Sunday, 26 December 2010

Since We've no place to go...

My thoughts hurt - they're running so quickly away from me. Won't this life just slow down for one small second...apparently not judging by the frantic thrashing of everyone around me.

I seem to be the only person who isn't running around, which is perhaps why I undoubtedly stick out like a wandering tumbleweed, slowly catching onto fragments of the day.

What can I say about London that hasn't already been said? My intentions were to write a more personal diary like post, but the common cold has me in its clutches. Quite viciously might I add, I feel like someone is drilling my head everytime I cough, and I'm pretty sure at one point, my soul decided it would try to claw its way out of my flu-infested body.

Other than that, 'Life' has been a fun experience. I feel like a child amongst all the new-ness and excitement of everything, although I wonder when it will all wear off, and I will be slapped into the harsher reality of adult life. Not now. Not yet.

Seems like so many events have come and gone and I have not so graciously missed them all. But 'there's always next year' as they say...to which I can't help but reply with the classic iraqi phrase of...'if i'm still alive next year'.
Yes, Iraqis do seem to be a depressed bunch. We might even be the first modern 'gothic' nation,or is 'emo' more befitting these days?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Light

Its streams quite violently through the wafer thin curtains daily.

At times I feel this city is about to eat me alive, but on the good side that has made me quite heartedly throw myself into studying, to forget the woes of independence.
Quite ironic.

I get lost on a daily basis, but the fun part is, in getting lost, I find so much.

Plus, getting lost here does not present a danger of being killed, kidnapped or worse. (Well there is a danger, but a lot less, that seems so paranoid of me, i almost feel guilty)

I opened my blog in horror the other day and looked at it. It had become like an overgrown garden, unkempt and full of everything. I remembered our garden...everything was always too long, too big, and too much.

Not that it didn't have beauty in it, but it was at times suffocating with its greenery and overgrowth.

So I did some pruning...:)

Oh, and what is with the weather?!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Garish Gifts

They came in all colours and styles. I begged them that is was enough. It was too much. I've been showered with gifts. I wanted to ask them if this was their goodbye to me.

One was a Moroccan style gown - it has a pointy hood, and long sharp sleeves. It was glittery and as I put in on, they all smiled happily. I smiled back, though on returning to my room, I tried to control my giggles, as I caught my reflection in the mirror.
When I wore the hood, I ended up looking like a golden-robed member of the Ku Klux Klan.

That day involved me walking back and forth from my room to the living room, each time trying on another new item of clothes, which always had the aroma of the market ingrained into the fabric (the market smell is musky and woody, very earthy and very suffocating).
They cooed and clucked, as I swirled on their demand, and tripped on my way out.
The swirling adding to my dizziness and to the feeling that I was in a dream, all the voices merging into something unintelligible.
Their eyes shiny bright, as they talked about how university days are the best.
(Coincidentally, none of them have actually gone to university, as tradition and culture had tied them down to family and children from a young age.)

They asked me if I wanted to go walking around the area one last time, though the use of 'for the last time' sounded so omnious, that I couldn't help feel a little sad.

There's so many things that I wanted to tell everyone, but I just didn't know how to frankly. For the written word is so much easier to organise than what your lips mumble.
I wanted to tell them I still didn't agree with so many things because it didn't make sense, I wanted to tell them that I had always fought for my independence, but after a few incidents, i completely understood the importance of having a male with you.
I wanted to tell them I couldn't help smiling and laughing so much, and so the list goes on.

Instead they were the ones to tell me what they wanted, while I listened and nodded in agreement to their wise advice...

"keep social life to a minimum, you are going to study"

"Learn not to be so nice, otherwise people will use you, and you'll fail your studies and your life"

"Look after yourself, yourself and yourself, remember to buy lots of dettol and clean too..."

" Enjoy yourself, live and love everything, but don't go out after dark" (babati it gets dark at like 3pm! i replied...and so he replied...yes, well try not to walk in the dark alleys)

"call us if you need anything, although we'll try to call you everyday"

Was this the inevitable end that I have been trying to avoid for the past few months?
I admit it, I am quite literally a coward at many times, and I shall not pretend I am otherwise.

This is actually one post that I am having difficulty writing, and it would probably be easier to type up what happened over summer, stuff about culture etc, but I feel this post is a lot more cathartic.

I have successfully managed to confuse myself anyway in writing, but that is perhaps from lack of sleep and travel tiredness.
One day I'm going to look back and think what was I panicking over, but right now, I'll just panic quietly through the medium of writing and breathing uneasily...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Enough

We pass Al K village, and we decide to stop there. I think I'm physically melting, and I have to peel myself from the car seat.The air conditioner whirs one last time, and I close the door half heartedly, I'm devoid of all energy. You'd think sitting in a car wouldn't sap so much energy, but somehow it has.

The sunlight is a bright white, amongst the browns and greys, and the area seems almost entirely populated by guys, apart from one small girl, playing amongst her brothers. The air is thickly scented with spices and aromas, indicating precisely where and what most of the women are doing.

That and at the heat of midday, most do the wise thing of staying indoors. Rather than what I do, which is trample around the dust. I see someone who resembles someone else. I wonder if they are somehow distant relatives. I pad along the hot floor, stupidly wondering if my shoes are going to melt and stick to the ground.

I almost get tangled into the barbed wire, that randomly lies scattered along the roads, and I look behind me, making sure I'm still in sight. I've reached my destination.
Its a shop that has brightly coloured things hanging everywhere. It almost looks like an eyesore amongst the rustic ruins of this place, though at the same time its pretty.
I want to buy everything in this colourful shop of things. There's nothing I need, or might ever need, but I'm grinning like a child in a toy store. Incidentally, it is a kind of toy store.
Outside are young boys sitting down, with the small girl running around them alone, they're joking and laughing, but quieten on my approach.
I smile, and some grin back at me, though a few refuse to meet my gaze, instead choosing to look into the distance, or onto the littered ground.

I stay standing there for a minute perhaps, trying to decide what to do. I walk into the shop, to be met by the cold breeze of a buzzing fan. Everything is so plastic and childish here, and coupled with the coldness of the shop, I stay statue still inside for a few minutes. The guy at the till stands, and after a while stares suspiciously at me.
I'm oblivious, and continue my staring.He raises his eyebrows at me, and asks if I want something. Instinctively I point at something, and he lazily gets it. I think he's clearly annoyed at me, though I'm not sure why. I pay for it and slowly make my exit. I reach the door, but then change my mind and walk back to the till. The guy is now amused, and asks 'ha?!' (what?). His angry reply, coupled with his bemused face cause me to reply meekly. He passes me the 7 ice creams, and asks me if i want anything else. I shake my head quickly, and rush out the door quickly.

The front of the shop is deceiving, my mind speaks annoyed. The young children at the front of the shop turn around to watch me leave. I stop near them and hand them an ice cream each. I notice one of the boys has one leg, where the other leg should have been, was a red sore stump. I keep an ice cream for myself, and begin to walk away.
"hey hey!" shout the children at me. I turn around.
" Come sit with us, if you walk in the sun, your ice cream will melt too quickly". I hesitate slightly, but they all shuffle and point at the sandy ground. One gets up coming to persuade me further.

