We visit bearing gifts, our christian acquaintances, glowing more and more glum each year it seems. I don't blame them; I can't blame anyone, especially when Christmas 2012 was spent with floods in Baghdad.
Getting more used to the heavy showers, I laughed (almost spitefully) at the few dirty drops of rain. Little did I realize I would wake to find half the city swimming in sewage the next day.
We all made such a fuss over the pools of water that had developed, the entire neighbourhood pitifully complaining, and people standing atop roofs and filming the wet scenery. I can't forget that elderly couple sitting in deck chairs on one of the houses in front of ours. They looked so bemused with it all.
Hours later, heavy machinery tumbled down the poorly paved roads, sucking up the water with grey tubes, and redistributing it elsewhere. Complaints still rang out, mostly of the anti government, anti corruption type. For it was lack of love, and great greed, that had robbed Iraq of basic services.
That night, we had friends over (like most other nights). Complaints, and angry comments over the flooding situation. Blame was passed from Saddam, to the people of Iraq, to the new Saddam (Maliki). Huffs and puffs later, all was forgotten, as the topic turned to cars or something along those lines, with the women making a hasty exit to the dining room to gossip.
I sat and in boredom flicked the remote. Hours earlier I had been splashing bravely in the dirty water, courtesy of my London-brought wellington boots. On the tv, images more suited to the monsoon flooding appeared on one of the iraqi satellite channels.
A man, wrapped in colours of mud complained over the lack of care delivered to one of the worst flooded areas in Baghdad.
"They deliver the removal of water to the places that have money. That can pay! Mansour, The Road of Palestine, Zayouna...not to us. They tell us they have no petrol or no cars!"
I felt my head hang in shame. I felt overridden with guilt. It was all so true. I needed to see if the images portrayed were real.
It couldn't have been, I reasoned, though we all knew it was. The room had fallen silent momentarily at the emotional speech of the man. A more callous man spoke up 'Did they do anything, speak up? Let them suffer in silence if they want, they should demand it!'.
A few guests agreed, though as usual, I couldn't keep quiet.
They had protested, they had been jailed, they had demanded, all to no avail! It will never be of use, since the current government won't listen.
The next day, I told my family I was going to the high street of the area. Or the mall I mused out loud.
'Bring some salt!'.
From my eyes, I replied, and set out into the evening sun.
Less than half an hour later, I had arrived at the more 'downtown' area. The area where clothes were brighter,and voices were louder. And everything was much, much cheaper.
There was nowhere to walk- pungent water covering every surface. It looked like a scene out of a charity campaign, and it smelt even worse. I fought the urge to cover my mouth. Though I couldn't help scrunching up my face in despair as I watched pieces of rubbish floating by.
In the middle of this scene of defined unfairness and poverty, was a wet middle aged man. He was standing over what seemed to be a gutter hole, handing various instruments to someone submerged, who occasionally came for air.
When he seemed to be less busy, I apologetically asked him, what way was best to cross the heavily flooded road. I didn't feel like swimming in sewage.
He pulled his son out of the gutter, pointed at me and told his son to help me cross. I smiled at the young teenager covered in dirt, who was quickly washing his face and hands from the remnants of his hard work. He led me across, an ingenious technique using a long stick and stacks of bricks, helped prevent getting soaked in the flood water. I thanked him sincerely, and watched him safely make his way back.
I wandered around the area, occasionally being asked if I needed any help, or if I was stranded. I smiled my thanks, and continued my winding way. Avoiding as much as possible, and not being able to meet the eyes of anyone passing by.
It's hard to witness the extent of how different the circumstances are in one small city.