Saturday, 25 April 2009

Classes in Iraq

I miss my iraqi classmates.
I did spend almost all of my secondary education in the UK, and it wouldn't really be interesting to tell you about it- it was stereotypically normal, with funny times, bad times, and times when i wanted to scream.

However going back and experiencing education in Iraq, was surreal. As you know, I stopped going to a certain school, not because i got kicked out, not because i was a menace, but because simply the education system was failing, and still is.
Being tutored was not fun. Not fun at all. But time goes by suprisingly quickly, and i now find myself facing the last high school exams. Then university. 'wooh'.

At first, I tried hanging out with my cousin's friends...they even took some time off university to try and help me intergrate into the class, and i am forever grateful. I got a thousand questions asked, although they all comprised of the same 'Why?'. It was different being in an all girls school, and seeing their attitude to society and life scared me out of my skin.

But despite my lack of being able to converse with any girl, i had deep respect for all of them.
In their short lifetime, they had experienced and done so much more than some 90 year olds i had met.
They would look after younger siblings, clean the whole house, revise until late into the night, put up with war after gunfire after explosion, and they had the guts to have dreams and ambitions in such as a place like Iraq.

Here is my class, they have stereotypical groups as well as defined personalities, and as i visited more schools and universities, it was clear that any stayed in their respective groups.

The baby sitters-
these girls were supergirls. Seriously, they had more skillz than a football player on steroids. If you had any younger siblings who would not shut up, hand the screaming kid to them, and within seconds they were turned into gurgling angels by the baby sitters. Their manners often puts ghandi to shame, although i occasionally found their excessive patience and niceness scary.

The fashionistas-
this group were constantly told off for wearing hair bands that were too colourful, or socks that were too bright. They would walk around in high heels, although you could tell by their swaying walk that these 'heels' were only a recent addition. They were the first girls to talk to me, although after finding out that my interests resembled conversation other than about what colours go with green, i was duly abandoned.

The rebels-
this was the next group to take me in after the fashionistas realised i liked books. These girls were funny, but at the same time were rebels without a cause. They didn't speak out against anything, rather they didn't always do their homework, wore lipstick, and generally looked moody at all times. Though underneath that exterior they were all girls which were lost amongst the craziness that is life. They would have 'relationships' with boys- i.e. texting, secret calls and small gift giving to each other. Made me realise that the reason they were like this, is they had no idea what life was about and needed a purpose.

The mothers-
the group that weasled me out of the rebel group. These made me smile with their optimistic outlook, but at the same time infuriated me by their overly motherly personalities. They spoke like my mother and aunt do, rather than teenagers, and generally would never leave me for a second, out of fear and worry that i might get lost in the three rooms and courtyard that was the school. I kind of worried that they had had no childhood to turn out this way.Had the view that girls should never speak, approach or look at any males. It was funny watching them during physics lessons, where their heads would never actually look at the male teacher.

I just sat there. I tried to contribute to class discussions, until i realised that schools in iraq, had no such thing as 'class discussions'. In iraq, its called speaking in class, and you get told off for it.
I realised that many girls had no idea what i was talking about half the time, because they weren't used to sarcasm. I got many lectures about slowing down (I really had no idea what they meant by that, but i've decided perhaps they meant i talked too quickly?).

At the end of my time, i was planning to make a CD, but many girls didn't use computers that much, and i ended up printing photos of the year and giving them to my clasmates. It was fun, and quite touching. Girls that had been warring with each other for years hugged each other while sobbing their apologies, and i sat on the steps while smiling to myself. I may never see any one of these girls again, and i can't help but wonder about the lives each one of them will lead.

All in all, I would like to thank these girls for teaching me about optimism, humour, persistence, and i have to admit, that the so called 'worst' girl in the class was an archangel compared to me, as each girl would tell me the 'horrendous' reputation of N and S and L, i couldn't help but smile, and tell them that they were angels. Because they all were.
It only saddens me that they had never realised their own strength and value, until i told them story after story about how other girls live their lives, and how they would never revise for 7 hours straight, or spend 3 hours cleaning after sand storms.

And this is the impression I got after spending less than 3 months with them. And you all know what a harsh judge i am...

So girls of Iraq, congratulations on your lives, and i hope the rest of your days brings you hope, happiness and health.

