Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Live from (not) Lenden.

Mother and Sister now accompanying me, visiting places and reminiscing. :D
Nana strictly on rest etc.


" I mean from henceforth to lead a life of extreme seclusion; you must not be suprised, nor must you doubt my friendship, if my door is often shut even to you. You must suffer me to go my own dark way. I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name. If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also. I could not think that this earth contained a place for sufferings and terrors so unmanning; and you can do but one thing to lighten this destiny, and that is to respect my silence."
-Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson

Its 11pm, and I am unbelievably tired. In Baghdad, I would stay awake until 4am, and happily wake up the next day alive. Now, I feel sleepy and 'emotionally drained'. Perhaps its the cold, and the fact I haven't seen the sky for over 4 days. I have for some reason, found some old books stored in the zips of the luggage. I read this around four years ago, and I find one page folded. I honestly don't even remember reading this book. I open it, and I can almost dictate the following paragraph. I didn't even remember this story well, and i never found it even in the slightest memorable. Until I finally understood the meaning of the lines above today. It crashed on me with waves of emotion. Naturally I supressed said emotions, and hit the keyboard.

What's weirder, is despite the straight concrete pavements, and tarmaced roads, I seem to trip and be clumsy here, a lot more than in Iraq, where you cannot tell the difference between road, the pavement and a patch of mud most times.

I have no idea what to write or what to say. Everything seems so surreal, and one matter keeps replaying in my mind unnecessarily, even though the sane thing would be to just wake up from the dream like state that I have put myself in.

I feel there's no guarentee to anything in life. I just need to enjoy it and smile, whilst maintaining what is most important in life. Unfortunatley for me though, I still have to work out what is most important to me in Life. My sister's voice echoes in the background as she talks of something. I realise I should stop thinking for once, and just go with the flow of things.

So, overall, I have realised, I have allowed something to be on my mind and affect me much more than it should, I need to "take it eazi, ya azizi" as my father often tells me, and most importantly, I have decided, I shall be happy wherever the journey of Life takes me.

AL HAYAAT HILWAAA (da da daaa)
(life is sweet, da da daaa).

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Marv,you dummy.

Its cold. I have stopped feeling my toes, and I'm too lazy to go out of the room to get food. I'm suprised as to who packed unnumbered kilograms of food in my luggage, but I know who's idea it was.

I've officially spent an entire day in the UK now, and its been mostly lying under duvets. I don't really see the point of unpacking, so I've simply opened up the luggage bag.

Yesterday i watched a film called 'Sin City' on the tv. One sentence by the 'Marv' guy sticks needlessly in my mind, and i realise its 3.45am and i'm still awake.

"Hell's waking up every goddamn day and not even knowing why you're here"

I have, like billions through time and space, wondered what the point of life is, why i'm here, and other such philosphical questions. only yesterday, in the dark of a hotel room alone, did I realise. It doesn't matter.

After hearing bombs whistle through the air, and hearing the bursts of gunfire, after seeing people i love ill, i had to laugh at the quote. That isn't hell. That's not even anywhere near it. I laughed. When i walked in through the airport, i saw people complaining, a mother screaming at her child, and all i could think of is, do they even realise how lucky they are?

Knowing the people you love are happy and safe, being happy and content with what you have in life, seeing the beauty of the smallest things- despite people having all of this and more, they complain they don't know why they're alive?!

Its the weekend now. I have no idea what to do. We used to be close to a iraqi family, and they called me up and asked me whether i need anything, I decide I like the idea of walking around eating whatever the local newsagents have to offer.

I have stood at the tap drinking water for almost five minutes. I've missed clean water coming out of taps. And the water is already cold. Loneliness hasn't kicked in yet, I'm too preoccupied trying to remember stuff. Normal stuff. Like realising there is central heating. And electricity.
When i walked down the streets alone, I felt so open? In Baghdad, you'll end up being surrounded by protective relatives. And here everything is so...apart? Everyone's far away from each other. I miss knowing that there was at least 4 people with me to 'keep me safe' in iraq. (From what, i'm not quite sure.)

Best wishes from under 2 duvets,

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Politicians in the ring.Round one.Ding!

Before I go...

I have to quickly type up the fun that was three political 'rallies' i went to. Suprisingly, all three had different opinions compared to 3/4 years ago, when there was just hate- no politics, and compared to 7/8 years ago, when there was... well saddam.
I would provide the running commentary around me, but i've forgotten quite a lot because of the fact i am busy etc.

