Thursday, 26 February 2009

Arabana's Tale of Woe

Walking home as the sun shines. I like slow walking, despite its many hazards. Such as flying spit from annoyed 20 something year old guys, or glowing cigarette ends from depressed 40 year olds. I feel that walking on the streets now resembles a video game, with stereotypical characters and things you have to dodge, like a pool of dirty sludge in the middle of the pavement.

I pass the arabana on an almost daily basis. A balding and cheerful looking guy runs it, who makes jokes, which i can never seem to remember. He shouts jokes randomly, as people stop to buy drinks from him. His arabana (trolley) has a bright red, but ageing, umbrella over it, and it advertises at least 20 different drinks, when he only sells three: pepsi, miranda and 7up (occasioanlly replaced by mountain dew or apple mission).

I've never brought anything from him personally, but more like wait around a metre away while someone buys the drink for me, either because i was accompanied by someone older or male.

Today i was alone, and i noticed that a 12 year old boy had manned the arabana instead. I saw him leaning on the arabana from metres away, but as I approached an annoying sound got louder and louder. Until i realised it was his voice. He shouted, no screamed loudly the costs of the drinks, and a few jingles mixed in there to be catchy. I laughed hard, and I shocked myself. Why had I laughed at this 12 year old boy. Then I remembered, because everything he said and did resembled someone older than him by at least 15 years. He threw his head backed as he called the prices, and I could see a few of the older passer bys clearly get annoyed.

I carefully approach the loud child, and as i do, i can feel my ear drums vibrating more and more the closer i get. I buy a bottle of water, and I stay not moving trying to decide; whether to move and drink it (which will probably result in me spilling it, since I cannot walk and drink at the same time); or do I risk staying here, despite the group of people who will soon stop here also and start buying drinks and talking.

I decide to hold my ground and open the bottle. I spend a millisecond struggling to open the bottle, before the child asks me "trideen musaada bitee". I look goggle eyed at him. Did he just ask me "do you want help my daughter?". He's talking to me like a middle aged guy would?!

Before I actually can say something like 'shouldn't you be in school?', the bottle is in his hands as he rips apart the top. i see in the struggle the label has disintergrated. Group of people approach arabana. I don't even turn around to see who it is, but rather continue staring at the man-child before me. I nod off the change he gives me, and tell him i have to pay him something for 'opening the bottle'. Silently I start to wonder how his life has been. After he exchanges general information, while i tower above him drinking occasionally, I realise, I haven't asked him one question. The man child had just burst into telling me his mini life story. He hastily serves some other customers, who walk about a metre away and stand drinking and laughing loudly. Soon the dry smell of tobacco wafts over.

Lived in X city, loved it until war-where his uncle was killed, moved to syria, out of all his siblings only one school place was offered to them. No work, etc etc, so they moved back. 'But we're not from this area', he whispers conspiratorally 'it was just a safer area than ours'. I have absolutley no idea what to say, and end up bending towards him and whispering just as conspiratorally, 'we're all iraqis anyway'. I have to stop this habit of saying the most cheesiest possible thing, at the most awkward time. But I'm afraid its either that or an awkward silence. The man child bursts into laughter, and replies "la, inti mu iraqeeya" ('no, you're not iraqi'), I wonder what he means by that, and smile as he opens his mouth again: "lo inti iraqeeya chinti imkatatnee min zamaan" ('if you were an iraqi, you would have interrupted me a long time ago'). I burst into laughter at his wittiness.

As I walk away, I can't help contemplate how many other Iraqi children have watched their childhood crash and burn in a explosion of violence and anger. Perhaps thats why he talked like an adult. Perhaps thats why he instinctively felt he had to open the bottle for me. I walk back and buy three more drinks from him.

I'm going to visit both Arramadi and Diyala soon again. Arramadi I'll see relatives on my mothers side, and Diyala-father's relatives. Both of course require more 'modest' clothes, and i seem to have obliterated my two items of modest outdoor clothes. One is ripped across the back, and the other shrunk while washing, making it 'modest' no more.

