Everyday is becoming unbearably boring.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
I'm slowly starting to like going to the farm while at the same time learning new excuses of why I don't want to have anything to do with it.
Nahida and I went off in my dad's car, it was the longest distance I've ever driven. The road was full of checkpoints, all of them Iraqi. A few of them stopped us. One told me not to approach so fast because he would've shot at me, but it was getting ridiculous when one checkpoint was only 10 minutes after a previous checkpoint. A couple checkpoints asked for the car papers. One or two made us open the trunk and open the coolbox. With less than an hour left to reach the farm, the car began to break down but continued to move at a slower speeds, fortunately it got us there, without any discomfort.
The first thing I noticed at the farm was the amazing amount of cows and sheep present. Most of which are owned by travelling shepherds. The shepherds had tents set up. I even caught saw one of them talking to the sheep. They had brought their herds to feed on the stalks on the ground left behind by the combine harvesters.
After we unpacked and cooled off a little Fozzy and I stopped by my uncle's 'wakeel' (The wakeel is the guy that takes charge of a farm when the owner decides not to do it himself. when this takes place the wakeel gets the larger part of the owner's share of the harvest.). In the guest hall of my uncle's wakeel I learnt that alot of the young men in the farm have now got jobs. The uni graduates got government jobs and the strong guys got jobs with the police or the army. As a result of all this employment, the quality of the labourers has gone down, and the price has gone up 3 times.
The guest hall had posters of the Shiite imams and of that Sadr fella. I asked if it was right that to have a graphical depictions of the Shiite imams. They said it was okay. I remarked that old mosques don't have images of the imams built into them. They told me that there was a political element to the images. There was one poster of the young Sadr guy and a militia man with a big machine gun. I wanted to ask what the meaning of that poster was, but didn't.
My dad who's in the UK, wanted me to go see the farm at this time to see how the harvest is performed. Which I got to see as soon as I arrived. A combine harvester dumps about a ton of grain on a spot. Then hired labourers would sack and weigh the grain in 50kg sacks. Once the mat underneath the pile shows they stop and count the number of sacks. Then an old guy would calculate how much of the grain is to be left to the farmer.
First 10% of the grain would be ear-marked for paying the guy who owns and runs the combine harvester. Then the fee for the labourers is subtracted. The group of labourers are paid 2 or 3 dollars for every 100 or 1,000 kilograms. The remainder of the grain is then divided between the farmer in charge of the plot and the owner of the land (I'm the owner). Now we continue subtracting from the half of the farmer the cost of the seeds that we provided, and half of the cost of the fertilizers, and whatever little money that the farmer borrowed from us. And finally we reach the amount of grain that the farmer withholds and the rest of the grain goes to us.
The guy in charge of calculating the shares of grain writes out a piece of paper that states the amount of grain on board the labourer's tractor which is then signed to confirm receipt of the grain at our storage facilities. At the end we pay the combine harvester guy and the labourers in cash.
The crop this season was really bad, producing about 500 kg per 'dohnam' (dohnam is the area unit used here, it's equal to 2500m2), because it was infected by some parasite. In some areas the seeds of a previous and different plant sprouted, which also messed things up. Regarding the parasites, it was explained to me that the government used to spread insecticide with crop dusters, but haven't been for the past 5 years. I'm trying to remember exactly what the matter was but can't. I'll have to get it explained to me again next time. I remember when I was with CBS a CPA officer talked about the problems regarding the use of a crop duster since it doesn't look like a military plane and that forces on the ground would mistake it for an enemy plane.
One of farmers has gone out of line. He withheld his harvest of rice the previous harvest, and took a few sacks of wheat this harvest. Under Saddam's rule not a single farmer would dare to do such a thing since we would tell the authorities and the cops will come along and drag him straight to jail and keep him there till his trial. Now the rules have changed, if anyone accuses someone of theft they're not taken into jail until a trial takes place. Whoever reading this would think that that's a good change, but it really isn't when there's a weak rule of law in the country and the trial's take months to happen. That same farmer is now threatening Fozzy because my dad took filed a complaint.
So now that the government law isn't much help, the matter is being dealt with through the tribal system. Our Sheikh is going to have a word with the farmer's family and hopefully find fix the problem. Hopefully the other farmers will note it as an example and not fuck around anymore than they already do.