The weather is quite sunny with a breeze, and i have managed to convince my class to play volleyball. There's no net, and i had to borrow the football from my neighbours, because i have managed to accidently throw my sisters ball into the road (where we witnessed its demise as a hummer flattened it), and i lost my brother's basketball in that big rubbish tip down the road (don't ask how).
They know the rules, and the game comprises of just laughter and arguments amongst the class-its not actually a game. Half my school clothes is covered in dirt, because there's no grass-its mud, and i keep accidently hitting people when i serve. The result being is that everyone thinks i have an anger problem (I SAID I DON'T HAVE AN ANGER PROBLEM!! :D).
We're all tired, and we end up trying to play football instead, because naturally its much easier. Goals are made from whatever is to hand, although the goals are ridiculously small. We laugh at the goal size for five minutes.Photos are taken by mobiles, and the ball rarely moves, as it stays in the middle as every girl tries to tackle it off each other. I leave the game and try to referee after i realise all i am doing is laughing and falling over. I'm an exceedingly harsh referee, so harsh that i interrupt the game almost every five minutes and find faults. I am sacked as referee, and have to act as a center player. I kick the ball and the game goes quite as we all watch my purple trainers fly off into the distance.
Two goals and three flying shoes later ( one belonged to S, one to Y and one to D), the game ends.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Decide 'dear'.

Like I'm going to do what you choose anyway...let's just do this for the pretence of 'democracy' okay?

What do you want?
Blogger comments
Haloscan thing
Spank (comment thing,honestly!)

Friday, 10 April 2009

Black Cats and Voodoo Dolls

I'm not superstitious.

In fact, I occasionally go out of my way to prove superstition wrong.
I always walk under ladders , walk on pavement cracks, and i have the ability to crack mirrors just by looking at them (:D), and I enjoy opening umbrellas indoors.

Today is Friday, the start of the seventh year since the start of the war. I hope that the 7th year will bring peace and happiness, and luck. But I don't know what to say. In fact, I am suffering from lack of emotion if anything.
Our house has chocolates and sweets littered around because of the anniversary. But they leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Yesterday, as my father called for us to see some guys on tv make fun of saddam, i didn't join in. When Sadr called for anti US protests nearby in Firdos square, I didn't join in.
I'll start by telling you a story, because I don't know how else to start.

In Al-Aathamiya, lived a family. There was a father (a teacher), a mother (a housewife), a son, and two daughters. They lived in Saddam's time normally. Not rich, not poor. They suffered under Saddam, as the father couldn't get a well paid job because he hadn't joined the Ba'ath party. They suffered under sanctions as their daughter had jaundice. but they couldn't get supplies because the world had decided this was the best way to stop Saddam-by killing the population of the country he ruled.
The war came. They rejoiced. Freedom to go the the Kharij (outside Iraq), Freedom for the father finally to be able to get the job he deserved. Instead, the father got kicked out of his job. He was a 'saddamist'-living in Al Aathamiya and having a job-he had to be one of Saddam's favoured right? Wrong. His older brother had been killed by Saddam. That's how favoured he was.

No job, and a family to feed, he resorted to selling everything. First the furniture went, the car, the extra fridge, but soon he ran out of stuff to sell. He sat on the kerbside and sold vegetables and herbs.

During a particularly nasty time in 2006, he was shot by american soldiers. His wife complained, the soldier's reply-he was about to attack them.

Yes, with that deadly broccoli and lethal courgettes.

It was concluded he was shot accidently, as there were many militia men in the area. The wife had no qualifications and could not get a job. The recompensation was equivalent to $100.

For a while, the family depended on their uncle. Who was then kidnapped by militia men, and beaten to the point that he couldn't walk, by his fellow country men. His ransom was so high, that it cost them everything.

And yes, its a true story, and no they had no reason to lie, and yes i met the mother and her orphaned children. What made me smile, is I met the two girls. One is the age of my little sister, and the other is around 9. She had a son who at the time was 'out'. Two hours later, a depressed looking guy walked in. He was one year older than me, but despite this, his mother angrily called him to the kitchen, no doubt to ask where he had been.

The morale of the story? The reason I wrote their story? I hate it when child like rumours are spread- 'and they burnt him alive and some dogs ate him after'.In war, there's always bad guys and good guys, but no one should take the action of a few to represent the majority, but out of frustration and in country recovering from war, it is suprisingly easy to point fingers.

