Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Trip To My Uni and The Computer Market

Woke up late as is the usual, K was on the phone, he told me to ditch the acupuncturist and meet up with him and the others at some restaurant which I didn't know in an area which used to be posh, now it's pretty dead and going through a decline, it's filled with restaurants with lousy service and unbearable prices. After I got off the phone, Nahida who had woken me up to pass me the phone was still facing me, I told her that K was telling me to have lunch with him and the lads. She told me that it would be rude to ditch the doctor. Ah well, I just went back to sleep.

Woke up again half an hour before the doctor's appointment, called K to apologize, and took my medicine. Funny I don't remember waking up to take my 9 AM dose, but Nahida swears she woke me up and made me take them.

A few hours later I stirred enough motivation to go cut my hair. Half way to the barber I change my mind, go home and drag Nahida to a hair doctor that a barber told me about. We found his clinic with ease. I got coned into buying an off-the-shelf shampoo, a herbal conditioner, some ridiculous multi-vitamins containing 5 times the RDA and some ampoules to be applied to my hair once a week.

I spent the rest of the evening and the night not doing anything productive. My internet doesn't work, which usually takes up most of my free time. I'm out of ink, so I couldn't print out any of the stuff I've been intending to read. TV was the only thing left. And all things considered it didn't really matter much that I had little to do considering I was out of petrol and therefore couldn't run the electric generator, that and the electricity was extremely bad that night, 3 hours on and 3 hours off I think. At around 4 AM I got a little peckish so I prepared myself some labneh imported from Turkey.

At 7 in the morning I went out to get petrol and to do all the little things I've been postponing for many weeks. First thing was to go to college and find out what the deal was. And as usual, I got there too early. Any later and I would've got caught in traffic. I had to wait over an hour till the registrar arrived for him to give me my grades. I got 3 average, 3 good, and 1 excellent. I needed the marks in numbers so that I could send a university application to Canada, but the marks weren't ready.

I inquired about extra-curricular computer courses. The guy in charge was very friendly and although no courses were being offered at the moment he said he'll contact me when they do. He also suggested that I speak to the dean if I wanted to apply to study an IT course offered by the university with the participation of the University of Edinburgh. So I went to the dean's office, I spoke my case to the dean's secretary, she came back telling me that it was impossible since I was a liberal arts student and that the dean was too busy to see me right now. I spent another 20 minutes trying to get a better picture of how impossible it was. I eventually gave up, thanked her for her patience and walked out. Just as I walked out, I remembered a little something I heard from a friend a couple of weeks ago. So I went back to her and asked her if were possible for me to join if I were to use a different nationality, she suggested it was possible and that I would have to ask the registrar. I don't really like the registrar, so I'll leave it to someone else to ask him.

I then went to the computer market that is located near my university, bought myself a USB memory stick, a web cam and a finally an ink cartridge. Bumped into an old acquaintance, he was very helpful in picking me a great deal on the memory stick and finding my car. My memory is getting very bad especially approaching bedtime. My acupuncturist is going to easily my memory problem, but what bothers me is that I'm sleeping about 7 hours only. He's convinced that that's more than enough, but I'm pretty certain that at my age it should be more like 9 hours. What's even stranger is that I'm not getting tired either.

On my way back I bought some groceries and paid off my internet membership for the month past and the month to come. I had a little time left before my acupuncturist's appointment, so I passed by my uncle's and talked over my options for the year to come. We concluded that the best was for me to take the IT courses offered at my university and to ditch Business Admin. I'm quite happy with that especially since I'll be able to apply whatever I learn by helping out my uncle.

The acupuncturist was half an hour late. Nahida told him about our trip to the hair doctor, which lead to the acupuncturist insisting that I employ his method. The acupuncturist, of Syrian origin, is a simple guy and definitely a weirdo, he's one of those people that buy into conspiracy theories and that the Jews must all be killed off because they want to take over the world and are in the process of that. He spent some time in Pakistan, which I think is the reason why I find his way of thinking very uncomfortable. I haven't had much experience with Indians and Pakistanis but every time I do, I'm left confused and frustrated.

I spent an hour waiting for Nahida to make me some breakfast but she was too busy and eventually I just passed out on an empty stomach.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Check Points: Can't Live With 'em, Can't Live Without 'em

Writing up these daily notes takes up a lot more time than I thought.