Secular (ilmee-scientific) Iraqi Politician:

"we have to stop depending on oil, and rebuild our pharmaceutical industries, that once were known for their excellency"

"women should have equal rights, what is this talk of no seats in parliament for them- one in two should be allocated. Where can we find men after all the wars we have been through? Realistically, women are running the everyday lives, they need to make their voices heard, and let their power raise iraq from the ashes"

"My friends, religion has no place in politics. No place! If we want democracy, true democracy, then we let everyone freely practice their religion at home, while the country is run by educated, unbiased individuals."

"We need to take down the concrete barriers. Qabeehat. (ugly)"
An old man replies quietly: "Like you then." No one else heard comment.
I choke supressing laughter.

Sunni Iraqi Politician

"we need someone to speak for the other half of the country, the shias have a voice, the kurds have a voice, now it is time for us to represent the rest of the iraqis."

"what happened to loving your neighbour? what happened about caring for your fellow country men? I'll tell you. It died with the hate of the rest of the world. We need to be independent. Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. It is ours"

"with dignity we shall rise our heads from rubble. And we will say 'ihna asasna al hathara wa ihna nilab beeha' " (translation: 'we made civilization and we will play in it': its a quote from a hussam alrassam song, whole rooms bursts into laughter)

"I say, if i invited you to kebab, would you vote for me?" *charismatic smile*.
Woman replies " la pacha habibi". (translation:"no, pacha, my love". Pacha is basically boiled head of a lamb).
Politician replies: "please help yourself to food and drinks on the outside, and feel free to ask any questions".
woman: "ako pacha?" (is there pacha?)

Shia Iraqi Politician

"we make up over half of the country. Let us have our voices heard. Let us show that we have suffered for a reason. (something about hussein suffering, very touching, but i have forgotten it)"

After being asked a question about women rights:
"you expect me to tell you that they should stay at home, mu? Well, we will not be like Iran. Women here will have rights. They will vote. They will live"

"As i watched a hundred doves fill the iraqi sky, i knew the time had come to let our power fly free. Show the world we will always be here."

"we need to stop stealing ourselves. One steals his brothers oil, his brother steals his house."
Takes a drink of water. " even this water is probably stolen.This is turkish water mu? Everything is turkish these days. My wife speaks perfect turkish from Noor." (noor was an insanely popular soap opera from turkey.)
Guy replies: "But Noor was imdablija (dubbed)."
Politician laughs.
update: I changed 'Guy' into 'Iraqi Politician' because i feel these politicians need some respect from time to time. *cough*

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Time goes by so slowly..

The reason I took off the changes post, was every time i came on the internet to 'revise' or do work, i read it and got more depressed. Naturally I couldn't delete it due to all the comments (many thanks to all), but at the same time it seemed too whiney compared to what other people have to go through, and i don't want to think about it frankly. Life is too short, but as long as there is breath left, there is hope.

In case you needed more proof that I do not have a life, when the holidays begin here (around 23rd january), i will travel. To the UK. To pick up 'a level' work and look at universities. Then I will return to Baghdad after either one week or two weeks abroad. All alone. The fun. Oh the Fun.

And then I will perform a juggling act which will include trying to finish all work from iraqi schools, complete work for 'a levels', decide on my life, attack some iraqi politicians for some of the things they said (i've have been to three political 'rallies'. Basically a candidate invites you to his house or restaurant while talking about politics. I wrote some quotes down. :D), surgically remove the laptop and/or pc from my body, learn how to take photos,
oh.. and the following has been hacked or virused or something:
-my facebook
-my scribd account
-my youtube
Annoyingly all three disabled my account at lightening speed. Well, I'm only annoyed at the scribd account being closed. Where else can I read stuff?
*Al Mutanabbi...*

Hospital Quotes:

grandfather:"touta, i know you don't want to go abroad to study. But look at it this way. Where will you receive the best education? You want to help your country? Then learn as best you can, and then you can return not to reign supreme with your piece of paper from a university from the 'kharij' (abroad), but to bring Iraq to the same standard"

me: "but what about my obligations to the country i study in? shouldn't i owe them something. feels a bit wrong, learning than abandoning ship"

grandfather: "we're paying $X!! When they let you learn for free, pay them back"

me: "but what if i lose my social identity?"