I want to rely on facts, not rumours and stereotypes, and since this is fact, I believe them. I believe them because the mother was so kind. I believe them because the son looked like he had died. I believed them because the girls looked half their actual age.

If Saddam was not removed from power, I would have never realised I had family. I would have never seen Iraq. I would have felt lost for the rest of my life.

Despite this, I shall not for one second celebrate. I shall not smile. Because I refuse to put a value on human life. Where human life is concerned, it cannot be argued that quantity is more important. Would I sacrifice the life of one person to save the life of ten? I don't know.

Things have got worse, and things have got better. But to think that war does not have horror stories is naive. I do understand that Iraq cannot be built in a day, and like all important things, rebuilding a country needs time. It needs patience. I just hope I won't curse the day I lost ignorance, because ignorance can be bliss. Was the loss of lives worth it? I don't know.

Celebrating the removal of Saddam from power is a completely different thing to celebrating the start of a war to me.

Why would I celebrate the start of a war? Instead, I choose to remember and celebrate all those who lost their lives. All those who could have changed the world, but never had the chance.
All those who selflessly sacrificed their lives. But with that, I also have to remember their killers. Which is why I cannot bring myself to ever say any war is Just or Good.

And for this reason, I shall never celebrate the 9th of April.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Sheik

Above is a metal statue. Its dark beauty made me smile amongst today's troubles.

The guy who owned the house left. Violence increased, and after a nasty explosion in our area, some US soldiers used the house as accomadation-it had a pool and was nice generally.

Months later, our area was quite, walls were not put up, and the area was handed to the charge of the iraqi army, and some police men. They inhabited the house to play cards etc, basically used the house in the same way that the US soldiers used it. Then, they left, area became normal, they didnt need to keep watch for long hours of time, and so they didnt need accomadation.

However, one officer apparently did something good and was awarded the house, and stayed in it. Awarded it by who?! When it was still owned? Well, thats where the story gets a bit hazy (suprise suprise), enter more corruption-everything depends on who you know and your connections here. Its laughable to think you would get anywhere unless you know someone or unless you belonged to a certain group-its almost like non violent gang warfare.

Getting back to the main story. The man could have got lawyers etc involved, but this rarely happens, and the man said that he had no where to stay until his case reaches court, and he has no money, 9which is why he returned to sell his funiture).
Enter gang boss, aka well known sheik of the area. This is baghdad by the way, not a tribal-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-bedou-camp.

He called a meeting thing, and said the house was not the 'government or whatever idiot had given it away', so although he felt sorry for the man in the tracksuit, because it wasn't his fault, the house belonged to the guy who returned from jordan.
He said that the tracksuit guy had seven days to 'adil his umoor' (straighten his stuff), and then the original owner should move in, and check that nothing is missing. (although stuff is bound to be missing, especially since the house has had two sets of soldiers and a tracksuit guy living in it, not that I am insinuating the soldiers or the tracksuit guy are theifs, but come on, be realistic).

Its a happy ending, though i am sure the original owner is going to find absolutley nothing valuable left in his house. Perhaps objects of sentimental value may be found...

It was weird that no police and no lawyers or anything got involved, and it was solved suprisingly easily, but if the old owner visits us again, i am sure he will be lamenting the loss of many items from his house. The involvement of the sheik was something of a novelty to me, although in diyala this is the norm. I have always been angry, yet interested in the bedou lifestyle, and remembering my grandparents (allah yirhamhum) of diyala telling me their childhood, fascinated me, but after living in the UK, it also made me quite bitter.

But for this to be found in Baghdad was....quite funny. I am glad that the rightful owner had his house back, and the sheik told the tracksuit guy if he didnt find a home, then tracksuit guy and family can stay for free in sheiks house. (house prices are through the roof, and a years wages would not suffice for months rent, let alone to buy a house).