In the morning I went to my uncle's, I got introduced to Wissam, who seems to be his secretary, and oh my god he talks a lot. Uncle asked me to see if I could fix his server, I couldn't so I formatted it and reinstalled windows. That Wissam fella just can't shut up, I had to shush him several times throughout the process till he left me alone, I've got no clue how uncle can bear him. The CPU is overheating; I hope they didn't put back the case cover I removed. Computers just aren't cool with their covers on anyway. Well they're still stuck without any internet there, and so am I. I'm 3 weeks late on my monthly internet subscription.

I went back home in time for my acupuncture session. Kiki called, he's got the flu again, and wanted to come to my place to rest. He called during my acupuncture session and said he was too tired to make it to my house.

Nahida didn't have any decent lunch ready. So I called up Tania to see if she wanted me to bring over some lunch from AlLami's take-away/supermarket. Fetched a couple double cheese burgers and we ate them at her place. We played a couple of rounds on her little brother's PlayStation, I can't believe she won. The remainder of my stay at her place involved me vegetating several hours, there's something about her house that makes me feel sedated, but I really don't know what it is. Eventually I gathered enough will power to get up and go home. On the way someone signaled that I had a flat tire. I called Nahida's brother told him I've got a deflated tire. He told me to continue driving it slowly and that he'll check it out tomorrow.

I'll go see a doctor about my anus tomorrow.

September 24,

I really need to buy a UPS! These electricity cuts although predictable still catch me by surprise.

Today is Friday, the one day of the week I don't have to go through a gruesome session of acupuncture. So I had lunch at Maz's (the little brother of an old schoolmate). Maz leads a very boring life. Life in Iraq, war and terrorism aside, is very boring, but Maz takes the boredom to another level. The only thing that seems to run through his mind is computer games. He could easily spend 4 hours talking about the subject. So it's no surprise his mother is encouraging me to hangout with him.

After lunch, Maz and I played computer games for an hour or more. Then we went off to see his friend whose dad had just been assigned to the Iraqi embassy in Vienna. On the way Maz, who's still learning to drive, didn't notice the cop at a checkpoint signaling him to pullover, I pulled the steering wheel, and Maz parked the car diagonally to the curb instead of along the curb. The cop began to talk shit about us trying to evade the checkpoint, another cop aged about 16 added that we actually drove off and reversed which was not true. They began to threaten to take us to jail. It was literally a well rehearsed play, the first cop was the badass, he even began to yell at another cop for show, then came a couple of other cops to support his claims, then came the two nice guys that hinted that there was a 'peaceful way' to resolve the matter. 15 minutes and a 10,000 Iraqi Dinars bribe later, we were back on our way to Maz's friend's house. Maz picked up a bunch of CDs and we went back to his home.

What shocked me a little later about that experience at the checkpoint was how comfortably that 16 year old prat lied. It's very worrying to see that corruption is being passed down throughout the generations so fluidly. The experience also brings me back to an earlier observation of how Maz's 5 year-old cousin, was able to tell that his elder brother way lying about something silly and recently I saw something on BBC showing a bunch of English kindergarten kids unable to say anything while a magician was colouring in a picture with no paint, telling the kids that he's painting this and this colour in the process, while the narrator of the documentary was describing how children at such a young age aren't able to comprehend lies. Are Iraqi kids better equipped to lie I wonder.

I was very tired and had been throughout the day, so Maz walked me to the main street and I took a cab from there. The cab driver, as usual not really a cab driver by profession, was an ex-military pilot with a can of big can of cheap beer in his hand. As is the custom, we chatted about the state of the country and so on. He spoke to me of his pilot training abroad and he complained about the effects of the previous wars, sanctions, and the hold that Saddam had that prevented Iraqis from visiting the rest of the world, all of which led to his main complaint... the zealously of Islamic law that is being fed to the society and by the society. I guess the guy just wants to drink his can of beer in peace.

