Today, to prevent a possible explosion of my head from the mess that is life (you know that i really mean lack of...), I went shopping. Such Normalcy. In Iraq. :)
Basically this is an unspoken rule, where when it starts to get hotter, you need start actually visiting people and places. Forget the occasional bousts of gunfire, 'its just people protesting against the iranians'.
Therefore I cannot wear anything with a smart coat on top as I have been doing for the past months. Around December time, I was far to preoccupied with sulking on a sofa, so when it came to getting ready to visit Z or N or whoever, I put on jeans, and a coat. On top of my Pajama top. Should I really mention that when the woman of the house finally wrestled me out of my coat, and exclaimed how "pretty, but aren't you cold habebti?"(-mental response: well why do you think I wanted to keep my coat on?).
My grandfather chuckled loudly with laughter. Fortunatley, no one apart from my grandfather and sister had noticed I had remained unchanged from my pajamas. Such observation skills do we iraqis have, its a wonder how anything manages to get past us.
So no more pajamas and coats for me. Shopping went well, until one certain phase of shopping was reached. Undergarment shopping.
In Iraq, most of underwear stalls (you rarely get shops just for one certain type of clothes) for women are filled with things from 'al quroon il wusta'. i.e. the Middle Ages. They are greying, and old, and weirdly shaped. And made of material that feels like it has been cut out of potato sacks. Therefore, the only solution is to go to the garishly loud stalls, with all their brightly imported from China goods.
Suprisingly, the garish stalls had nothing but brightly coloured hawain shorts or boxers or whatever they're called nowadays.
An hour later of wandering aimlessly, and laughing at how my dad walked ahead, I saw a shop not on the high street. With headless plastic models showing off scary looking underwear.
Basically, I had found a shop (notice not stall, but a shop), that sold underwear for women. Ones that didn't look like they were sown while the factory workers were drunk/stoned.
The colour inside the shop, was a dark pink, with lighting that wasn't bright enough. It kind of made me feel sleepy. All the shop needed now was a smoke machine.
There was no one there, but usually after a while, the shop keeper comes down to serve you.
So I chose happily, and we waited. Chose some more because I got bored of waiting. Waited some more, and then when i hear the 'naam?' (yes?). I am too scared to turn around, because I've realised its a guys voice. Usually, I have no problem with buying all my clothes from guys as is the case in Iraq. But with underwear...in a shop like this one, I kind of hoped, nay expected, a female to serve me. I mean even in the UK, underwear shops for females had female sellers. Or at least had two sellers, one male and one female. Ah, how I miss the choice.
Leaving the shop, I spend the following ten minutes complaining to my sister who does not consolidate, but rather laughs, and rather loudly too. What do I want? An islamic state like Saudi? Well, you'll be suprised (or not) to hear, all their under wear shops are also manned by guys...http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7908866.stm. In Iraq though, it has absolutley nothing to do with religion, and solely to do with the fact that the souk is a man's world. Its considered kind of not so good if you're a woman and you run your buisness (unless its a salon or food), because buisness requires the 'brutality and bravery of men'. *ahem*. Welcome to the after shocks of war.
I just want the ability to choose who serves me, or at least not have a male seller smirk at me, as I try to stop from explaing myself to a stranger.
I have babbled long enough at the horror that occured to me today. Looking at the bright side, at least I didnt get shot by the distant gunfire heard. Or 'fireworks', (I'm not that easily fooled, nor do I live in a rainbows and butterflys la la land).
Onto the main story. My sister complained bitterly of hunger, to the point that I was sure someone was about to hand her a free meal just to make her be quiet.
No such thing occured, but as we drove past shops, we realised there were no food shops/stalls in sight. ?!!! We make a resolution to stop by the first thing we see. Happens to be a stall selling finger chips. As i look down the road, a wave of food cafes and stalls appear.
People walk past the finger chips guy without even turning their heads. He wears a tattered jumper, and beads of sweat lie on his forehead, as he stands next to the hot metal thing.
Really, when there are Mcdonald-esque fast food stores a few minutes away, no one is really going to bother with the finger chips guy.
The finger chips guy is now a rare breed. Before the war, he was to be found in every park and every fairground and outside most schools . Until the parks and fairgounds and schools became battlefields.
But here he stood. The rare finger chips guy.
My mother is going to kill me for persuading family to eat here, and so risk food poisoning.
I do it anyway, and minutes later, our finger chips are ready, as he smiles and hands burning hot food to us. My father turns away ready to go eat in the car (yeah, I know..), but I complain that I'm going to get thirsty soon, and so we need to buy drinks.
So we end up eating outside next to finger chips guy. A few people buy finger chips 'ala al shaheeha malatkum' - basically this means, they're not hungry, but seeing us eating finger chips made them crave it.
We and a few guys are now hanging around finger chips guy, eating finger chips and drinking pepsi. A few jokes are made, laughter.
A few people leave. A few walk by.
We remain eating and drinking. My father has finished, and now just stands waiting for us. Finger chips guy starts talking about buisness and says 'economic recession' in english.
I mention that people want more than finger chips now. (Was i being subconsciously cryptic? Perhaps). I go to the car, and get a frozen bag on chicken nuggets. My sister has a very select diet...My sister follows the bag of nuggets with her eyes, and my father shakes his head, in the way that says 'what are you doing?'. In an answer to his silent question, I tell him my little sister is still hungry, and if 'Ammo' ('uncle'-this is a reference to Finger chips guy) doesnt mind, he could fry them now for her. Finger chips guy smiles, and says 'itdalilee'. (of course?).My father says "all 100 nuggets?". :D
I explain, that there's no other way, because the bag would open in the car and fill the clean car with crumbs and raw chicken mush. That seemed to work. I hand the bag to the Finger Chips guy and he fries them within seconds. He places them in paper, with the paper in a flower arrangement. He makes around ten of these flower arrangements, and there's still more nuggets waiting.
My sister manages to eat one and three quarters of another. I eat the quarter grudgingly. I feel bad for throwing food away, as everytime I do, I'm haunted by images of starving children. Yes, i do need help.
What to do with the 27 remaining nugget flowers? "Sell them". As soon as I'd uttered this phrase, a child had spotted the colourful flower with nuggets and was screaming at his father. Ten minutes later 8 nugget flowers had been sold.
When we walk off, the finger chips guy shakes all of our hands, and I can still remember his smile. I don't want the Finger Chips guy to be extinct. Not because I like his food, not because of pity for him and his tattered jumper, not even because he smiled a lot. It is because to me, he represents the culture which i don't want to disintergrate amongst the incoming flux of Mcdonalds and Starbucks imitators.
I want to see a happy finger chips guy, surrounded by families with chubby children, I want to see the finger chips guy in shiny fairgrounds with a sparkling deelab il hawa (ferris wheel).
Now I wish I did live in a rainbows and butterflys la la land. Stupid Reality.