Oh, and I've been told not to wander out as much around our neighbourhood these days. Everyone knows everyone, and people do know my cousins, but someone enquired about the 'il bnaya ilee ma labsa hijaab' (the girl not wearing the hijab), who were out with X and Y (my cousins). My neighbourhood is by no means religious, and is mixed with sunni, shia and two christian families. It just that my neighbourhood is also devoid of girls.Its mostly old people, some families with small screeching children, and unemployed male youths. I keep trying to remind myself that the only places were you can find young women is schools, universities and on the main shopping street. Therefore that is where I have to be confined to. Unless I am surrounded by relatives of course, in which case, i can go anywhere.

At first I got annoyed- why did my parents let me go out alone in the uk, but not here. i kicked up a fuss: 'my rights as a human, its this culture, is it because i am not dressed in a black sack? etc etc', and then I realised it actually was for my own peace of mind and safety. I can't really explain it apart from you get hassled if you're female and walk alone here. My whole family was shocked at the change in manners here when we got back. Our nana laughed as we complained. What did we expect she asked. A war, there's been a war, and anyone with a coin to hold has left, leaving the 'uneducated' behind in want of a better word. Basically, those that were poor and 'ima3deen' have left their cold houses, and inhabited the houses of those that ave left, or they have built upon the ruins of a built site and so on.

A tell tale sign of these poorer people is their language-from their crude remarks to their annoying shouting. None the less, they are iraqi and because of that, I don't mind. i don't mind that there has been a deteroriation in manners and respect for women in general here, I just hope that I don't go pyscho on the next crude remark i hear as I walk through Al-Rubaie. I probably will. Oh well.

I also have to re-acquiant myself with eating from the floor.Not that I ever got acquainted with eating urubee style. The other option of course is to end up with half a plate of food in my lap, meaning when i got up, i picked up the bottom of my dishdasha (formed like a bowl of fabric), and I went outside and threw it off onto the floor, watching as a dark wave of ants gathered around the mountain of food that fell from my dishdasha.

And the internet service provider server or something burned out. *sigh* Now its either the rip off that is mobile internet, or the internet cafes, which I have to spend half an hour trying to convince my mother to let me go in (its not suitable for girls, since you have yellow teethed people smoking down your neck. Literally.)

And its doing that dusty thing again, where its too sandy to go out. The worst part of it is how dirty the house gets after sandstorms. With all doors and windows closed. I pray it doesnt rain, otherwise it shall be sludge and slide galore for the next few days...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Medicine of Iraq: Part 1

Al Iraqiya tv channel broadcasts news of something that can be a shining beacon for Iraq.
A patient suffering from Multiple Sclerosis has undergone stem cell treatment at a hospital in Baghdad.

The patient is apparently from the UK, but how much of this is true, I have no idea. Kind of makes me laugh though. There's no IV fluids in the hospitals...but stem cell transplants-sure.
Anyway, putting complaints and the realistic situation (that is, the iraqi health sector needs so much work, that even the A team would have given up) aside, its an advancement nonetheless, and I silently wonder if this is going to be on any other news channel.

Does it bode well however that despite the sometimes overly religious government regulations that Science and Medicine are allowed to progress freely...I think it does. How much of this will change over the coming years is anyone's guess. Or perhaps i am being too philosphical, and I should just admit, that it is perhaps the lack of regulations and guidelines in Iraq concerning healthcare, that allows such treatments to be available here.

Nonetheless, it kind of gives hope amongst the ruins that is the collapsing healthcare services here. I wonder how the iraqi doctors are coping.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

I think i love you

Oh how I love you so..My darling my heart aches for you...I've even written you a song.

Ladies and Gentlemen, cast your eyes down and read the translation of a poignant iraqi love song...This is Romance-iraqi style. (Okay, really it isn't.)

Al Bortaqala Lyrics Translation (the orange)

