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 later....food 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.