grandfather: "you're iraqi"


me:"it doesnt matter where i learn, but my passion to learn. my passion would be greater here, as i will see suffering everyday, and that will give me the push"

nana: "touta do it"

me: *starts thinking nana isn't really ill, conspiracy theory to guilt trip me into doing what they want*

(doctor walks by having overheard us)

doctor: "I hear sweden is especially advanced in science. Most of the new researches come from over there"

nana: "aguul (i say), touta, they speak german in sweden right? you are good at german"

doctor: "and you wouldn't feel alone. the community of iraqis there is large and have a social identity"

nana: "and the nobel is in sweden mu? You can either get a nobel touta, or marry and iraqi with one. Oh, schlon qashkha(oh how posh)"

me: *realises conversation has gone too far to mention language of Sweden is Swedish*

grandfather: "she can get one herself"

me:"yes, i hear the room in which they are stored in have little security. Only cctv cameras. no lasers"

doctor:*walks off shaking head* "iraqi to the bone. She thinks of stealing one...whats that going to achieve ya bnaya (girl)"

me:"well, i don't see what a nobel peace prize achieves in the first place. Why would anyone need an award to convince them they are heroes. they think they are so much better than everyone else, because they have a piece of metal"

grandfather: "have you met anyone with a nobel peace prize then?"

me "ummmm...nooo"

*nana and grandfather and doctor give each other knowing looks*

*touta scratches head trying to be less confused*

doctor: "trideen chai?" (you want tea?)

Time at hospital:22.15am
Touta status: refuses to go home, squinting at mobile whilst trying to blog. Hospital is thinking of naming the chair after her.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Silent Secrets of a blossoming Baghdad

After reading, the toll fee is one secret, and this got me thinking what a great idea. No one sees the closed Baghdad, the city which holds the a million silent secrets.

After following the advice of friends, I decided it was time for me to aftar (go around). Students all over the world have the same reaction to exams it seems-staying inside until your brain turns to mush, and you feel euphoric as you realise, there is nothing more you can do. The world isn't so different after all.

Anyway, now it is time to pay my fee.

First of all, I have to admit, there has not been one day where i have been happy with electricity/water/safety in Baghdad. But you have a distinct feeling that things will improve. You see people smiling at each other now. Shopkeepers sing rather than cry over the loss of someone, or complain about the masked men.

A million fairy lights illuminate the dark that once was. The generators hum a melodious tune in the background. Now when the generators run out of benzin, or the electricity is turned off, instead of the curses and prayers, candles float around flickering as everyone patiently waits while cracking jokes.

Its friday, and there are no traffic!! Correction:less traffic. On the way back, I walked out the car and wandered while the queue did not move. I sat in the front seat, and others got dizzy as I constantly turned to try to take everything in. Cars are suddenly new and shiny. Oh, and new types of hummer have been brought into that shop. People buy them and bounce through the streets with Eminem blaring toy soldiers or some other song. Also, another improvement, I see more girls. They walk around in groups smilling and stopping at juice parlours.

The internet cafes are permanatly buzzing with life these days. Everytime i pass one, i hear the gurgling of many cans of pepsi, as well as the waft of tobacco heavily characterising these places. Oh, reminds me of a conversation i overheard, which annoyed me. Well, not one, more like many, that slapped me of the outdated and horrible view that men have of women/relationships etc etc here. I will blog about it, but now, I really don't want to think about it. I'm far too high on happiness.

My mother reminds me perhaps it is best to block out such conversations, but its pretty difficult, when a)they talk so loudly and b)it gives an insight into the reality of some things here.

Anyway, perhaps its because being so stressed lately, and shutting myself off, that seeing Baghdad today, made me gurgle with laughter and happiness like a child. Or perhaps its because i have realised despite everything, despite history, despite the world, there is Life here.

I pass through a fruit stall, and I am reminded of ani incident as a child of around 9. When I never cared about anything. I was walking slowly (i still do), and a man wearing a dishdasha and agaal was talking to abu il ragee (guy who sold watermelons).

I loved abu il ragee. He was always happy, and his shockingly white hair was so weird. (I had never seen white white hair before).

Anyway, I noticed the man said to abu il ragee..."ala sicheena" (on the knife), and the abu il ragee slapped a watermelon with a knife and gave a large slab to the guy. Seconds later, pips lined the floor, and the dishdasha guy was walking off with the melon.

I wanted some melon.

I walked off while my parents were trying to make my brother happy (he had held onto one of the stalls and refused to move until he could drive a car. i think he was 11 at the time, and toy cars simply were not enough anymore).

