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 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.

30 comments:

JG said...

Great post, Touta. Very funny!

You might be lucky and get a Valentines card from Moayed! :))

Dreamer said...

Enjoyed reading your post :) I was quite surprised to find that ppl do celebrate valentines! a friend, in baghdad, was once telling me that they all wore some form of a red garment into uni for valentines! Good for them really, no reason not to celebrate.

Moayad Ni3ma! a well known iraqi caricaturist, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago.

programmer craig said...

So thats why there were no planes. They were being used by cunning buisnessmen to fly flowers to Baghdad.

But of course! :D

Happy Valentine's Day, dear.

Michomeme said...

Happy Valentine's day Touta, people here do celebrate, I remember when I was at college, I used to buy some chocolates to my friends, and they gave me some nice cards or any other red things.
When I got engaged, I start to give gifts for my fiance, and he also gave me my gift.
it is nice to celebrate, we should not stop celebrating our love, we need love to feel that we are still a life...

C.H. said...

Touta,

Excellent post, and very funny :) Happy valentines day too. I am glad to see you made it home safe, I hope your not too jetlagged. Its only a 3 hour time difference after all! ;)

It must have been quite a sight to see the woman with all the jewelry go through security. Last Summer, when I traveled to Boston, they made me take off my belt because the metal set off the alarm. Hhhhhhhh, strict rules.

JG said...

C.H.,

Try flying into Tel Aviv. You'll likely have to take off more than your belt! ;)

mhmd said...

i feel more sorry for moayed. Poor guy.

attawie said...

So that's why there were no planes! I thought the flowers came with Sarkozy!

Moayed! I have two cousins called Moayed, one died though, Allah yer7ama.

I had a scenario today exactly like yours with my dad :|

Glad you made it home safely :) 7amdilla 3assalama :)

C.H. said...

JG,

Haven't been to Tel Aviv yet, but I can imagine it must be crazy. Most Israeli planes are double-hulled.

Removing a belt at security isn't anything out of the ordinary I guess, but the hard part is walking through the metal detector without being able to hold onto one of your belt loops, LOL.

Touta said...

JG,
Thank you!
Maybe, if i'm lucky, he'll throw a jug of lemon juice at me. hhhh, as for the israelis, they have double hulled planes and security while they bomb children's schools, epitome of the struggle of israel against those cold blooded palestinian terrorists.

Dreamer,
thank you, it made me smile to realise people still believe in happiness.I'll research the caricature guy..i've never heard of him. ;)

programmer craig,
and a happy valentine to you too. :) stupid flowers.

michomeme,
happy valentine, and its nice that here even friends celebrate valentines, its not just for couples. :) and yes, we do need to live our life, despite everything.

ch,
hahaha,happy valentine's day to you too, but jet lag is more from wandering around airports and the whole stress of not knowing when the plane will come or not. ;D

mhmd,
you have a problem

attawie,

Allah yer7am your cousin moayed. Its hard to escape from death these days, bas the flowers make us smile. and shukran. :D as for the dad situation, its so hard to maintain silence when you want to scream. there should be a daughter's day. :)
Happy Valentines.

moonlight said...

hhhh great post touta :) made me laugh and smile. sounds like you had some intresting seat mates.
7amdilla 3aslaama and happy valentines day.

oh and moayed I have a great uncle named Moayed. It's not that uncommon :P

JG said...

CH

the hard part is walking through the metal detector without being able to hold onto one of your belt loops, LOL

LOL, yeah!

Touta

they have double hulled planes and security while they bomb children's schools

Indeed. Sickening.

Little Penguin said...

Happy Valentine!!!! :)

Touta said...

moonlight,
'interesting' is an understatement. hehehe, I must be the only one who hasn't heard of moayed. well now i know. :)
shukran wa happy valentines'!!

JG,
:) well, you guys should start wearing skirts or dresses to airports, it would be easier..i suggest an abbaya. hhhh.

Iraqi signor,
happy valentines too!!

programmer craig said...

Indeed. Sickening.

JG, you never told us on mojo's blog... are you Irish?

programmer craig said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jul/07/terrorism.july73

I ask, because it seems you are the wrong nationality to be taking the moral high ground about bombings of the innocent.

C.H. said...

well, you guys should start wearing skirts or dresses to airports

hhhh...you are a funny one, Touta ;)

Anyway, Craig, JG, Touta, I will put in my two cents about Israel-Palestine. Personally, it breaks my heart when I see Iraqis expressing an outpouring of support for the people of Gaza only to have the favor returned with Palestinians marching in support of Zarqawi and Saddam. Certainly, not all Palestininians embrace such madness...but I have yet to see the people of Gaza condemn the suicide bombings in Iraq, like the atrocity that was committed yesterday.