I laugh and walk to them. We all sit in the shade, as they noisily eat.The little girl sits next to me, and she continuously leans towards me to stroke my arms, or my dress, with her sticky hands. I try my best not to laugh. She strokes my cheeks and that breaks my self control. I burst into laughter as some laugh along me for no reason, and others stare quietly.
Reluctantly, I get up. I smile at the children, and say goodbye, not before trying to learn all their names. They slowly wave me off.

I walk to the toilets, situated bizarrely at the front of the village.
The toilets are too horrendous for words, the stuff of nightmares.
Overcome with the overly sweet taste in my mouth, the image of the boy's missing leg, and the stench of the toilets, I promptly throw up.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Bad Boys- Whatcha gonna do.

I dislike walking alone here, because no one does. Everyone walks with friends, or families.
Its generally true of most of the middle east.

In front of me, I saw them slouching. Both looking lazily. My mind tutted. I crept up behind them, ready to cry out 'boo' or a variation of it. (And hopefully make them jump).
As I got closer to their dark silhouettes, I was grinning widely, ready for my mischievous deed.
Instead, they both turned round insanely quickly and shouted 'wah' at me. I jumped and almost fell backwards with surprise. They both doubled over with laughter at my disappointment and shock.
I sulked for a few seconds, and tried to nag them into telling me how they knew I was there. They eventually gave in, saying they had spotted me meters away, because of my 'crazy walking'. I looked blankly at him, as he explained I always walk like I'm lost, or in awe of everything around me.
I raise an eyebrow as they continued to laugh amongst each other.

My uncle and my brother have 3 years between them I think. Maybe less. They had told me to meet them in the centre, but both had neglected to tell me where. Or in fact when. The result was me walking around slowly, carefully peering into shops, and the alleys, that made up this old town.

After minutes of general joking and laughter, my uncle turns to my brother, and says 'green-3'.
My brother hesitatingly says 'no, 7 or 6'. I look between them both, confused. Their eyes are both looking somewhere else. I follow their gaze, and still don't understand. 'What?' I demand to know.
My uncle looks mischievously into the distance, and says quietly, that they're scoring girls. The colour, is the girls' clothes.
I turn to my brother, and he's looking at the floor, like a child that's been caught out.
They both look at each other, knowing what was coming next. I try to lecture them into the shallowness of what they're doing.
After my 10 minutes of campaigning, they resume their game quietly. I tell them they're very harsh judges, as the gang of girls that walk by earn 3's. 4's and some 6's. One earns a 7.

My brother tells me that I should see my uncle rating Iraqi girls. He gives them all 1's and 2's apparently. What ensues is a battle to convince my uncle that 'from east to west, Iraqi girls are best'. He's adamant into believing Iraqi girls are better looking than their other arab counterparts. My brother comments they're similar, but iraqi girls have a worse sense of fashion.
I argue and argue, as they both laugh, and tell me there's no need to take it personally. In revenge, I threaten to start judging the guys that walk by. This has no effect. I conclude my rant, by saying 'other guys are polite and chivalrous, whereas iraqi guys are not nice'.

They are both now laughing, and my brother comments slyly, that 'yes, but that's because girls like bad boys'.My uncle high fives him, and they continue laughing at my shock.
I patronisingly tell them, that since I'm the girl, I know what girls want, and its not a bad boy.
They blatantly ignore me.
We all walk a few steps, though I trail behind, plotting their downfall.

I decide to try a different approach, as we stop once more. I rationalise, that if they judge, then they will be judged.
And then I point out, that means I'm going to be judged too. And from fear of being judged, I'll end up developing some kind of psychological disorder. And then I'll end up over-dressing (or under dressing), in fear of people judging me. They look at each other quietly as i finish my enthusiastic rant.

My uncle points to the shadows. 'Go stand there', He orders. 'Why?' I ask curiously. My brother interrupts - 'because your face is scaring everyone away, we'd give you a bag or abbaya, but we don't have one'. They laugh, and I imitate their guffaws in annoyance, but end up laughing.
I stalk around the dark, trying to look menacing, as they cough with chuckles.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Civil Disobedience

Its so hot. I spend my days drowning in my own sweat, which is not a very pleasant feeling, although it was quite a novelty at first. My sandals kept ripping in the middle of the street, and at first I blamed cheap manufacture on the ever breaking sandals (i broke 3 in one week).
Turned out the heat was melting the glue that was holding the sandal together.

Speaking of disobedience, I feel like I'm breaking a law by laughing or smiling.
And so brings me to my story...

Guy 1: My mother said she'd kill me if i went to the protests, seems right though.
Guy 2: My mother is going to the protests.
Guy 1: What really? Why's khala (aunt) bringing herself into that mess?
Guy 2: she's taking her pots and buckets with her
Guy 1: Why my love?
Guy 2: She says when they spray water at the crowds, she's going to run towards the water and collect it. We haven't had water for 4 weeks.

At what point I burst out laughing uncontrollably, Guy 2 grinned, but guy 1 remained with his serious face. After relaying the incident to my grandmother, (and laughing whilst doing so), she smiled sadly, and replied 'well what can they do?'.

At which point I worriedly thought maybe they weren't joking.

But nonetheless, we go back to Farid's song...Life is beautiful (to those who understand it).

(again i apologise for not being able to reply to comments, if there is anything you really want to comment/ask and be replied on, there is always my email which to contact me by.)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Through the Key Hole.

I don't know whether to feel sorry for them, or laugh at their actions.
My poor cousins are a product of post-war schooling.

Usually in the middle east, i find there is less shyness amongst the same gender, so men get changed with other men, and women get changed with other women.And i don't need to mention the abundancy of kisses and hugs.
Or as my brother refers to it - in the middle east, there is no understanding of privacy or personal space.


As you may (or may not) know, I'm spending my time at my grandparents. As I looked around for whatever i needed, I heard my aunt's voice getting angrier and angrier.
She never gets angry, I thought disorientated. Opening the door, I find her warning the oldest female cousin. They're standing close to my door, so I guess what their sin was, and try to absolve them of it. My aunt disagrees, and says calmly she would just like to know Why. From my aunt's anger, I deduce this isn't the first time they've been caught.

After looking at the floor for a while, and shuffling their feet, my cousin answers that in her biology class, the teachers had ripped the pages about the female and male body, because it was deemed 'haram' (sinful).
Me and my aunt look at each other with a mixture of shock and confusion.

All in all, the way that society is so closed is not allowing children to live up to their full potential.
I hate seeing their world weary faces, so full of knowledge about war, insults and darkness . But their knowledge in Science, in Arts? Those pages have been ripped out of their life.

(oh and i also can't reply to comments, something is going wrong, and I know not how to fix it.) :)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Techno.

Aaaah I've lost a post (Iraqi Family Conversations), and my emails aren't sending.