Yal Bortaqala athabtee hala-the orange, you've tortured his situation

yal bortaqala yal bortaqala -the orange, the orange

imalaga wa tizheen-hanging and glorious

imalaga wa tizheen-hanging and glorious

athabtee hala-you've tortured his situation

athabtee hala-you've tortured his soul

shilich ala ib ilnaas-what have you got to do with the son of the people

shilich ala ib ilnaas-what have you got to do with the son of the people

athabtee hala-you've tortured his situation

yal bortaqala-the orange

yal bortaqala-the orange

imaliga wa tizheen-hanging and glorious

imalaga wa tizheen-hanging and glorious

athabtee hala-you've tortured his state

athabtee hala-you've tortured his state

shilich ala ib il naas-what have you got to do with the son of the people

shilich ala ib il naas-what have you got to do with the son of the people

athabtee hala-you've tortured his state

aha aha aha aha

inta ahla min gheeer-you're prettier than others

inta ahla min gheer-you're prettier than others

min wajih ya mahla -the face, theres no prettier

il wajih ya mahla-the face, there's no prettier

al shifa warat-the lips like rose buds

alshifa warat-the lips like rose buds

kul il warid bil koun-all the flowers in the world

kul al warid-all the flowers

al shifa warat-the lips like rose buds


dool il leilee-through the nights

dool il leilee-through the nights

sahrana afakir beech-i am awake thinking of you

sahrana afakir beech-i am awake thinking of you

bas roohmee halee -just have mercy on my state

bas roohmee halee-just have mercy on my state

ya hilwat il hilwaat- oh sweetest of the sweet

ya hilwat il hilwaat-oh sweetest of the sweet

bas roohmee halee- just have mercy on my state


mithal ilghazala- like a gazelle

mithal ilghazala- like a gazelle

imkhalah il eineen -she's kohled both her eyes

imkhalah- kohled

hal bortaqala -this orange

hal bortaqala- this orange

hayarat kil il naas- she's confused all the people

hayarat kil il naas-she's confused all the people

hal bortaqala- this orange


Now comes my commentary. All I have to say is see...its not that rude, the lyrics are generally okay, but i got the distinct idea that the singer must be an idiot to insist on repeating each line twice. But maybe I'm biased, because the music video made me cringe with horror as now iraqi girls cannot at all have one item of orange in their wardrobe in fear of being sang the song, as they walk down the streets-and trust me this is not just in Iraq.

As well as this, the singer is creepy. Too creepy. Look up Alaa Saad on google images, and you'll see what I mean. I physically shuddered at the video, but you simply cannot drag your eyes away, as you gape open mouthed at the almost angry dance movements.

Some iraqis were outraged. 'It doesn't represent the iraqi way of life, and our women do not dress or dance like that'.

Allow me to clear it up. Iraqis claimed that those were gypsies-a big insult iraqi-wise-and some of the girls probably weren't even Iraqi. Well, walk the shops, and you will most probably find clothes and dresses like the girls wear in the video, and yes, people do buy it. But it is always worn amongst female only parties, were islamically it is allowed to show that much skin as it were.

Point two, the dancing. It does exist. And, I am not talking about the fact that such dancing exists in those exclusive night clubs-the one that i get angry every time I pass. (These baghdad nightclubs are found in the corners of streets, exclusive to spoilt wealthy sons of officials, who swagger around, too pathetic to do anything else) This dancing is a village type of dancing. In all the female parties i have been to in Baghdad, the dancing is different to the video.

But anyone been to a village recently? No? Well, thing is, I distinctly remember the type of dancing at the party held for our arrival back to Diyala. Of course, male and female were separated. The women churn out their own music, and usually it was the older women who sat and sang and made the music, but the style of dance was ermm..kind of similiarish to the video one.

So, all in all, Alaa Saad....why? For the love of Mirinda why?!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Iraqi Chat Up Lines.

It is Valentine's day. I am sat on a bench, with the intoxicating smell of fresh flowers, that are hanging from baskets around this shop. I spent the first two hours sitting here, laughing with the girls of my family, the guys have gone somewhere for buy a valentine's cake to stop the wrath of women-iraqi women. hehehe.

We all sit, and I have started making jokes about the sayings I have heard around Baghdad and Diyala. 'Chat up lines' don't exist as such in society here, more rather, guys hang around in big groups and shout what they think is romanitc and or a compliment. So I'm going to give you an insight into the funny world I currently reside in.

Male lines:

"do you want a date? I have a sack full from my bistaan"- basically showing off 'look at me, I have a farm!'

"il youm lazem laylat al qadr, laeen hai il youm il malaika tinzil"- 'today must be night of qadr, because thats the night angels come down'

"la ma wigat min dishdashtee, wigat ilich"- 'no, i didn't fall over my dishdasha, i fell for you'

another way is singing songs. Iraqi guys *actually* think its romantic to sing to females. Songs include- 'Al Bortaqala' (the orange), 'Al rommanah' (the pomengranite), 'Al tofaha' (the apple). These are verry famous, and the songs basically refers to the girl that they like by calling her a spherical piece of fruit. Oh, the romanticness of it all.