Bravely, I walked up and stared at abu il ragee. I'd forgotten the phrase that would get you melon. So I stared trying to remember how i could get melon. Abu il ragee waved to my parents. "Your daughter walked off". My brother ran to me worried i was lost. My parents laughed as my brother forgot all thoughts of cars. I badly pronounced "ala il sineena".

I got my melon slice. It was honey sweet, and of course i made a mess.

The whole incident came flooding back as i realised that even though sometimes hope in iraq seems lost, the result can be honey sweet. In the end we can all get our melon slice, despite things being a mess at times.

Maybe I just want melon now, and this story has no meaning whatsoever, but it was fun reminiscing.

Oh, i noticed something that the restaurant guys have started doing. They throw some meat fat onto the hot coals. The smell draws people in. Well, it drew my family in anyway. hahaha. :D. Below is Cuzi. Basically meat on rice. My mother ordered it for me, as apparently i need more 'protein'. I never realised my mother's hopes were for me to become a body builder. :D
Anyway, the waiters now have uniform, and as well as that, i thought you get what you order. But no. You don't. They bring soup starter, and salads all with a smile. And to the annoyance of my father, they serve all the women their food first. We had to listen to my brother and father complaining of starvation as they waited for the impossibly long time it took for all their food to be brought. The impossibly long time of 5 minutes. During which I praised the deliciousness of the food with every good word in the dictionary. What can i say..evil gets the better of me sometimes.

Two hours later, we left the restaurant.Leymouna time (the people in leymouna are now on first name terms with me, I think i visit everyday) then Clothes time. All I can say is clothes here are unique. I can now expertly tell which country the clothes are from just by looking at them. Its either Syria, China or Iran. Occasionally some from Turkey. Here's a summary of how I do it:
Turkish clothes
tends to be floaty material, with flowers, and large floaty sleeves. The colour is pastelly but bright, and it is satiny or silky. Includes designer brands such as Dolchi & Gabana, and Luis Vutton.
Syrian clothes
Bright clashing colours and comes in 2 sizes; small and smaller, for that classic syrian look. The designs are very creative, and unique. However, should not really be worn outside, as the designs can be suprisingly revealing. In the window, they look 'modest' etc etc. You wear it, and you realise they tricked you into buying tight clothes.
Chinese clothes
Normal clothes. They come in a wide range of styles and colours. Always seem to have a large eyed cute cartoon character on the pajamas. Wrapped in thin clear plastic. The sizes are incorrect. Whatever size you buy, it will undoubtedly be too large or too long for you.
Iranian clothes
Abbayaat. They come in the classic plain black with a simple 'made in iran' tag in white...or they come in the weird abbayat design. They are heavily embroidered and shimmer and glide. I have a need to buy one, spread my arms and jump off some steps. i really want to try it. Seriously.

I need to stop analysing everything. Maybe i should write a guide: "Touta's Iraq: an acute almost obsessive analysis of clothes, food and people".
Basically, i enjoyed Baghdad, and its convinced me to go out more.

Oh, and my secret? Hmmmm. I do actually believe a lot of things that have happened in my life are miracles from Allah. There. I defy logic! I have not been able to find an explanation for soo many things that has happened. And for future reference, this is not up for discussion. I believe it, and anything anyone says will not change my mind. :D Oh, and since I am feeling generous, my other secret is that I hate money. And mushrooms.

side note: few days back(almost a week), I wrote there had been unrest over the situation in Gaza. Many, including family members said iraqis were to daykheen (dizzy) to know what was happening outside there own doorsteps. Hate to mention it now, but unrest has turned into potential violence.

side note 2: clearly me confessing that i as a logical person believe in miracles, is not a good enough secret for some *cough cough*
So here goes secret number 4/5? Another secret I have is although I don't flinch when I hear bombs or gunfire, I keep thinking of how many times my family who stayed here had to suffer the worst of it. And I feel guilty.

Another secret, since the one above most people probably share with me. Hmmmmm. My multimedia player is my most guarded possesion. It reveals too much about my personality.It has the soundtrack of my life. It has the photos of the best and worst times. And when i can't go to sleep, it is my bedtime companion. Although once, i almost strangled myself with the headphones while sleeping.