When I got home, Nahida hit me with the big one. The itchy sensation and the lump coming out of my rectum are the symptoms of Piles (Hemorrhoids). For me that was sufficient reason to freak out and get depressed. I spoke to a doctor on the phone and he prescribed some cream to relieve the pain, some laxatives, and some antibiotics, all of which Nahida promptly acquired. I then did a sitz bath which felt really good even though I did it all wrong. I'll get it right next time. I just hope that the operation if I have to do it isn't going to be as painful as I imagine. And boy this cream is great.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Time Travelling into the Future and it's Adverse Effects

I did absolutely nothing today. I took a shower before going to bed and I discovered a lump below my butt hole. I realized that there must be a connection between this lump and the coming and going of a severe itch I've been experiencing in the same area during the past week which up till now I thought was caused by some garlic flavoured barbeque sauce.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Things That Go Boom During The Day

So another morning just got wasted, nothing to cry about I hope. I woke up at around mid-day; my dad just came back from paying the fees at my university. But didn't enroll me into the department I wanted. Of course I found that very annoying and tried taking it out on him, it didn't really work since I didn't really care. It would've however got rid of some uneasiness regarding my application to a university in Vancouver had he enrolled me into IT studies instead of business administration. I hate studying business; it's so boring especially with the kind of curriculum we follow here. My classmates are first class idiots which makes the experience even more loathsome. But I guess I could skip all my classes and just take extra-curricular IT classes only for myself at the university instead. Well whatever, never mind.

I don't really remember much of today... was it really such an empty day? What did I have for lunch? Umm, I think I had tandoori chicken pieces and fries or was that dinner? Later in the afternoon I felt like taking the car out. I noticed K on-line, so I asked him for a traffic and security report. CNN's slogan: be the first to know. 2 explosions in Hai alJamiea and Haifa St. closed up lead him to tell me to stay at home.

A few hours later, I saw the windows behind my pc left ajar move an inch along to the sound of a bellowing boom. It wasn't really that loud but definitely within the area. I called up K to tell him about it. My dad's cousin was downstairs and told us that the explosion was targeted at zie Americans and took place in front of the AlMansour Club. I called K again to update him. I then go up to the roof to see the cloud of black smoke rise. It's always impressive to see such a site. And I can't help hide the smile on my face. Life after the war here is just too boring without things going boom. I go back to my computer, turn on the tellie and flip over to CNN. About 10 minutes later, the news breaks, a quote appears on the bottom of the screen saying that an explosion took place in the AlMansour district of Baghdad. And hey! They got my name wrong, my name isn't Reuters!!! K calls a little later thanking me for making him leave the comfort of his hotel room. He explained to me that Reuters got to the wire before them.

Okay so it's nearly night-time, I guess it's safe to go out now. Explosions never happen during the night unless you're near or within the green zone. So I head off to my uncle's. While waiting for my uncles to arrive from a meeting, Mazin called and invited me for lunch tomorrow. He was a couple hundred meters away from the explosion near AlMansour Club when it took place. He said it made him feel invincible to have survived that.

His computer network is a mess; the one computer that has printing capabilities can't connect to the internet or open a PDF. And the opposite applies to the other PCs. Having found one of the articles that I had downloaded already laying on his desk was a sure sign that I was going in the right direction. Fortunately he was quite happy with the work that I did. He even gave me a title to my primary function (always useful so as to know what one is supposed to be doing): Research Assistant I think it was. Ah I've got to make it clear to him that my memory works like a sieve. He asked me to start digging stuff about Iraq's influence on and integration in the gulf region. There was a term for it, but I can't remember it. Around 10pm I head home, and I forgot to call my uncle to assure him that I got home safely. He called eventually and I'm sure he reminded me the name of that term. I guess I'll just have to call him back tomorrow.

Nahida says that we're going to have a guest from Lebanon for 2 weeks who wants to open a really big supermarket here and that we'll be driving him about and helping him out during his stay. Imagine a Spinney's in Baghdad. That would be nice indeed. I can imagine it full of mums with their girls all dressed up looking their best while performing the menial chore of shopping. If anything is going to bring a civil society to Iraq it's got to be something in the shape of a big supermarket or a mall. My dad's going to the farm tomorrow for a couple of days so I'll have to wake up at 7 am again and fill the car up. I tried to sleep early but failed. I printed out a couple of articles. The second one came out bad; I'm out of ink, after a shake of the ink cartridge I squeeze out another print. I wonder how many people know of that trick. I really need to buy an Ink cartridge. I've been postponing the purchase of new computer kit for 2 months now. Well I'm off to university on Sunday, the computer market is nearby I'll take the opportunity to get my fix.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I Hate Traffic

Omar came over this morning and woke me up. Somehow the 4 hours of sleep I received were sufficient to start off the day. Omar finally has finally passed and is now a graduate of Baghdad University's English Department. He's got no plans what to do next, so until he God strikes him with lightening, he'll be working in his brother's mobile phone store. And also, K's back from his trip to Europe. His dad's been assigned to work at the London embassy but the questions poses itself upon K whether he should stay working at CNN or go study in the UK.