So begins the cut off from technology.
Its part of the charm I suppose, the serenity and lack of everything associated with electricity.

I have decided there is no way I'm approaching an internet cafe any more. I've lost the willpower to put up with any of it.

'Any of it' being the guys on either side of me who kept repeating love words to whoever they were whispering to, while i tried to type, and fufill various online forms. (validation of university course etc).

I was close to smashing the keyboard on their heads. But I refrained. After all, I'm not violent.

In case I don't post any time soon, have a great summer. :)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

East

I'm so tired, but I'm here. In fact I got here a few days ago.
I think it was a pretty rash decision, I should have perhaps organised myself more.
I was received by a large mixture of emotions. I'm too overcome with exhaustion to register anything now, other than the need to attack the floor and head off into sleep - again.

I first saw my mother. She hugged and kissed me and told me I looked tired, as she stroked my hair. I honestly felt like collapsing. I wondered how comfortable the luggage trolleys were.
I saw my father sporting a short beard. I went up to kiss him, but instead got a brief hug and the 'pat on the back'. The one which knocks you a meter forward. I keep forgetting how every guy in my family is actually scared of public affection.

In fact, I think for the past few years, I've been shaking hands with my brother and as for my young male cousins...they made it clear I would rather 'punch' them than kiss them. I asked them if it was my moustache that put them off my kisses, and that 'joke' earned me an embarrassed hug from the 13 year old.(bet you're wondering why joke is in apostrophes hehehe :D)

I only get a week with them-they have to return to work, exams etc. It could have been two weeks, I think sadly.

I try my best to keep my eyes open and hazily walk, leaving the bright luggage bags to embarrass my parents, rather than me. After what seems like forever, I walk in to be greeted by my grandparents, uncle, and siblings.

My nana almost immediately pushes pyjamas in my hands, and tells me to go relax. Only after my breath is gone from hugs, do I get to make my clumsy exit. I come back to be kissed goodnight by my father.
As he kisses my forehead, I laugh, and i giggle even more as his new beard scratches my cheeks. He asks me earnestly if the beard makes him look old. I reply with of course not. Though the vast amounts of white hair in his beard do worry me. In fact its 80% white.

My grandmother hands me more pillows, and holds my hand, as she guides me to the quietest room. The bed has been made ready for me, and I feel guilty as I know their preparation actually started weeks ago. She kisses me, with tears in her eyes, and closes the door, flooding the room in absolute black.

I stretch down on the marble floor instead, and fall asleep within nano seconds.

The morning after (afternoon after more precisely), I wake up and wander into the living room, where everyone is busy talking, peeling, watching. Everyone suddenly looks different.
My brother looks older, My father has no beard, and my mother looks tired.
I patter to the kitchen and ask my grandmother, quite suspiciously why everyone looks different now. She laughs and stares at me. A few minutes later, my mother walks in, and tells me its my fault. What is? I ask surprised, feeling guilty for no apparent reason.
'Your dad shaved his beard of this morning because of you', she says quite sadly. I'm confused as to why, so I campaign my innocence to my mother, as my grandmother chuckles quietly.
She insists its my fault, and I give up, laughing while i try to drink my tea.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Snooker

Like millions, my flight arrangements were cancelled because of dark ash swirling above the clouds.

The Museums were - and perhaps always will be- significant. Mainly because they make you feel so insignificant compared to the world around you. I paid attention to the museums, unlike last time - where I spent my time trying to decide if the person who had told me that it was 'bare chilly' outside, meant it was barely chilly or it was bear chilly-as in it was so cold, you need fur of a bear.

The houses of Parliament were even more so interesting. On the walk up to them, I passed the man in the tent - the one who has been continuously there since the start of the War. I'm not sure how to describe how I felt. It was perhaps akin to nothingness.
After security checks, I walked in. A tour guide met me warmly, and coughed. He was what can only be best described as an 'old Englishman'. I worried for his health as he wheezed.
Westminster Abbey was Gothic and cold inside, made only scarier by the guide's revelation that I was standing on the graves of Britain's finest poets,writers, politicians and lords. I looked longingly at the steps leading out of the concreted graveyard.

It was interesting, and the abundance and luxuriousness of it all, occasionally comical.
Soon, my tour guide was replaced by a younger guy, as the old Englishman was showing tiredness. The younger guy continued on enthusiastically, and the older guide walked on with us, occasionally adding classical detail.
We passed a large tour group - it was a school class. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop trying to (discreetly) stare at them. The majority of them were in brightly coloured tracksuits, and one girl loudly popping gum. Their attitude showed disinterest.
I turned my gaze back to my guide, but the old guy had spotted me.

" Are you annoyed that they are in those clothes while you are in a suit? Do you wish you had worn something more casual? Or do you think they should wear something smarter?" he asked me curiously.

I was dressed in a skirt suit, and my heels would tap against the concrete and marble as I walked, contrasting with the shuffles of everyone around me.
Most, if not all, in the class tour group were wearing trainers. Some brightly coloured and new, and some muddied.
I had no idea what to answer, and silently thought of what to reply in my head. I chose to reply truthfully. Which was - I told him I was shocked that they didn't hesitate to act, and wear what they want in such places.
The younger tour guide turned around to check we were still following. After a while, the old man returned to the subject and dramatically said:

" It is because they see it as their right. Whereas you see it as a privilege."

The tour came to an end.

I checked my flight status again, and tried to repack again, in effortless hope.
Around the evening my parents called. And that is where the title of this post comes to play.
My father watches the world snooker. A few years ago, out of boredom, I watched a game with him.

(Ashamedly?) I started watching every year, and started to even know the players names.
This 'hobby' of mine was disclosed to my friends by accident on one occasion. They were commenting on 'Doherty's drug addiction'.
In shock, I replied " I never realised snooker players lead drug fuelled lives! Won't that disqualify them?".
Everyone looked at me like I was speaking a different language. One of them asked what i was talking about, and I naturally gushed about how snooker is a calm sport, with little or no scandals. They told me Doherty wasn't known for snooker. I asked what he was known for, to be answered with 'The Libertines'.

My reply to this? I asked "Aren't they French hippies from the 1800s or something?".
The whole room was engulfed in chuckles, as the girls around me hugged me tightly and gasped with hard laughter. I blushed in confusion.
It was a while later until I realised I had been talking about Doherty the snooker player, and they had been talking about another Doherty- a singer.

As my mother finished asking about the flights, my father started talking about snooker.
I didn't feel myself fall asleep.
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(And an hour ago I woke up)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Eid Ekito

Today is no doubt a historical day, with either celebrations or lamentations.

I 'can't be bothered' for either of these two, and instead, I recount this year, as being the first year I didn't celebrate Eid Ekito with my family.

Ever since I can remember, my family has celebrated Eid Ekito, though at times, it was most certainly an embarrassment to me. Especially when trying to explain to the teachers exactly why i had missed 3 days of school.

