's no other way, because the bag would open in the car and fill the clean car with crumbs and raw chicken mush. That seemed to work. I hand the bag to the Finger Chips guy and he fries them within seconds. He places them in paper, with the paper in a flower arrangement. He makes around ten of these flower arrangements, and there's still more nuggets waiting.

My sister manages to eat one and three quarters of another. I eat the quarter grudgingly. I feel bad for throwing food away, as everytime I do, I'm haunted by images of starving children. Yes, i do need help.

What to do with the 27 remaining nugget flowers? "Sell them". As soon as I'd uttered this phrase, a child had spotted the colourful flower with nuggets and was screaming at his father. Ten minutes later 8 nugget flowers had been sold.

When we walk off, the finger chips guy shakes all of our hands, and I can still remember his smile. I don't want the Finger Chips guy to be extinct. Not because I like his food, not because of pity for him and his tattered jumper, not even because he smiled a lot. It is because to me, he represents the culture which i don't want to disintergrate amongst the incoming flux of Mcdonalds and Starbucks imitators.

I want to see a happy finger chips guy, surrounded by families with chubby children, I want to see the finger chips guy in shiny fairgrounds with a sparkling deelab il hawa (ferris wheel).

Now I wish I did live in a rainbows and butterflys la la land. Stupid Reality.