Final secret, so people don't accuse me of being mean-I used to write a diary. At the end of the year, i read every entry and realised how whiny and negative i sounded. From that day on, i wear a smile even if i am shouting insults at a person i despise. It looks creepy, and scares them. :D You don't mess with the touta!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Hit That

"Well it winds up
Broken up
Really such a shame
But why not
Take a chance
Everything's a game
And it don't stop
Hooking up
Nothing's gonna change"
The Offspring- Hit That

I think its 2am, i have stopped caring, and time has ceased to exist, and now just crashes in a blur of papers, educational videos in languages i fail to comprehend, and endless research on the internet. I think last time i watched a full tv program was 2 weeks ago.

As an iraqi, you are told don't even think of staying here and studying.

I still want to though.

More stupid talking of how iraq might be spilt up. Stupid Biden. Stupid Patriosm. Because of a lack of voice of obambee about gaza, iraqis naturally have lost their faith. Suddenly the old men in the tea cafes have began to realise the jewish roots of obamee the wicked. Yes, he is on holiday in Israel. Yes, Iraq will be split.
Momentarilly i have given up arguing for the voice of reason. I'm just going to let the tidal wave of anger and depression of Iraq hit me face on.

Forget that, I changed my mind, Iraq does have hope. Really Really. I am probably going to end up screaming non stop at the next depressed person I speak to, who spews up some more whinings. Maybe I dont want to be realistic. I am in living in the same country as you, and yes i heard the bombs, and the shooting. Yes, i do realise every iraqi intimatley knows generator mechanics. Yes, that yellow liquid is water. I actually feel tempted to drink it to end such conversations...

Instead of spending more nights thinking while staring at the ceiling (I would win an olympic gold medal for it), I am going to make a list, with positives and negatives. Because everything keeps changing and I struggle to keep up

Choice number 1:where to finish high school/secondary school/college

-BIS (good-close, no need to move, family, familiarity. bad-bombings, unknown syllabus)

-Amman Baccaleaurate School (good-has a volleyball team. bad-students)

-Halab International School (good-syrias social life. bad-syrias social life)

-Undecided Sixth Form/College(UK) (good-teaching. bad-everyone's taller than me)

Choice number 2:where to go to university

-One of the Baghdad universities (good-i get to say "i went to baghdad university". bad-dress and moral code)

-One of the UK universities (good-politically active student unions. bad-ridiculous fees. In all fairness, i can comfortably live off the fees in iraq for many a years)

-One of the Amman universities (good-teaching. bad-parents prefer uk/german university)

-One of the German universities (good-large enough to lose yourself in forever. bad-my german skills are nowhere near good enough)

Hmmmmmmm, of course, i can just start my own gang, start more sectarian violence, and live off the dirty money i make in a luxury house. *Picks up klashnikov*

Sunday, 11 January 2009

One slightly rainy afternoon...

I can't believe they call *that* rain.
The day naturally started off with me waking at 1pm ish. My sleeping patterns are non existent, but seeing that all the other iraqis around me also have insomnia and a general inability to sleep normally, I realised its because no one knows what this year will bring.

I sit at the pc now, chatting as well as typing. In the UK, i remember distinctly not seeing the point of chat. People would have arguments over chat, and not speak the next day etc etc, and i would think "cowards, talk in real life". But, in Iraq, chat is now more common to me, . My friends from when i lived here constantly bombard me with questions over the choices i now have ahead of me, and i am beginning to see the use of the invisibility mode. My friends from the UK ask me such questions as "do you hear the bombings of afghanistan from baghdad?", and "so, are you speaking in islam, and not english now?". I try to explain that afghanistan is not a neighbour to iraq, and islam is a religion, and the reply i get: "so, how are the boys then?". Invisibility goes on, and i remind myself to send them an email apologising for the bad connections...(they are bad, so really i'm not lying).

On a better note, mobile connection seems to have improved a lot, and since having managed to convince iraqna guys to give me free mobile internet after 9pm, the world doesnt seem such a bad place after all.

Sorry for sidetracking, basically, i awoke from my sleep, found we had male guests, who sat in the tv room discussing voting, corruption, and society. So no tv for touta. After wandering aimlessly around the house, occasionally picking arguments with my little sister for no apparent reason, other than i was bored, my grandmother came with bags of food, and suggested me and my sister start to learn how to cook something that was not microwaveable.

LESSON 1: Never say no to your nana when she is holding the knife

I have no idea why we were learning how to make trifle. i expected something more along the lines of 'how to boil an egg' or even 'how to fry an egg' if we were being adventerous.
My nana ripped open bags of jelly, custard and other things with a grossly oversized knife. Ah, baghdadiy women.