"WILICH"- 'hey you!'. Enoguh said really.

" sar infijar, sar infijar!!!.....ib qalbi" -'there's been an explosion, theres been an explosion!! my heart'. This is only used by the most attention seeking, preferably away from shops or old men, who would beat them up for making people scream.

"ahibbich"-'i love you'. This doesn't seem so bad, until i tell you that this is strangers saying it on the street to female passerbys.

Not even married women are safe....not even if you wear an abbaya...."thibee al abbayaaaa"-'drop the abbaya'. This is the name of a song from kasim sultan, and is occasionally sung to non abbaya wearing girls, who just have hijab, as well as abbaya clad women, who then proceed to beat up the youth by engulfing them in a cloud of black fabric, which blinds them, so they can strike freely. As the abbayed woman walks away, look to the ground to see a pool of broken bones and bruises.

Female lines:

"schlon shwarib muhtarrama" - 'what a respectable mustache' : saddam era of course

"fa, inta leehisa ayish ib bait ahlak"-'so, you still live in your parents house' : (this is a good thing, as if you live alone, assumptions are made straight away that the guy doesn't live at home, because he's been kicked out)

"hememeehehememhe"-'mehememhemehe' : girls trying to be girly/feminine (nazaqa). They sound more like mice, and its hard to tell what they really are saying.

"Indak shugul?"-'you have work?' : if the guy replies 'I'm a doctor/engineer/professor/lawyer and i have work', then an insta-relationship occurs.

*smile*- if you are female, and happen to smile, or return a smile, then this is a form of flirting, so keep you head down, and frown. :D

*writing poetry*- a lot of girls write poetry of love etc. The only poem I find suiting to describe Iraqi lotharios is 'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kubba and all the dolma put Humpty back together again'

There's many more i overheard on Valentine's day, but frankly, I'm too cold to sit here typing, so Aurevoir!

J'adore le pamplemousse,

Touta from Baghdad.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Violent Valentine

Back in Baghdad. Arrived Thursday, and trying to get used to the darkness and noise again.

I'm not sure how tommorrow is going to end up, but i hope no bombs- Hussam al Rassam sings romantically to his audience "anfijir yam al bab lo ma ligata"-'I'll explode near the door, if i don't find him', so naturally I worry about how we are going to display our affection on Valentines Day. :D
To tell you the truth, I genuinely didn't expect anyone here to celebrate Valentines Day, but oh how wrong was I. Shops and stalls are filled to the brim with overstuffed bears holding lovehearts, and I couldn't contain my laughter when shop keepers boast of their imported flowers-flown from France and Germany. So thats why there were no planes. They were being used by cunning buisnessmen to fly flowers to Baghdad.

That reminds me of the plane ride to Baghdad. One of the worst rides ever, I actually considered if the glass windows were breakable or not. My father came to the UK a day before for something or other, and that meant four of us would return to Iraq. The plane seats are in groups of three. I ended up being abandoned to sit in the adjacent seat. Okay, you might say that this is not such a big a deal, and only the corridor separating me from the rest of my family, but hear my tale of woe.

The journey started off well.The adjacent seat is next to a guy sitting next to a woman wearing a hijab, and enough gold to make all the metal detectors in the world bleep simultaneously when she approaches a ten mile radius. I get a mental image of her as a gangster, rapping profanities.I try not to smile too widely. Withins ten seconds of sitting down, he introduces himself, he's 21 etc etc. I smile. The woman introduces herself to us too, she was visiting her son or something. No one says their name though.

All goes well until the take off. He starts whispering something, and leans his head on the chair in front. I ask if he's okay. He replies its his first time on a plane, and he gets sick easily. I blankly stare at him for ten seconds. I have no idea what to do, and end up offering water. He then dramatically moans for a few minutes, and I slide down my seat trying to hide from stares. I then tell him that the air stewards have anti sickness tablets, and I get up to go and get them. He jumps up, and goes to get them himself, almost knocking me to the ground in the process. I wait in the corridor until he arrives and sits down. I then sit down. He oofs and drinks a tablet. Breaks the second tablet and offers me half, and the gold woman half.
Seconds later, he is happily talking about english, university, syria. The woman is now applying make up. An hour is served. The air steward runs out as he approaches my seat. What ensues is a ten minute long battle where the guy I'm sitting next to pushes his food at me, while i push it back as politely as I can. The woman looks up, now interested. I win merely because I start laughing.

