Walking home as the sun shines. I like slow walking, despite its many hazards. Such as flying spit from annoyed 20 something year old guys, or glowing cigarette ends from depressed 40 year olds. I feel that walking on the streets now resembles a video game, with stereotypical characters and things you have to dodge, like a pool of dirty sludge in the middle of the pavement.
I pass the arabana on an almost daily basis. A balding and cheerful looking guy runs it, who makes jokes, which i can never seem to remember. He shouts jokes randomly, as people stop to buy drinks from him. His arabana (trolley) has a bright red, but ageing, umbrella over it, and it advertises at least 20 different drinks, when he only sells three: pepsi, miranda and 7up (occasioanlly replaced by mountain dew or apple mission).
I've never brought anything from him personally, but more like wait around a metre away while someone buys the drink for me, either because i was accompanied by someone older or male.
Today i was alone, and i noticed that a 12 year old boy had manned the arabana instead. I saw him leaning on the arabana from metres away, but as I approached an annoying sound got louder and louder. Until i realised it was his voice. He shouted, no screamed loudly the costs of the drinks, and a few jingles mixed in there to be catchy. I laughed hard, and I shocked myself. Why had I laughed at this 12 year old boy. Then I remembered, because everything he said and did resembled someone older than him by at least 15 years. He threw his head backed as he called the prices, and I could see a few of the older passer bys clearly get annoyed.
I carefully approach the loud child, and as i do, i can feel my ear drums vibrating more and more the closer i get. I buy a bottle of water, and I stay not moving trying to decide; whether to move and drink it (which will probably result in me spilling it, since I cannot walk and drink at the same time); or do I risk staying here, despite the group of people who will soon stop here also and start buying drinks and talking.
I decide to hold my ground and open the bottle. I spend a millisecond struggling to open the bottle, before the child asks me "trideen musaada bitee". I look goggle eyed at him. Did he just ask me "do you want help my daughter?". He's talking to me like a middle aged guy would?!
Before I actually can say something like 'shouldn't you be in school?', the bottle is in his hands as he rips apart the top. i see in the struggle the label has disintergrated. Group of people approach arabana. I don't even turn around to see who it is, but rather continue staring at the man-child before me. I nod off the change he gives me, and tell him i have to pay him something for 'opening the bottle'. Silently I start to wonder how his life has been. After he exchanges general information, while i tower above him drinking occasionally, I realise, I haven't asked him one question. The man child had just burst into telling me his mini life story. He hastily serves some other customers, who walk about a metre away and stand drinking and laughing loudly. Soon the dry smell of tobacco wafts over.
Lived in X city, loved it until war-where his uncle was killed, moved to syria, out of all his siblings only one school place was offered to them. No work, etc etc, so they moved back. 'But we're not from this area', he whispers conspiratorally 'it was just a safer area than ours'. I have absolutley no idea what to say, and end up bending towards him and whispering just as conspiratorally, 'we're all iraqis anyway'. I have to stop this habit of saying the most cheesiest possible thing, at the most awkward time. But I'm afraid its either that or an awkward silence. The man child bursts into laughter, and replies "la, inti mu iraqeeya" ('no, you're not iraqi'), I wonder what he means by that, and smile as he opens his mouth again: "lo inti iraqeeya chinti imkatatnee min zamaan" ('if you were an iraqi, you would have interrupted me a long time ago'). I burst into laughter at his wittiness.
As I walk away, I can't help contemplate how many other Iraqi children have watched their childhood crash and burn in a explosion of violence and anger. Perhaps thats why he talked like an adult. Perhaps thats why he instinctively felt he had to open the bottle for me. I walk back and buy three more drinks from him.
I'm going to visit both Arramadi and Diyala soon again. Arramadi I'll see relatives on my mothers side, and Diyala-father's relatives. Both of course require more 'modest' clothes, and i seem to have obliterated my two items of modest outdoor clothes. One is ripped across the back, and the other shrunk while washing, making it 'modest' no more.
Oh, and I've been told not to wander out as much around our neighbourhood these days. Everyone knows everyone, and people do know my cousins, but someone enquired about the 'il bnaya ilee ma labsa hijaab' (the girl not wearing the hijab), who were out with X and Y (my cousins). My neighbourhood is by no means religious, and is mixed with sunni, shia and two christian families. It just that my neighbourhood is also devoid of girls.Its mostly old people, some families with small screeching children, and unemployed male youths. I keep trying to remind myself that the only places were you can find young women is schools, universities and on the main shopping street. Therefore that is where I have to be confined to. Unless I am surrounded by relatives of course, in which case, i can go anywhere.
At first I got annoyed- why did my parents let me go out alone in the uk, but not here. i kicked up a fuss: 'my rights as a human, its this culture, is it because i am not dressed in a black sack? etc etc', and then I realised it actually was for my own peace of mind and safety. I can't really explain it apart from you get hassled if you're female and walk alone here. My whole family was shocked at the change in manners here when we got back. Our nana laughed as we complained. What did we expect she asked. A war, there's been a war, and anyone with a coin to hold has left, leaving the 'uneducated' behind in want of a better word. Basically, those that were poor and 'ima3deen' have left their cold houses, and inhabited the houses of those that ave left, or they have built upon the ruins of a built site and so on.
A tell tale sign of these poorer people is their language-from their crude remarks to their annoying shouting. None the less, they are iraqi and because of that, I don't mind. i don't mind that there has been a deteroriation in manners and respect for women in general here, I just hope that I don't go pyscho on the next crude remark i hear as I walk through Al-Rubaie. I probably will. Oh well.
I also have to re-acquiant myself with eating from the floor.Not that I ever got acquainted with eating urubee style. The other option of course is to end up with half a plate of food in my lap, meaning when i got up, i picked up the bottom of my dishdasha (formed like a bowl of fabric), and I went outside and threw it off onto the floor, watching as a dark wave of ants gathered around the mountain of food that fell from my dishdasha.
And the internet service provider server or something burned out. *sigh* Now its either the rip off that is mobile internet, or the internet cafes, which I have to spend half an hour trying to convince my mother to let me go in (its not suitable for girls, since you have yellow teethed people smoking down your neck. Literally.)
And its doing that dusty thing again, where its too sandy to go out. The worst part of it is how dirty the house gets after sandstorms. With all doors and windows closed. I pray it doesnt rain, otherwise it shall be sludge and slide galore for the next few days...