Before and during 2004, Youm (my great grandmother -God rest her soul) was in charge of organising Eid Ekito, until her death later that year.
She always indulged us all, and the whole house would be filled with lighted candles. It felt so magical to wander through her old fashioned house- walking as softly as i could, so none of the flickering candles would blow out.

After 2004, my dad took over the Eid stories and planning. He always stressed that we should keep this tradition alive.
This eid almost always coincided a few days after Nawroz,so it came as no suprise, that my older brother would mention this. My dad of course denied that Eid Ekito had anything to do with Nawroz - he boasted that Eid Ekito had been celebrated from the beginning of civilization, and Nawroz was young in comparison.
Unfortunately, none of us believed him, and we all rolled our eyes sarcastically. Well I did anyway. Because of the reverence which our great grandmother had for Eid Ekito, none of us had contested it with her. But with my dad, it became an all out war, us trying to prove that they had made this all up.

Eid Ekito is not a religious celebration in that sense. The best way I could describe it would be to say it was a 'pagan' festival, although out of my whole family, Youm was the most religious.
Truthfully, it didn't make sense, and we generally didn't share our celebration of this Eid with other people, perhaps in fear of being judged. But our parents always would repeat that the whole of Iraq celebrated it.
Youm used to recount how in her younger years, the Tigris would be filled with floating candles. My father would agree with her, and tell us how he would hold his mother's hand, as they placed a candle in Diyala River, praying for his success.
He angrily recalls how Saddam got rid of this, and my brain would automatically shut off as politics creeped in.

It wasn't as magical without Youm.

The stories told was of old warring Babylonian gods and goddesses. We would sit around the table, eating sugary snacks, and talking at the same time, with such excitement. My brother would constantly spray me with food and saliva as he talked, prompting me to always crawl up to the sofa to avoid him.Ironically on the sofa, my dad's eating of pistachios meant i had to dodge hard shell bullets, as my dad tried to throw the shells onto the table.
I put up with this only as long as the stories lasted. As soon as they ended, I would go to the kitchen where 4 generations met - my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and me. They would gossip, and i would try to make sense of their talk, as they asked me to get them juice, water, a spoon etc, all the time using the cutest endearments.

After a while, I would walk out the kitchen door into the garden. I'd carry candles with me, enjoying how the wax snaked down the candles, then onto my skin. Laying them onto the dry grass, I would bounce onto the ground, shouting for my sister to join me, and bring a bottle of water with her. Some Eids she came, and other Eids I would stay out alone, listening to talk and laughter, until i slept under the stars.
Every time i was woken, whoever woke me would mutter about my stubbornness - I'd be covered in bug bites. Nonetheless, I was smiling widely when I crawled into bed, my mouth still sweet from 3 days of sugar.

Next year, I'm going to make sure I go back on time to celebrate Eid with them. Even though the stories have gotten repetitive and boring, and even though now only the table is filled with candles. Perhaps next year I'll try to light 70 candles as Youm always did.
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It does exist!!! - its on wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akitu

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Waiting

Today I sat on the wall, the cold metal fence providing something to lean back on. I swung my feet back and forth, meaning my heels would hit the brick wall i was sitting on quite often.
I'd planned to meet my friend in the city centre, but I'd come 4 hours earlier than planned to look around the exciting bustle, shrouded in my own thoughts.

I didn't understand how she could be so positive and persistent
What had caught my attention was a scarily thin woman my mother's age. She carried a backpack and approached strangers, she would detail her life story to them, and ask them to buy a joke book to help her 'get back on her feet'. As people shooed her away, or point blank denied her existence, I couldn't help my amazement as her cheerful attitude never swayed. She was ridiculously polite, and as she called out to passers by, she would compliment them - by saying 'excuse me trendy lady', or 'handsome man' etc. A few responded with swear words, but her activeness didn't sway.
It was just beyond my comprehension how she did not snap or give up.

Out of the corner of my eye, a guy approached me. He stood for a small amount of time next to me, following my gaze.
"Waiting for someone?"
My father, I lied, not bothering to look to him. Usually that two word sentence would drive the guy away like I had just told him my father was a cannibal.
"would he be angry if I talked to you?"
That completely caught me off guard, and I turned to face him with shock on my face. A simple no was all that was needed for him to start talking again. He asked me where I was from, and I replied Iraq, with a smile on my face.
I must be psychic, i thought to myself. I had predicted this, as well as his next sentence.
"from the North?" he asked hopefully.
I told him Baghdad. He nodded his head, as if my answer affirmed his suspicions.
His next question, I had also not predicted. "Christian?".
I shook my head, with an air of bewilderment. He repeated the word, but in Arabic this time.
I understood the first time, i thought to myself, I just didn't know what prompted these weird questions .Instead of asking why he would ask me that, I stated that he could speak Arabic. He nodded vigorously, and then asked me if my father would mind if he sat next to me.
Again, I failed to hide my initial reaction of surprise at his exceedingly strange question.

He slumped against the fence next to me, with a hint of triumph. That left me free to return my sight to the eternally cheerful woman. He started talking generally, though in all truthfulness I had no idea what he said. My thoughts were completely with the energetic joke woman, her dyed hair flowing in the wind as she bounded across the pavements.
I nodded from time to time, but pretty soon he caught on, and stood in front of me. Blocking my view of the joke book seller. That kind of annoyed me. But nevertheless, I looked up at him and smiled bravely. He asked my age, but he replied with his before i had even managed to open my mouth. I'm still trying to figure out whether his eyes looked younger or older than his real age. He was young, but his accent visible. He had said he had lived here for 10 years.
He asked something about my parents, though i'm not sure what, as my mind had drifted back to his christian question.
Self consciously i pulled my dress down, and pulled my cardigan up. If my cardigan had been any higher, it would have been around my chin, so I'm not sure why i felt the need to pull it up.Immediately I felt angry at myself for caring about the judgement of a stranger.
Interrupting my thoughts, he told me if I was cold, we could go inside the shopping mall.
He had no doubt seen me tugging at my clothes. I was glad for his interpretation, and blindly agreed.

We talked in Arabic for the whole conversation, and although his Arabic was far from perfect, I knew only a few Kurdish words.
I endlessly asked him for words, and i would repeat them, as he would laugh at my pronunciation. He detailed his whole life story to me, and I listened attentively, occasionally saying something, which would make him grin, or laugh rather loudly.
I knew i was funny, but at times his laugh was too loud. Or maybe just loud compared to the ghostly quiet around us.
He was from Suleimaneya. As he came to his one year spent in turkey, I said a few Turkish phrases that had stuck in my head. He then proceeded to talk to me in Turkish. I shook my head, not understanding a word.
"i thought you might have been turkmani", he explained. I nodded not understanding what his wild guesses were based on, and not understanding why it even mattered.