This phenomena that is occuring throughout all of Iraq, of inhabited houses are not always so easily solved. In fact, they are rarely so easily solved. One of My father's relative was on the phone the other day telling us of how it had come to punches over a fruit tree.
As the stability of Iraq depends on the services and the money the country has, it might take a long time, for Iraq to become an okay place to live in. I pray and wish with every atom that I am wrong though.
(Iraqi coffee- half the cup is a coffee sludge...only the beginning half is drinkable, after that its just too strong, resulting in half the istikaan being left behind in a gooey bitter mess)

Maybe I'm just bitter like that coffee, but I don't think so. Yesterday was dubbed 'Black Monday', as multiple explosions occured which made you jump out of your seat. One explosion occured in the neighbourhood next to us,and one explosion occured near a market, and one near a private clinic, those are the ones that we heard straight away of, but apparently there were many more. This resulted in at least one hour dedicated to calling and making sure every member of the extended family was nowhere near the attack.
In happier news, yesterday I revised chemistry for at least two hours. Actually I think it was 3 hours. :) I then watched 'Never back down' on MBC2. It was ridiculously cheesy, and the main attraction of the film, was probably greased up/sweaty guys punching the living daylight out of each other. And even then it was laughable considering that they had a perfectly okay lifestyle but choose to ruin it by unexplainable 'anger'. Over what 'dudes'?

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Screaming corridors

Well, i get bored easily, as you can see, and i found i had some spare time despite school work, so i did some volunteer work in Baghdad. It was suprisingly easy, and unlike when i did volunteer work elsewhere, there was no paperwork, no insurance, no certificate given out. I was overjoyed that there was no forms to fill, but I got a serious talk, where i was looked in the eye by a greying man, who asked me to consider that i was only 17, and perhaps i would like to enjoy not knowing for a little while longer. Not knowing what? i replied.

I have been doing some volunteer work for a few months, but now exam season is here, i decided to stop to concentrate on study, and i was actually quite sad to go. I helped in a hospital and an orphanage. It was fun, but some things you don't forget, and my first day at the hospital is one of them. I do wonder why i almost punish myself like this, i mean it was my choice, and i do occasionally wish that all i had to worry about was homework due dates and what style i would wear my hair the next day, but i suppose you always want what you dont have. A perfect example of this would be when me and my cousins both walked into a salon. They have the most gorgeous natural curly hair, while i have just straight. When the hairdresser asked what we would like, our answers came in a flash. As I had my hair curled, and they had their hair straightened, i could not stop the laughter that made my shoulders shake. Oh the irony of it all.

The beginning of the hospital was what i guess was the emergency. It wasnt a private hospital, so as you can guess, it wasn't well equipped. Some people lay on the floor bleeding as they waited to be seen. Doctors rushed around in stained lab coats. I felt overwhelmed, but I'm determined one day to help Iraq stand on its feet again, and perhaps that might mean I have to face horrors, but what doesnt kill you makes you stronger, right?

I was wearing a shirt and trousers, both black, as I had been instructed, because other clothes 'might get dirty quickly'. I remember giggling when they told me this, as i had a horrible feeling they were about to hand me a mop and tell me to start cleaning. Instead, I ran around supplying bandages, spirit, IV fluids to the most needed. I even bandaged a few people. i remember after an explosion or something there was a lot of bleeding people. The hospital ran out of bandages and i spent two hours cutting large towels into strips. Everything happened in a daze, and i never really thought about what i was doing.

Apart from one day.I think it was the far right wing of the hospital. I was so tired, and annoyed from an argument with my parents over who i befriend. Anyway, i wandered in, and walked around the ward making some bad jokes, and generally trying to be witty. Everyone was sad. Mothers were sitting on the floor, and fathers had tear stained faces. I continues with the jokes, with a few weak laughs, and I handed out water and toys. Then I heard the most pained hurtful cry ever. It was one of those that chills you to the bone because you can almost feel their pain.
I hated the patients who were children. I hated the patients who were old. I hated the way they smiled at my jokes and swallowed their pain. it was heart wrenching. I would always feel so empty after i visited some certain wards. i tried almost everything to get them out of my head, but it didnt really work.

I was never actually faced with a live death at the hospital, but I think I would have preferred that to the amount of pain i witnessed.

Luckily life isnt all doom and gloom. The guy who came back to find his house inhabited came to our house.He drank coffee, and i took a photo of his coffee (iraqi superstition is you can tell someones future by looking into their coffee istikaan after they have finsihed drinking) :) I will tell his story, tommorrow I promise. I wanted to be sure of the outcome before I posted anything, so now everything is over, I'll write it up.

I'll also begin revision tommorrow.
Honestly. Tommorrow. Touta. Will. Begin. To. Revise. :)