Another hour later, and we have reached the end of the meal-the kiwi. We all pick our kiwis up. He asks if we know what this is. The woman replies she has no idea what it is, and he looks genuinely outraged. Enter lecture about kiwis. I cut mine in half with a spoon, which acts as a better knife than the plastic knife. Then I end up mashing the inside. He comments on how "muthaqafa" (etiquette?) i am, in sarcasm. I smile and watch his attempt to eat his kiwi. He tries to peel it with the plastic knife, and for the next fifteen minutes I am not only subject to his complaints, but also half the juice flying towards me, as he hacks into it. I stay right until the very end, and raise an eyebrow when he is left with mushy green mush. My way was better, and the woman says this matter of factly. I enjoy my minute of triumph, before having to actually go to the toilet to wash off kiwi juice from my face, because he is that good at cutting fruit up.

Sleep time. Quiet at last, but he doesn't sleep. I make my eyes look as heavy as possible, and yawn three times , in hope that he gets the picture. Like I could be that lucky. He asks for two newspapers and hands me one. I open it, and immediatley the middle falls out, and he starts laughing. I pick them off my lap, and try to order them. I give up, and fold it all up randomly. More laughter. However in all fairness, he does offer me his newspaper.
Then my father moves from the window seat, to sit in the seat across the corridor. He looks at my messed up newspaper, and spends the next fifteen minutes telling me of how i need to pay more attention..tidy my room etc etc. I get annoyed even more. He should have sat here and let me sit next to my mother and sister. So I then decide to start ignoring my father angrily.

The guy I sit next to keeps tapping me and saying "madamaaa, abooki ereedik" ("miss, your father wants you"), as my father repeats 'touta, touta don't be moody'. I endure at least ten minutes of both my father and the guy talking to me at the same time. My head starts to hurt. In the end i close my eyes, and I can hear the guy sitting next to me, and my father whispering and laughing. I'm too angry to care.

As we leave the plane, I am rewarded the names of the passengers who sat next to me. The woman smiles for the first time, and its a sympathetic smile.However, I have never heard of anyone with the guy's name, it begins with M, so I get his name wrong twice, mistaking it for both Mohammed and Muhannad, before he patronisingly spells it out. He has an annoying voice which is hard to hear, so not my fault. I mean 'Moayed', who has actually heard of it before?

I almost run out of the airplane, to arrive amongst the strangely surreal dusty surroundings of Baghdad airport.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

300 reasons to laugh

Although this was going to be a hateful, angry post where i decidedly would throw away all my hopes, dreams and beliefs, and I would lament Iraq's education system for being so bad that i was forced out. I then gave up and realised "Forget it, it could be worse". Correction, it had been worse.

After screaming, throwing mood fits of rage and depression (all in under 10 hours, I deserve a prize), I decided to follow an old saying, Khaleeha ala allah. (leave it to God). I'm not even that religious, but sometimes its better to stop thinking and well, give up. Just not that type of give up, give up being annoyed and angry.

But, I simply cannot write a post without mentioning the flights to Iraq. open to journalists and politician guys, but try getting a flight and you will end up walking around an airport for hours, after getting told there isnt just a delay, but there's no plane either. You have got to love the organisation of the middle east. And apparently something abut snow storms still looming over the UK.

I am missing Baghdad, the never sleeping city. Here, everything is closed by 5am, whereas the nights I spent wondering Rubaie Street, and flitting between the Blue Sky restaurant and Leymouna almost seems so far away, but next week (hopefully) I will be back walking across Rubaie street at 11pm at night. Oh, I also made a mental comparison between Topshop here and there. Topshop is a trendy high street store here, but it can also be found in Baghdad. :D Where i hear you cry...well, its a small shop outside a mall in Rubaie Street. The name is written in red neon light, and the shop is run by an old guy, and a younger one. Across the street is Leymouna. Around two blocks behind the Juice/Ice cream parlour lies our house. I have to admit, I miss wandering and finding all these small shops with neon lights. I miss Leymouna where i realise I have spent half my life in. I was always made to sit in the chairs in the Middle of the patio , in fear of a kidnap and run scenario, the idea being, sitting in the middle of the shop means kidnappers are less likely to walk into the middle, but would rather kidnap people sitting on the outside. I hope when i return i can safely sit on the outside now.