Inside the mall, brightly coloured gifts caught my attention, and I realised his sight was also on something else - a Kurdish family passed us, the father pushing a pram. I hoped he knew them, so they would talk while i slipped into the shop. That didn't happen, as they exchanged only glances.
My psychic abilities were back, as I predicted where our conversation would lead. Outside he talked of his parents bugging him to marry. He told me he had not decided yet. He asked me if i had decided. I really had no idea as to what he meant precisely, only that it was to do with marriage. I replied to him that life was too unpredictable to decide. He then asked if I had a boyfriend, to which my reply was my eyebrows shooting halfway up my head, and my lower jaw dropping. 'of course not'.
Awkwardness followed, which was saved by an acquaintance of the guy walking past. They greeted each other; i tried to avoid the gaze of the hooded and capped guy, who was holding an angry dog, in fear that he too looked like his snarling pet. It was explained that the hoodie guy was his neighbour. My eyes following the dog and his owner, as they joined a larger group of track suited young men. The dogs jumped at each other viciously, and at the other owners.

He asked me if I was afraid of dogs teasingly, and I replied truthfully 'no I'm afraid of cats'.
Laughter followed, and he took out cigarettes as he asked me if i smoked.I mumbled on the life shortening ways of cigarettes.He told me he had started smoking eight years ago, when his 30 year old brother died.
That pretty much shut me up.
Although politely he turned his back to me when he smoked, and blew the smoke in the opposite direction of where i was standing. Long streams of smoke hit random passers by, and I couldn't help grinning widely. We walked on.

In the corner stood a woman with blonde hair, streaked with pink. She held a guitar, and I abruptly stopped walking, excited to hear her melodies. He had noticed i had stopped and turned around and given me a look, which clearly indicated how weird he thought i was. I couldn't help smiling childishly. Adamantly he walked back..but only to try to get me to walk on...
I walked on a few steps, disappointed, as he kept on talking ...
i stubbornly stopped walking and stood in front of the singing hippy lady.
This time he hadn't noticed. It was perhaps the time to part - 4 hours had passed quickly.

I started walking the opposite way. Away from his lonely eyes, and away from her pink hair.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Iraqi Elections 2010: UK chapter


I've had a tiring few days, but I did what I wanted to do, so I feel a sense of personal pride. Kind of.

London:

I wasn't expecting the majority of the voters to be kurdish, but they were. I loved how many girls came dressed in traditional kurdish attire, which is flowing, glittering and sparkling. The guys on the other hand shouted and danced enthusiastically to the skilled sound of a beating drum. It felt like I was at a carnival, and I enjoyed it to be honest. The round thumping of feet, waving of flags, and steady beat that roared above the usual sound of talk and cars.
Thats about it really. The large gathering of people caused the inevitable impatience, gossiping and general chit chat.
A lot of people carried iraqi flags, but more carried or wore the kurdish flag. One particular guy had folded in his arms, perhaps the largest flag i'd ever seen, the orange star in the middle being bigger than my fathers stomach.
He sauntered in amongst shouts of encouragement and surrounded by a gang of leather clad teens. Then the iraqi arabs got annoyed by this, with one guy shouting 'why the hell do you always want to separate yourself from us'. The natural arm waving, shouting and general splitting into ethnic/religious groups ensued. Oh and the women took also helped in this effort by the regular tongue clicking, annoyed head shaking, and of course the patented 'dirty look'.
I felt disappointed at my country people. Then again, my grandfather once said that sometimes the only thing that links you to your nation is the chance that you were born in the same area of land.
Apparently on the faithful news network, the london polling station had closed, because the sunnis/shias/kurds had been biased and unfair in the voting. Each channel showed its own version of 'undercover footage' of cheating, bribes and corruption, with the truth being, it got shut because of Iraqis' biggest failure - a lack of patience and an affinity to anger.
A lot of people didn't have the right documentation, or did, but weren't allowed in because the invigilators deemed it not good enough. Every election officer seemed to have their own opinion of what was allowable and what wasn't, which can only mean a failure in training (although they all had to sit exams to become election officers..:S)
I remember hearing an anguished woman cry out in arabic, as people looked on ' we all left without nothing..when you run for your life you don't remember to bring all the papers...' and the sad truth unveiled further and further, with the officers refusing to cooperate with the voters, and with each other.
( i saw some officers arguing amongst each other...one of them had stamped all the voters papers only on one side, which meant their votes will not be counted...the paper has to be stamped on both sides for the vote to be counted).

All the testosterone was just too much, and the existence of a few scattered journalists, meant tensions ran high amongst the guys. What i can only describe as 'gangs' of young men began picking on one another - i didn't stay long enough to see it escalate. But the funny thing was walking past the incredibly long queue on the way out... people were literally huffing their chests out, banging on walls, fences or windows, and everyone was blaming everyone else.
The kurds blamed the arabs, the sunnis blamed the shia, and the shia blamed the kurds.
I managed to get a video of the riot police storming in, just need to find a way to upload 3GP. :D
I couldn't help grinning. Especially as i overheard their often ridiculous conversations.
The line was so long, it was unbelievable..i could have queued up there for a day, and still not made it, And the doors remained firmly shut. I resolved it was early, and i could always travel to a smaller city to vote tomorrow.....



Manchester:

surrounded by coaches filled with young kurdish guys from around the country, and a police helicopter whirring overhead, this all felt a little bit weird. A fight had broken out, and the center had closed for unknown hours. Naturally this caused restlessness, and more annoyance.
The clear thing here was that there were 2 sets of kurdish voters - ones carrying the blue flag with a candle, and those carrying the flag of kurdistan. Guys stood on the fencing, and i walked into a sea of iraqis.
A group bearing the flags of blue passed and when they did, roars errupted around especially amongst the guys standing on the fencing...i assume they were shouting/insulting the blue flag wavers, who in retaliation screamed back, and waved their flags and held their head high.
An hour in, police rushed in, none seemed to happy to be interfering, and they blockaded everyone into 2 sets. They were pushed around, and I felt shame as i saw their yellow fluorescent jackets swaying, as the crowds pushed and shoved at them.
I saw a few prams being carried over people's heads, and a few guys started hitting and lashing out at each other as well as the police.
I was ridiculously under dressed. Everyone had come in satin suits, and most of the the girls looked like they were going to a wedding party, with sequins, with brightly coloured clothes and bold make up, catching my eye often, as i tried my best not to gawp geekily.
There was an hour left until the center closed, and over 100 in front of me, and 300 behind me. I walked up to a policeman and asked what was happening. After answering my questions,the poor police guy asked if i needed help..'why?' i asked quizzically...'Cos they look like they're gonna murder ya honey'. I turned around to see around 10 guys intently staring at me like i had commited a crime.
Large groups walked away, as the realisation hit me, they doors would close before I could vote.



Birmingham:

I reached here with an overbearing sense of nostalgia and annoyance. The tv stations and internet had shown me how Baghdad and Basra had been more organised than the previous 2 places I'd been to.
I got spotted by old acquaintances who recognised me, but had forgotten my parents name, what had happened etc, but i was too preoccupied to talk to them properly. A few guys from a nearby iraqi restaurant were giving out small cups of tea for the endlessly long queue.
I saw yet another friend, and the rest of the time were spent making fun at, and laughing at pretty much everything, though her hard laughter at what i was saying, made me worry that she hadn't been laughing as much recently. She confided to me like we had never been apart, and I was surprised slightly at how so many of my friendships can pick up at where they left off, without the awkward stage that i always anticipated.
The hour waiting in the queue went quickly, compared to the previous hours I had spent queueing. As my time came up, i couldn't help feeling regret of tiring myself out so much for something which at times seems trivial. I'm going to remind myself only to do something if it makes me happy, and at that precise moment I didn't feel happy. But i instantly cheered up when i walked out to see the bright masses. It had been fun to see that the stubborn mentalities of iraqis will follow them to the ends of the earth.

