I've typed this from my mobile, as my cousins watch in amazement. I'm in Rumadi now. The trip to here from Baghdad is a story in itself.
My cousins who live here visited us to our house, but we never visited them. Now I sit comfortably on a recliner that is only a few centimeters of the floor, making it quite difficult to actually get up once you've sat down.
To transport us from our house, we hired one of thos cars with black windows and large tyres, driven by a tall, quite intimidating guy.It really comfortable and large, and he bellows in laughter as he talks about the rumadi stereotype. I think we had to pass three checkpoints through the whole journey, and I didn't really do anything apart from stay seated as soldier after soldier would peer in suspiciously before exclaiming 'Family!' and letting us pass.
After the usual talk of politics and water and electricity between my father and the driver ( the talk was accompanied by me popping chewing gum- I had no idea I was doing this until my mum leaned and said 'ayyb biteee, sirtee chibeera'-'rude, my daughter, you're grown up now'.), anyway, after the man talk, silence ensued. To which the driver thought Hussam alRussam can serve his purpose here. Hussam al Rassam is probably the only singer which i hate to love. His songs are loud, uncouth and funny, and repeated in every shop and every taxi and bus. It will drive you crazy, but then you suddenly start to see why he's a good singer. *cough cough*
Anyway, this time it was this song "arrumadi arrumadi, wadoonee al rumaadi, ya ammi yaboo il jimsee"
I asked what birno meant, and its basically a gun, but I *have* to know what 'jimsee' is, but I dont want to ask more questions. So I'll sit here trying to see what words it sounds like. We've arrived it seemed, and I honestly could not be more shocked. I didn't take the song seriously, but when i look out of the windows, the guys are actually wearing those bright white dishdashas and yashmagh/agaal. I never believe in stereotypes, but unfortunatly, stereotypes always seem to exist just to spite me.
I haven't seen one woman or female on the street so far, but we've passed some weird vehichles in between a jeep and a tank, with a small american flag in the corner. They're very tall, (the car things). Anyway, my brother and my sister do not stop complaining of hunger, and the driver stops us in front of a small collection of shops, as we get out, I can feel the eyes of people in the surrounding buildings, and a few guys wearing those black and gold things over their white dishdashas come out onto the street. I hand my sister half of my food because I feel to dizzy from the bumpy ride. Then I take half of her miranda. :D I'm generous but not that generous..:D
Anyway, i ask for another drink, and i sit drinking on the stone steps, (there's only four chairs). I see a guy appraoch my dad. He's quite tall, and is wearing his yashmagh around his neck rather than on his head. He greets my father, and asks if we are okay..need any help or directions. Then he starts asking about our family. I pray my dad does not start telling him our life story. My mini wish goes unanswered, as my father starts riighhhht at the beginning. My sister gets up and the man sits down a while later. I think its been an hour, and so me and my sister walk around the place for a while. Some of the shopkeepers leave the inside of their shops and stand at the doorway as they see me and my sister walking around. My sister gets intimidated, and I spend the next half an hour trying to convince her, that no one is going to kidnap her, its just too hot inside the shops. I even go into one of the shops alone and buy chewing gum. She smiles nervously, and i end up walking her back to the chairs.
I don't know who this guy is, but he has to be one of the most patient men in the world- he's still listening and is actually concentrating. i kind of feel annoyed. I don't like people knowing too many personal things. Anyway, by some miracle, my dad looks at his watch, apologises profusely with this guy, swap telephone numbers, kiss each other, then leave. I can say nothing apart from how still impressed i am at the friendliness of Iraq in general,despite this always being the case, you always take it for granted. People call strangers their 'brother' or 'sister', and i can tell you out of experience, this doesn't happen with the nations of other countries i have lived in or visited.
Back to the black GMC car. The conversation now revolves around family, and old singers. I manage to both be embarrassing and impressive in the following conversations.
Destination reached, I see that i'm not only going to be meeting my aunts family, but the extended extended family too...There's so may people who I do not recognise, and I know that they aren't actually related to me.
The ritual kissing and tight hugs will follow for half an hour, where strangers will pretend to know me, and I them. Quite fun, its like guess work, you get asked silly questions, and you ask sillier questions. To a really old lady "How's your health?", to the jubba clad woman: "how's education?", to the children: "how's life?".
It turns out the whole of Iraq is suffering intolerably from unemployment, and lack of life. No money=no life. Its simple. All work seems to be handed out not to the best qualified, but to members of the same family, and this is the case for all sects and groups of Iraq. Same with the government. If you're lucky enough to have a foreign degree you can expect a job, but even then its sometimes hit and miss, and depends whether you have a head big enough to boast of how great you are.
One of the older guests spends half an hour complaining about the iranians. At first I get up on my high horse and complain of racism, but then he quickly and quietly reminds me of how many friends and family he lost in the war. "Why do you think they hate us too?".
There's a lot more foreign soldiers here. i didnt really expect it, but seeing them, after an absence brings back the whole Iraq situation again. It was fun in Rumadi, my 13 year old cousin actually felt it was necessary to walk me to the shop opposite the road. Then he spent 15 minutes trying to pay for everything. i know its out of niceness, and its the way they have been brought up etc, but I like independence. A bit too much perhaps.
The day was mainly spent talking and I have to admit, most of the talk was about this family and that family It occured to me, like all humans, iraqis like placing themselves in groups. This time, its not political groups but tribes. i would love to say that this occured after the war, but it didnt for my family anyway. Diyala was always quite tribal orientated, and i was taught all this about family and certain words which would identify you to a fellow family member.
(I got taught that in times of trouble, this word would be shouted, and every part of that asheera would rush to whoever said the word, to offer help....*ahem*).
Baghdad was different and the same, but more emphasis was placed on the extended family, rather than the whole 'sheik and tribe' thing.
Spending a day in Rumadi, made me realise not the divisions of Iraq, but rather how large families and communities are. I liked it. Okay, sometimes the whole tribe thing does annoy me to an extent which you cannot imagine, but at other times, I just resign myself to that fate. But today, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I saw how everyone did everything together, and I saw the respect they have for one another.
Now if only some idiots would stop killing innocent people.