LESSON 2: jelly=hot water+ jelly powder. Its not hard(!)

I read the instructions on the jelly packet, and added how much boiling water it said. It smelt good. While waiting for it to cool, i threw some fruit into a galss trifle bowl. No one was impressed. I'm supposed to arrange it nicely. Fast forward 5 minutes, and i have managed to arrange the fruit 'nicely' in the glass bowl. Its a shame the fruit is now more of a puree though. In my annoyance i accidently pressed the fruit down into the bowl a bit too viciously, and it resembles goo.
Suddenly I hear a loud CRACK, then a shattering sound. We all jump, but my sister remains unmoved as she says "Uh oh". I giggle uncontrollably as i realise my sister has placed boiling hot jelly in the glass bowl. The glass bowl has cracked and shattered. My mother walks around looking for a broom, while my nana tries to make me stop giggling because it is 'ayb' and might offend the guests.

Lesson 3: Curdling the Custard

My sister has stolen half my jelly, but thankfully i stopped her from messing up my 'nice' arrangement of fruit in the glass bowl.
Me and my sister are each given a packet of custard powder and milk. Read instructions. Argue with sister over measuring jug, then place everything on the cooker. We are specifically told to never stop stirring.
Fifteen minutes later...My sister has burnt her custard and doesn't have the guts to tell anyone or do anything. I stand next to her supressing giggles. I look down and realise my custard is still thinner than water. Its on full heat.
I have a stroke of genius, and tell my sister to mix her overly thick custard with my overly thin one. We are trying our best not to laugh so they don't find out. I can feel my lips hurting as I bite them down to stop bursting from laughter. Behind us, my nana is telling my mother how its not our fault, since we have been to busy with out 'intensive education'.

LESSON 4: Making Weep

We each silently pour our custard in bowls on top of jelly. Next its time to make the cream whip. (pronounced weep). We mix and mix viciously as mama and nana say ''ala kaefkoum'' (translation-kind of like carefully). Mine goes well, and i smooth it over the custard, and add little decoration things. My sisters is runny, and she has eaten most of her decoration things. A silent battle follows of me trying to get my decorations back from my sister. We turn our backs to our judges and use our eyes to give threatening looks to each other.

LESSON 5: Tidy Touta

After putting glass bowls in the fridge, we have to clean up our mess. My sister politely asks if we can have the kitchen emptied so she can tidy. I am in charge of dishes. I start listening to my mp3 and using an obscene amount of washing up liquid. What can i say..i like the bubbles. Ten minutes later, my sister is tapping me laughing, i take out the headphones, and it takes 5 minutes until i can understand what she is saying from her laughter. I was making so much clattering, that the guests had been wondering if there was fighting. I turn around and spy on them in th tv room. They have gotten up, and are looking through the window. Oops.

LESSON 6: It tastes like burn

My stroke of genius was not so clever it seems. By mixing my sisters custard with mine, my custard now tastes of burnt. When i didnt burn it.
Well, at least mine looks good.
I have also learnt to cook with my sister. It makes me look so much better by comparison. :D

An hour later, as we all sit around the table, with abandoned bowls of trifle, my mama says "its probably cheaper to buy it ready made anyway".

Thursday, 1 January 2009

My Iraq:2009

I'll start out by saying I'm at some relatives house, across the Dijla, and slightly more north.

I was supposed to be travelling abroad, for more university stuff, but Iraq+Plans=Failure. I think its always best to go with the 'flow' here, as plans almost-correction never- work. That's both a good and bad thing I suppose.

The 30th was basically me moping that i wasn't going to spend it with my family, but relatives, who seemed to have a completely different idea about what life was about. Anyways, a few hours of silence later, it was the 31st. My father came back from Diyala, apparently missing an explosion. It always is worrying how many times you can 'escape' death, or how close you can come to it, without even realising. i try to convince myself the suprise will lessen, but it really doesnt. I always end up with the same reaction. An involuntary shudder. There's no other way to live I suppose. Anyway, back to diyala, something about dumping of dead bodies in local bisateen. The police forces in Diyala, I'm not sure whether to describe their reputation as the best police force or the worst. Equation number 2: law+village life=incompatible, or so it seems.