I can't wait to spend the next few days and hours experimenting with what will take the stain off. My bets are on paint stripper, though i'm pretty sure that its going to sting...

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Tipsy Trains

No good deed goes unpunished.

I miss discussing politics, art and woman's rights with grumpy taxi drivers in Iraq. I miss their ridiculous, and sometimes scary outbursts at the traffic and the mother of all the traffic.
Instead here taxi drives consist of silence....some static. And yet more silence. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes you get used to the endless talk, mutterings and flailing hand movements - none of which can be found over here.

I got off at the train station, thanking the taxi driver inappropriately...honestly i have trouble riding taxis alone...the stories of kidnappings, ransoms and everything else really messed my head up back in Baghdad, and now its ingrained.
I passed what looked like a 50+ year old beggar. Though he wasn't begging, but rather standing and sitting whilst shouting random observations to passers by, ranging from 'You dropped something!' to 'I can't look in any other direction', in a thick scottish accent.
I walked by too engrossed in finding what train, platform and time I should take.

After asking 3 people, and spending a long time reading the ridiculously complicated grids, I found my train. I sat down and yawned.
Little did I know the Scottish man had sat behind me. Ten minutes into the train ride, he asked me to send a urgent text for him. His eyes were such a light blue colour, they seemed like a cataract sufferer. They seemed dead.
I agreed, and he pitifully repeated 'Shokran shokran'. I was caught surprised. I had been talking to my mother on the phone, but it still seemed strange to me that he successfully recognised Arabic. Then again, perhaps its my fault for assuming that those around me are ignorant.
As he detailed his life to me, I nodded and smiled sympathetically.I wanted him to stop talking. His constant sitting and standing unnerved me.

Thankfully he finished babbling, and i turned back trying to resume my thought train. But he interrupted again. Looking at the open day university pack I had been given, he repeated 'you have to make sure you know that they want you more than you want them...'
A lady perhaps in her 40's tried to come to my rescue, as she glanced at my bewildered face.
Despite her angry looks at the guy, and her warning comments, he continued his tirade about death.
I actually looked at the rest of the carriage, trying to discreetly look for other seats. There were none.
His bulbous eyes made me feel pity, and a large part of me realised I was going to probably avoid using trains or tubes from now on.
Unashamedly, I pretended I was sleeping when he fell silent for a few minutes. Being quite tall, he would lean over my chair and ask personal questions, which i had no desire to answer. So I stayed silent.Though the overbearing scent of alcohol also aided my inability to open my mouth.

After what seemed like an eternity, my stop came. I pretty much ran to the exit, leaving him to be verbally attacked by some annoyed London girls. He then decided to try to converse with suited men conversing about IT. I must admit, I was impressed by the way they responded to him as he spat out his tale of how he had gone to Oxford to study IT, but had got kicked out....

As i walked around the maze that is the train station, I felt dizzy.

Later on that day, my phone rang. I answered it, to be confronted with the sound of the drunken train man. I closed the phone down almost scared.In fact out of shock, i had almost thrown my phone.
I felt betrayed by my own morals.
I was asked for help, and I had undertaken what i saw was a 'random act of kindness'. Only when I was confronted by the same voice babbling down the phone, did I realise I had been tricked into sending a text to the phone of a 50 year old drunk - it wasn't sent to the phone of a 'friend' who was worried. And he probably hadn't 'forgotten' his phone in Glasgow as he claimed. The weird thing was I waited for my anger. I waited for my usual reaction of mentally scolding myself for being naive. The anger never came.

Instead for the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Next time, I'm taking the 'Me no sbeak English' reply to every stranger. :D

The past few days in the capital city have made me inevitably homesick for my Capital. But I'm almost worried now..when i go back, will my rose-coloured glasses fall completely off, and will I finally face up to the harsher reality? Or will I continue to think of it as a place of beauty?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Military Mentality

My life has been ordained to be a joke. A cosmic comedy.

My head still hurts, but the reason i came to this conclusion was a simple meeting of friends. I smile as soon as i see them huddled in the bunch, blocking the path for everyone else. Before even we have asked how everyone is, we begin arguing about the colour of my nail varnish. We spend a whole 20 minutes arguing about this -they say it is black, but I stand my ground that its dark purple or it just looks black but its not. A few emo jokes are made, before i finally snap out of my denial and admit perhaps it is black with purple tint...One day i might look back at today with a feeling of shock at my trivial waste of 20 minutes.

I know we're supposed to be celebrating an occasion, but i'm just not sure what it is yet. As everyone else knocks back ice cold vodka's, i patiently wait for the news.
It turns out one of my friends- A has been promoted to be an officer or something in the army (or was it the RAF?). The conversation naturally turns to wherever he works, and what his new position includes. Travelling, lots of paperwork, shouting at cadets....the list goes on.

I joke about seeing him in Iraq in the holidays, and he smiles. The smile that tells you there's more to it. It turns out he might be stationed in Iraq for 'a few weeks'. I think I speak first, asking A what his duties will include in Iraq. He jokes that perhaps me and a few of my friends should go with him. Since its going to be an 'experience'. Well at least i think he was joking... until i realised he wasnt. Naturally one of his friends tries to convince me its a good idea to spend a few weeks in a military camp, translating and 'helping'. One of my closer friends shoots a look that tells them they're not thinking right.

The UK has its bases in the south. I've never been to there, and i almost like the idea of this new 'experience' until A opens his mouth.
Their subconversation was about safety, and I hear the sentence of 'i'd shoot an iraqi child easily if it looked like it was going to hurt me or one of my guys'.

I miss my mouth and instantly spill ice cold water down my neck and chest. I dont gasp or jump up...i don't think i even noticed myself shiver.

They'd shoot a child if it looked like it would hurt. Even without being sure. They called an iraqi child 'It'. I don't think i can describe what happened at that moment, which is my soul became devoid of any emotion. A and I stare at each other for what seems to be an eternity. He's a good guy, but I realise at that moment each values their own more.

'try not to shoot everyone', I mumble to A, even though I have a feeling that he won't shoot anyone.
He nods, and I spend a few brief minutes teaching him nice words.

A few hours later, A tries to mess my (now long) hair, while i swat his hand away repeatedly, like it was a fly. For years and years, they've only seen my hair around shoulder length, so now its novel to them.
Unfortunatley he succeeds in messing my hair up, and despite my angry glares, I give up stopping him, and i also give up tidying it. I occasionally blow my hair out of my face every few seconds.
He continues to mess it up, with my female friends deciding to start tidying my hair up for me.
What ensues is a battle where A (and occasionally a few of his friends) mess my hair up, while my female friends tidy it up, and slap A's hand away.

