After reading firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 Well, not one, more like many, that slapped me of the outdated and horrible view that men have of women/relationships etc etc here.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:
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.
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.
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.
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!