I also miss the shop called Fast Fries. Not because its food was a culinary masterpiece, it was generally fried fast food. But it was a hotspot for Iraqi youth to hang out. It was basically a comedy everytime I visited. it was a horrible clash of iraqi youth trying to be cool. It didn't work. If you went with your family, you were safe-just about, as long as you have a member of the family who looks relatively intimidating, or glares well. But going on your own, or accompanied by siblings is paramount to disaster. Teens switch quickly between arabic and american slang, and even to the most unobservant onlooker the male conversations revolve around swearwords, and the female conversations revolve around giggling and whispering. In Fast Fries, an over used phrase was "trideen barid?", which literally translates to "do you want cold?", which actually means "do you want a pepsi?". This is actually an example of a chat up line.Yes, read that again and make sure, because its true. If I'm back in time for Valentine's day, I'll make sure to type up some 'love notes' as they call them. A series of ridiculously funny love sayings that us iraqis actually think are romantic, such as "schlon lihhya" ("what a beard"), and "schlon kayka" ("what a cake").

---------includes plots of 300 and meet the spartans------------------------

To take my mind off the fun i am missing while doing work during the iraqi holidays, i watched Meet the Spartans. I have watched 300 before, but the whole complete and utter stereotypical-ness of it made me laugh during many parts. In 300, Hollywood basically throws in every single misconception it has about the East, adds in a greased up male actor and half the world's jewellry, to form a visually cool film, but with a storyline that even an episode of Teletubbies has more originality than.
Meet King Leonidas, brave, greasy, tanned and muscley, with morales that would make Kofi Annan look immoral. Enter his trophy wife who has enough muscles to throw a 50kg metal shield at her husband, and tell him to return victorious or dead on it, but apparently doesn't have enough power to stop herself being blackmailed by the king's right hand man. The story continues, with a Eastern Xerxes, naturally being a sexually frustrated eastern guy, is pictured to be covered in Jewels, and presumably a little gay. Enter Xerxes' fighters, the mutalited easterners...from turbaned ninjas to elephant riding indians, there is no eastern country that this film doesn't go out of its way to insult. I hate political correctness, but clear cut bias makes me actually appreciate that some films like the Valley of the Wolves exists purely to give Hollywood a taste of their own medicine.

Therefore, i really couldn't deprive myself of watching Meet the Spartans, where everything in the film that I had thoroughly laughed at, would be made fun of even more. In Meet the Spartans, roles are reversed, and it is King Leonidas that is now a little gay, with many stereotypical jokes made of this, and although you tell yourself its not funny, you find yourself laughing at the cheapness of this movie, from the references to famous tv programmes, as well as the hip hop style dance off between the persians with the hairy backs, and the spartans and their sprayed on abs. A favourite part was where the movie turned into a scene from the GTA video game, and it took me time to assess whether it was my own imagination.
The jokes were simple, but suprisingly funny at times, to the point where after laughing at them, you mentally scold yourself for being rude/laughing at something that would probably offend a lot of people.Xerxestron with a weird youtube video seemed almost surreal, and made me pause rather than laugh, but the botox overdose that rocky balboa sufferes makes up for the weirdness of xerxestron and the computer generated persian army of 100000.

I talk to one of my cousins online, who is now at the Enternet cafe across from the jeans seller, researching work for her university project. i secretly wonder why, when every time i seemed to visit her classes it involved students sitting swapping pictures and jokes via bluetooth, while a very late professor would rush in and teach in a barely audible voice. The lecture would end, the professor would collapse on a chair and moan of yet more letter threats or check points, and students would walk out into the sun. Yet students still manage to end up with a ridiculous amount of work.

I'm still hooked on the tap water here. I missed it. I physically missed the clearness of it. I smile as i wonder how many years until I see the clear water of the Dijla and Furat flowing through the taps. Okay, off to drink some more water, and wander aimlessly around the house, as I ponder what the rest of the evening will entail.