I'm too busy laughing to notice the bewildered stares of those around us. I'm also too busy laughing to realise it hurts.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Wolf of Babil

I was walking through snow again, taking gasps of cold air and struggling not to shiver. It was a suprisingly nice feeling, despite its foreignness. The small town looked so dead as everyone walked with such lack of speed and enthusiasm.

In my dreaming wonder, I was shocked as grey and white pigeons filled the sky, their wings beating furiously amongst the dead calm. They were flying up...i had approached the middle of the town centre and on my approach all the pigeons had flown up in anger.
I watched them and walked off uncertainly.

As i slowly walked on the stone slabs, a voice seemed to get closer and closer, as did the passionate strumming of a guitar. A huddled man sat on a chair, his hair curly and wild like a haggard lion. His voice was so clear and full of emotion as he sang, and everyone walked by, as if he had no existence.
I stood in front of him as he sang. I grinned like someone who had never heard music.
After singing two songs he looked up at me (still grinning), and gave me a small pitiful smile. Maybe everyone is used to having people singing on the sidewalk. I don't think I'm used to it, perhaps that explains my awe.

An elderly couple looked at me standing in front of the lion singer, and stood a distance behind me. I'm not sure if they were listening to the singing or not. They were leaning on each other. I took it as my cue to walk away slowly, the music trailing behind me.

Through the cold I trampled,as the melancholy voice of the singer filled the air so loudly.
I was surprised that it seemed no one could hear him.

"Don't you worry about the distance
I'm right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen..."


I shivered in my three layers of clothing and thick furry coat. I quickly remembered to walk quietly and slowly past the centre to avoid the apocalyptic fleeing of the birds.
It didn't work. As soon as I came near the circle they all took flight. I frowned at the white sky. There was tens of people walking around the centre, yet as soon as I approach they swooped into the wind.

A few seconds later I mentally scolded myself for being paranoid. Coincidence does exist.
My frown wore off as the soothing voice in the distant sang a more upbeat song.

I walked only a few steps when a local stranger spoke in his accent. An accent i thought that could exist only in the soaps...but apparently some people had that accent in real life too. I smiled as i turned, to ask the stranger 'pardon?'. He repeated himself, and his words caught me between bewilderment and amusement.

The words instantly made two images flash in my mind.
One was of when my grandfather (god rest his soul). He took me to the furthest orchard to show me the Iraqi wolves.
They stealthy walked in circles in the orange light of sunset. Their fur was long and matted, in twisted clumps. Their eyes sparkling yellow in the approaching night. They were muscled yet their bodies looked like they had been dragged to hell and back.

The second image was of my father. Whenever he was/is proud of me, he calls me 'theebat babil' (ذئبة بابل), which translated means 'wolf of babil'. I think there was a time where that used to annoy me, but recently when he has used it, I have shrugged it off.

In my mind, the conflicting images of bad wolf and good wolf ran around.
I didnt want to think of myself as like the iraqi wolves, sauntering secretly.
I smiled sadly at the strangers words;
"its because you're like a wolf"...
'Maybe' I replied, as my eyes scanned the flock of birds scattering in the sky.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Birthday Bottles

A lot of the times when i have a happy memory, i am selfish with it. I don't tell people or write about it, because i know i'll always remember it.
And as well, i think i worry telling people of a happy or personal occasion sometimes takes away the 'specialness' of it.
...but its probably just a small part of my selfishness kicking in..unwilling to share my happiness and my joy, but wanting to greedily keep it locked away, to smile at in those moments of empty thoughts.

There's really no other way than to tell you the truth - which is i basically spent my 18th birthday in the desert. I couldnt have cared less though,because it was who i spent it with.
I chose the quiet and dark surroundings of a desert cafe.
I remember the worried looks on my grandparents face as i told them where i wanted to be. I remember my father's raised eyebrows, and my sisters small sulk over the ridiculousness of my idea. But nonetheless, it was my birthday, and so everyone grudgingly agreed to go along with it.

Amongst the ruins of an old civilisation, and dusty weathered ground, i celebrated. Not my age, but my experiences, and the people i loved.
I am in love with fireworks and sparklers, though i realised the distinct atmosphere - which was noone else shared my enthusiasm.I can still remember the stricken look on my cousins face as he rushed off somewhere away from the bangs and sparkling fire. I still remember the small jumps of my aunt.
I wrapped up the remaining sparklers and have them saved as a memoir of joy, and a memoir of war.

I don't remember the other details much. Everything was so loud, and yet everything was so quiet.
I can still picture the moon though - it was so bright, amongst the ink black sky. A reason for its vividness being that the only other light source came from small lamps flickering like fireflies. The moon was so proud and glittering, and so was I. I glittered more than an over enthusiastically covered christmas tree.

Towards the end of the night, it got cold. Slowly numbers dwindled away, their empty seats adding loneliness to the chaos around me.

The children of the night came. They were young boys aged around 7-17. Actually, i dont know how old they looked...malnutrition and shabby clothes had the effect of confusing me of their real age. They wandered, their footsteps muffled by dirt, and their whereabouts shown only by the cloud of sand that trailed, as they kicked and shuffled their way.
I found myself laughing at their childish jokes that echoed across the darkness. As the voices grew further away, i forgot about them.

Perhaps half an hour later, i heard an angry voice shooing. My mind was spinning, and i wasn't sure what was happening around me.
A few seconds later, khalu H had got up and was handing the children of the night the glass bottles and the empty tin cans. I got up and 'helped'. Emptying the bottles before putting them in the bag, and crushing the cans. It was a surreal moment. I realised the boys had been wandering around the cafe asking for the glass bottles and tins, their small voices unheard or ignored. It was only by the angry shooing that i had realised their story.
I dropped back into my chair, as they scurried away.
My heart dropped.
Surrounded by meaningless conversation, i tried to take my mind off the whole incident, and i did so successfully. But not for long. After a minute, i couldn't ignore the look of pain on my little sister's face. It was mixed in with a lethal dose of anger and vehemence. At that moment, my heart broke a small fraction. Not for the sandy children whose whispers tingled in the air.

I tried to convince her that life was happy. Even the children of the night could crack a smile, so there was no reason for the glistening sadness in her eyes. It took me a while to find my handbag. I took my little sister in one hand,and the bag in the other.
And then i walked out into the meagre surroundings. Into the desert to find the children of the night.

An army truck passed, Syrian soldiers holding their guns at angles in the open top.their eyes hardened as they watched us precariously. The truck drove smoothly and silently past.

The smell of large piles of rubbish clashed with the flowery and sweet scents of birthday celebrations. I had seen one of the boys before eye the rubbish and finger through it carefully, eventually walking off with a piece of cardboard which he dragged behind him.

As the ground beneath us got harder and rockier, a wooden pick up truck full of young farmers passed, their faces covered with their yashmaghs. Their spades tightly clasped by their muddied arms. Their voices loud and seemed garish amidst the calm surroundings.