We watched TV and had lunch. My acupuncturist arrived, poked needles into me and left after a half an hour, of course he took out the needles on his way out. India arrives a little later. India called so because he used to live in India.

Approaching 6 pm I decided it was a good time to go see my uncle who lives in Jadriya to show him where I've got to. India was supposed to go to the gym and Omar to his mobile shop but they both chose to stay at my place and would stay till I got back.

Alright I'm was in Qadissiya heading towards the Jadriya Bridge and there was a traffic jam, so I backtrack a little to the Bayaa exchange and I find another traffic jam, I continue traveling in the opposite direction of Jadriya. And yet another traffic jam at near Nafiq Alshourta (Cops tunnel I think in English) which would of lead me to the BIA highway which connects to the Jadriya Bridge. So I call up K, it is great having an international news agency just a call away, to ask him what's the dillio. Apparently there was a bomb or something on the highway and they've closed off the highway till they clean up the mess. Called up uncle and drove home.

Got home, India and Omar still there, one of them was using the internet and the other watching TV. They stayed till about 9 pm. Now that they were gone it was time to play a little utopia, we had set today to declare hostilities with another kingdom, but we had yet to pick which kingdom. So after an hour of searching and debating among ourselves through mIRC, we got ourselves a kingdom to declare hostile relations with. And just as our king was to declare; the electricity cut off. For a second I think of turning the electric generator on, but then I realize this is the best opportunity for me to finally get some decent sleep.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Bargain Pasta Sauce

Started off the day late and waited for my acupuncturist to show up. Asked him to reduce the amount of needles in my ears, responsible for reducing my appetite.

Drove off to the Wathiq roundabout, it was fortunate that the traffic was light. Ordered a bunch of meat from the butcher and bought a popular mechanics magazine featuring a new cruise liner for 3000ID while I waited. And the spent the rest of my money on other groceries. The bargain of the day was a large jar of pasta sauce for less than 2 dollars.

On my way back I took the opportunity to pass by my uncle G. We had a pleasant chat that lead to the possibilities of new opportunities for my future and that would involve picking up a couple new skills to add to my big bag of half competent skills.

Upon returning home, I got Nahida to cook me up some of that bargain pasta. It might have lacked a bit of salt, the taste was rather faint, but maybe that's because all my taste buds are dead. It was a good wholesome meal nevertheless.

After my late lunch, I sat at my computer to check up and tune up my internet game called utopia that involves running a province's military, spell casting and thieves within a kingdom among other kingdoms.

Now to start my assignment, I immediately decided that it was best to start searching for think tanks instead of newspapers as they would bring me closer to the big picture faster than news agencies.

So I type in a news search for Iraq and think tank, and make note of the think tanks mentioned in the articles. I then went through the sites of each individual think tank which took much longer than I expected. And the final results were few but at first glance seem very good.

After exhausting the first list of think tanks I went through, I checked out the name of one think tank that was in my head... Carnegie something. After spending sometime familiarizing myself with the site, what did I find? Nothing less than a long list of think tanks! It's going to take me ages to go through and assess them all.

Intermittently I chatted with some friends among them Zed. My best friend from my days in high school in Baghdad, he's Bulgarian and is a computer wizard. Now participating in the administration of the Bulgaria's internet infrastructure. He gave me a quick call through Voice over IP; it was good to hear his voice.

At around 6:30 am I played a little bridge, played my first hand very impressively, seems that beginner's luck is strong within me. Then I began to muck up, and it became time to go fill up the car as I promised my dad I will.

I began to fall asleep at the wheel during the queue, which wasn't so bad. After an hour or so I got back home just as my dad was leaving the house to take a taxi. He put on a big smile for me, obviously the sign of relief that he won't have to take a taxi.

And finally at around 8:30 am it was time for me to go to sleep only to be woken a few hours later. Will I ever get enough sleep at this rate, I wonder.