Anyway, 31st, was spent watching my mother cook at the speed of light, and watching relatives joke and laugh. A whole hour was dedicated to calling other family members and wishing them a happy new year, and success. This basically means a whole hour of shouting "Schlonkum? Inshalla il sayna il jedida itjeeb hob wa najah!!" ("how are you? hopefully the new year will bring love and success") down a crackly phone line.

It was truly a funny scene, as each side of the telephone line misunderstood, or misheard.
I think half an hour was spent trying to distinguish voices.

Children who i know are related to me, but I don't recognise, run around my ankles screaming, as I try to make sure that a tray of juice reaches its target-the living room- without being spilled. There's absolutley no second of quiet, but an ongoing stream of happy conversations. The tv is now on an iraqi channel, where some people are dancing. they have formed an impossbly long line, and shake their shoulders up and down trying to dance the chobii.

Of course the men have occupied a large area, talking about politics, economics etc etc of Iraq, before my nana gives them the 'look'. No more politics talk, and now jokes occupy the conversation, and everyone ducks as flecks of hab (seeds) fly out in all directions, accompanied by laughter.

Its still far from 12, so the all the family head out to a restaurant. A known restaurant is found, and everyone storms inside from the cold. Ten minutes are spent trying to find a table large enough, and instead we end up pulling two tables together. Looking at the menus was a suprise for my family only I think. There are so many foreign options now. To my suprise, all foods come with starters, salads and drinks.

A few minutes later, to everyones suprise, we hear bangs, and everyone is silenced. A guy checks outsides and sees no fireworks. But within minutes, the atmosphere resumes. Talking, eating laughing, and hey even flirting.

(In iraq, an increase in romance/engagements/weddings basically means that the situation is improving-the logic behind this is, if the situation is bad, everyone wants to live each second without the responsibility of a partner/children; if the situation is good-bring on the marital chains! :D).

The decision is made to walk home:
a) to burn off sugar, as dessert awaits at home
b) the traffic is ridiculous.

We pass a new checkpoint thing, and against our expectations, it is entirely manned by the iraqi army. One of the soldier hands a flower and a sparkler thing to every girl in our family. I try my best not to take it personally and fall in love. hhhhhhh

At home, the generator whirrs into life, and light floods the house. Its going to be 12, and everyone has managed by some miracle to fit into one room. We hear more bangs, again everyone is in jumpy mode again, but sheepishly we realise its fireworks outside. They glitter and sparkle.

At 12, everyone proceeds to start kissing and hugging everyone else. i found it easier to start on your knees, kissing all the children first, then work your way up, as adults usually spend half an hour in tears wishing you success in your life, whereas the children grin cheesily and slobber on your cheeks.

Twenty minutes later i have no saliva left. Kisses here are extremely sloppy, hhhh, or rather wet, but i think i prefer that to the air kisses. hhhhh, yes air kisses. If someone considers themselves high class in iraq, they do not kiss you, rather they place a hand on your shoulder and kiss the air on either side of you. I found this pointless, and just ended up moving my head from side to side while smiling. :D But with relatives....its like drowning in a bucket of saliva, but for some reason i always find it heart warming and fun.

More hab remnants fly as jokes are made about everyone and everything. One of the joke topics i remember, is about one of the women in the restaurant who said 'pitha' instead of pizza. Then Jokes about bald people. i look at my dad's head to make a point *cough thinning hair*.

The time is 4am, and i'm still not asleep.
a) because i'm ill, [and so i am inevitably going to spend the first day of 2009 in a bed]
b) because i keep replaying the day over in my head.

It doesn't need a genius to point out that no one should rush back to iraq, because things are far from perfect, but i can say i've never felt more alive in my life. Of course, bets are being made about when i will snap out of this euphoric phase. Not any time soon.

As a child, I always viewed new years day as something of a spell. It meant tidying my room to perfection, so that the coming year, my room-and life, would be tidy, I would wear new clothes, and I would make sure i was always smiling, so that in the new year i would be happy. Basically i was scared i would be cursed to have a bad year if each new year didn't start out perfectly.
Only one year ago did I snap out of idiocy. It really doesn't matter how you spend your new years eve/day, as long as its with who you love. i don't care how cheesy it sounds, every letter is true.
It doesn't matter if my room is messy on that day, or if i don't do anything special. i've realised this year is completely in my (our) hands, so with that, all i can say, cherish each second of life.
Now, I'm going to do some stupid things. It seems I enjoy making mistakes a little too much. :D