Further and further i took my sister into the darkness, until only 2 lights remained; the light of the moon and the distant light of the cafe. I heard my sisters voice devoid of hope. She said we should go back.

"I'll find them" i told her assuredly. At that point, they floated out of the dark. It was such a shock, that it took me a while to believe it was really them. I pointed them out to my sister, who stared, equally as dumb shocked as me. They didnt seem as alive as they had been. They were weary and ambled in a train, each of them bearing their burden. I quickly took out all the money i had at that time - 5000 syrian liras.
I dont even know the comparative value of it. Currency has lost value for me -it all becomes just different colours,pictures, words and numbers printed on crumpled paper.
I handed the notes to my sister and urged her to give it to the fast disappearing can collecting children. She looked apprehensively at me for a minute, and walked off unsurely, as i hung back in the dark. She gave the money to the small boy at the end of the line, who was trailing a bit, dragging the sack behind him. Standing in the dark I saw his unbelieving face, and his questioning look at my sister, who smiled nervously at him, and her lips seemed to say the words "its for you".
He stared down at the money in his hand, and then ran off to the rest of his group. Well, he didnt run. He skipped happily, showing his open palm to an older guy.
But in all truthfulness- it wasn't the boys happiness that made me grin, as i stood like a statue on the dry dirt. It was my sister's satisfied smile as she walked blindly towards me.
Maybe i should feel guilty that my actions were selfish.

As we walked back slowly, the truck with the farmers on it reappeared, the wooden pick up truck bumping along the rocky track. One of them pointed at us, and shouted something to the others. My sister worriedly asked me what they had shouted at us. 'Nothing' I lied reassuringly. I inwardly sighed as i saw the 5 meters that took us out of the desert dark and into the fluorescent illumination of the cafe.

Only in writing this now, do i realise how potentially dangerous that could of been, but i often jump into scenarios, only to realise months later, that it could have been dangerous.
But i can personally never forget that 'the biggest risk in life, is to risk nothing at all.'

Friday, 1 January 2010

Iraq Blog Action Day

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

You're probably wondering what Iraq Blog Action Day is.

It sounded like some fun bouncy assault course at first, which kind of explains my initial enthusiasm to take part.

After researching it some more, it then seemed like a superhero gathering, Iraqi Bloggers Unite!
Eventually, my whimsical fantasies wore off, but not before i spent some time chuckling to myself about it.

I'm typing this before hand and i'm publishing it on IBA day, which is 1st. January 2010...though i'm not exactly holding my breath that on the first day of the new year, masses of people will rush to their computers in anticipation.

The first day of the new year has and will always be a new start to me. I've kind of lost count of how many 'new starts' I've had to undergo. Too many.
But this year has probably been one of the worst years for me. Perhaps i should explain, but I refuse to dwell on the dying past in a new year.
And so begins my post....though i'm still kind of shell shocked that i'm going to start the first day of the new year with a post that will probably highlight ineptitude and confusion.
Yes...it is about politics.
But oh well, i stick to my commitments ;)

Thus enter the mind of an iraqi girl (or young woman? I'm not quite sure which catergory i fit in now, but you get the picture).

The Iraq Blog Action Day is about the iraqi parlimentary elections that are to be held in 2010.And the aim of it is, to give you, the readers, an insight into the broad spectrum of political opinions that exist among the iraqi bloggers. As a general rule, i'm not sure if iraqi bloggers represent the Iraq nation, but among us we have so many different backgrounds, that each of us will probably show you the general political mindset of our 'group', and whether we define our 'group' by religion, age or gender, depends entirely on each individual blogger.

In fact, as i type, i am trying to eliminate my subconscious leanings to certain politicians. I dont want to advertise the politician who is part of my religion, or gender or family etc, but i want to explain and evaluate the politician who i see fit to bring a crumbling country back to its feet.
Unfortunatley, all my big talk wont really affect anything, for i am somewhat uneducated in this aspect- i know the big names and their promises, but other than that, i am blissfully ignorant to all the other politicians, who may be able to provide a big service to their country, but will miss the opportunity to do so because of...well ignorance and lack of order in the political arena.


The First time Voter's Rough and Inaccurate guide to Iraqi Political 'organisations'....

(organisations being in apostrophes, since the very thing they lack is organisation.)


State of law coalition


Al-Maliki has created an alliance of his Dawa party and other groups including some Sunni tribal leaders, Shi'ite Kurds, Christians and independents. Dawa is originally a shia islamist group, but maliki reformed this to involve and create a coalition of the main sects in Iraq.
Known to be one of the more modern coalitions, focusing on rebuilding Iraq, rather than religion, or anti occupation stances. Suffers from loss of popularity due to some failure to deliver better services.

United iraqi alliance

Shi'ite alliance with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and followers of Moqtada al-Sadr,and the Badr organisation, Fadhila, former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari, Ahmed Chalabi.SCIRI and sadrists were previosuly in the state of law, but pulled out in favour of their own alliance.
Also includes the Anbar sunni group, and had some behind the lines backing from Al sistani.
Believed to be a strongly shia group, controlled by the 'militias', despite this, enjoys popularity.


Tribal leaders

Tribal leaders first gained popularity after their assistance against Al-Qaeda, and are used as a front for many political groups, to gain popularity. They stand for traditional standards on rebuilding Iraq, and are respected.Are often backed by large well known families.
Unfortunately, tribal leaders have suddenly seemed to spring out of everywhere, with anyone claiming the title of sheik for themselves, and donning dishdashas and agaals, in order to win favour.


Iraq national list (includes The iraqis)


Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite, has joined with Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq to form a non-sectarian alliance. The Coalition is campaigning for national unity and secularism and rumours are they will be backed by Vice President Tarek al-Hashemi.
Also include - Maysoon Damluji (academic,and women's rights). Adnan Pachachi (anti occupation) and Ghazi al-Yawar (Shammar, well known for his development of the emirates)
Liberalism, rid of all iranian influence in iraq.backed by..iyad jamalaldin
Centralist candidates also stand in ummah al iraqiya- such as Mithal al Alusi.


Independent Groups and Minority Groups

Iraq's ethinic and religious minorities Turkmen, Bahai, Yazidis, Sabeans, Assyrians,Kurds. May alliance themselves with bigger groups. Independent Candidates involve parties such as the Communists, Capitalists etc etc

Individual Candidates

A free for all- anyone including your uncle could stand. Politicians, Sheiks, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors...independent candidates usually have family backing.


My vote? Personally I would probably vote for Maysoon Damluji....I think we need academics in our government,we need to knock some sense into the new generations, before the psychological effects of war take place, and before its too late. As well as this, it would greatly improve women's stance in society...despite Iraq having a higher percentage of female population, their voice seems to be constantly belittled.


:) Its 2010, i'm in mild awe of how time seems to flutter by. And as a reminder of how time moves, but everything seems to be replayed in politics, in history, in life...enjoy the following song...