Just my thoughts...can we all keep being friends now? Touta, kudos to you for being able to blog about subjects that bring people together :D

JG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JG said...

Touta, kudos to you for being able to blog about subjects that bring people together :D

I agree!

JG said...

I'm just picturing myself in an abbaya! :)

What do you think, Corey, would it be better than the humiliation of your jeans ending up around your ankles as you walk through the metal detector minus your belt? :)

I have yet to see the people of Gaza condemn the suicide bombings in Iraq, like the atrocity that was committed yesterday

Corey,

Who has asked them? I didn't see the people of India condeming this or that event in other countries after the tsunami. I have yet to see the people of the Congo condemn Robert Mugabe, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

There are a lot of lies and misinformation out there about Palestinians. Don't be fooled. They are no different to you or I. You should visit Palestine sometime, you'll find friendly, hospitable, people who just want to live in peace and securtiy like the rest of us.

That's what I found, ordinary people living in a desperate situation.

programmer craig said...

They are no different to you or I.

That may be true in your case, since you are Irish :P

That's what I found, ordinary people living in a desperate situation.

Well, that seems strange. All the Palestinians I've met here in the US have been lunatics. Are you claiming they are kind and peace-loving people, when they live in the middle-east? Or maybe I've just been really unlucky, eh?

By the way, I met some Irish lunatics when I was in high school in New York too. Real ones. From Ireland. Just like you. Not nice people. But then again, most of them had left Ireland for the US due to some unique circumstances of the day, and I don't hold their insanity against other Irish. Except you. Because you talk just like them :P

dave said...

another jokes blog, great procrastination tool! I feel sorry for you on the plane. I always wish that one day I will sit next to somebody fascinating who will talk to me, but as I know the likelihood is they will be more incline to the 'Moayed' persuasion I always tend to be thankful nobody has been that talkative so far.

C.H. said...

JG,

would it be better than the humiliation of your jeans ending up around your ankles as you walk through the metal detector minus your belt? :)

Granted that I have dodged that bullet at least once, I would have to say that Touta's suggestion would be slightly less humiliating, hahaha.

There are a lot of lies and misinformation out there about Palestinians.

Agreed. It was a Palestinian friend of mine who taught me about the religion of Islam and has organized several visits for me to a local mosque here in San Francisco. I certainly don't believe all Palestinians are bad people, not at all. That being said I find it offensive when I see specific Palestinians marching in the streets to support two men who have inflicted 100 times more suffering on the Arab world than Israel: Saddam and Zarqawi.

...and don't believe all Israelis are bad either. Israel is a state-of-the-art society. If Israel disappeared tomorrow and Hamas took over the region, the Palestinians would continue to suffer from unemployment, poor living conditions, and violence, just like so many innocent Arabs who live under the most despotic of regimes.

Touta said...

CH & JG,
hhhhhhhh, you guys have it tougher than i thought at airports, if you seriously are considering wearing an abbaya.

Dave,
me too, I've always wished to sit next to a forrest gump type of character, not one who insists on embarrassing their seat mate. :)


and as for the whole palestinian conflict, I think that atrocities are happening all over the world, and it is a shame, whether it is Tibet, or Uganda, everyone is human, and i refuse to acknowldege that politics can ever be reason enough to kill. :)

JG said...

Haha... the image of myself in an abbaya makes me smile every time.

Actually I don't have it bad at airports at all. In Dublin Airport they sometimes ask you to take off your shoes, that's about as inconvenient as it gets. But as CH says, I have dodged the 'falling jeans' bullet once or twice in the past! :)

JG said...

Corey,

Fair comment @ 15 February 2009 00:13

But no "state-of-the-art society" would treat millions of people under its control like animals the way Israel treats the Palestinians. It is an outrage and rightly sullies Israel's reputation.

programmer craig said...

As if you care about Israel's reputation, JG :P

I bet you were equally outraged by the UK in the past. Or are you too young to have been involved in all that? Perhaps you learned the attitude from your family members? What I don't understand, is how people like you can believe they have a monopoly on righteous outrage.

programmer craig said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N7MnIPw3Kw&eurl

Shoecide bombers!

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

I bet you were equally outraged by the UK in the past.

JG is a supporter of the IRA.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

He and PeteS were just having a discussion about the "Troubles" over at Zeyad's.