I planned to spend only two nights there so in the evening of the second night we went into town to make an appointement to tow the car the next morning. We only found one tow-truck and he wanted to charge us 160,000 I.D.. We were expecting to pay about 75,000 I.D.. So when some guy mentioned that his cousin got a dude from nearby Diwaniyah to come to baghdad and to tow it back to Diwaniyah for 75,000 I.D. we took him and his cousin to take us to the tow-truck dude in Qadissiyah.
On the way, the cousin asked me in a low voice how much the previous tow-truck dude asked for, and I told him. How much I really regret telling him. When we got to Qadissiyah the cousin got out of the car and had a word with the tow-truck guy before us. When we got to speaking about how much he would charge he said 135,000 I.D. Fozzy and I were a bit shocked, and then I got pissed off because I realized what had happened. The cousin had told him how much we had been offered to put him in the know. I accepted anyway, because I didn't want to spend an extra night in the farm. Some suggested that I take the car to Najaf and fix it there instead. But that sounded like a bad idea to me for many reasons.
The next day we towed the car straight to our regular mechanic who quickly found the problem. Apparently there was rust in the fuel injection system.
On the whole the trip was pretty good, I was glad to find the climate there somewhat cooler than here in Baghdad. And that even though the electricity came half the time it comes in Baghdad, it was easier to go to sleep because of the climate, and also because I had those sleeping pills. I'm somewhat looking forward to going back there soon.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I stopped using those pills last night. It was so hot last night. Something went wrong with the electricity in the whole neighbourhood. I figured that the Lorazepam pills weren't going to be enough to put me to sleep despite of the heat. Finding out that they belong to the same family of meds as Valium, kind of put me off the idea of swallowing them pills too. On the other hand I just read that of all the benzodiazepines it's the least addictive.
I was supposed to go to the farm tomorrow. But Nahida has decided to delay the trip another day. I should be driving ourselves there since the car seems to be reliabe enough now. I'm not too confident of my highway driving, so I ought to be careful. I'm really going to need those pills when I go to the farm.
I need to make a happy place in my head, just to make these days more bearable. Even though I know that these coming summer months will pass me by just as the many months before, I really want to make them special somehow.
The obvious way to make a summer special is to go on a trip abroad, but the last few trips I've had brought me down. When I see how things are so much nicer abroad, I begin feeling bad about Iraq. Maybe the solution is to visit someplace more screwed up than Iraq. How about the United States? If you'd say that Iraq became a worse place because of the Americans, then shouldn't it follow that the States be much worse due to their longer presence their. Nobody except maybe a Red Indian would agree with that.
I can't afford to travel anyway. What then could I do? I'm definitely going to spend a short time with my cousins in Kurdistan, but that's just as boring as Baghdad but the cooler climate is a big plus.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
It was one year ago today. That I created my blogspot account. I considered taking oppurtunity of this occasion to do a little retrospective on the last year but considering that I only really started posting in September of last year I won't.
The car is nearly working. It's just leaking a little petrol. Something that should be a problem to fix.
I spoke to my dad a few days ago. He told me that when he comes back to Baghdad he'll write me a right-of-attorney. And then I'll finally take control of what's left of his wealth. Mwhaahaha. He also said that any proceeds from the farm will ultimately wind up into my hands. I think he's encouraging me to go there.
Kiki left a few days ago to Amman for a month, to attend someone's wedding. His on-line girlfriend will be in Alexandria at the same time. Even though I don't think he would, he might go and visit her.
I went to some place with Nahida and the carpenter that's doing our house to buy a couple of sinks for the kitchen. I put to force my opinion and bought a black kitchen sink instead of the very typical aluminium one that's found in every single home in Iraq.
My dad has been spending money on the house we live in for a long time now. And there are so many flaws. I really want to bring down any more spending on it. Nahida is now suggesting that we sell the chairs in the guest hall and make new ones to my taste. And even though they're ugly and uncomfortable I don't want to go ahead with it especially since they're rarely used.
I'm at an internet cafe right now. My internet connection at home hasn't been working for 5 days because of some fault at the server. I tried 3 internet cafes till I got to the one I'm at now.
The first one is just a couple minutes walk away from my home (I don't even need to walk on to the main street). They've good PCs and is usually packed. Today however, they too had a problem with their connection.
The second one I hadn't been to in a long time, it was the first one near my home, and was a bit weird. The management were a bunch of Iraqis from the UK. They had packed the cafe with 40 PCs but somehow never have I seen more than half of them being used at the same time. They had weird PCs on which you couldn't right-click on the taskbar and weren't allowed to download any software onto.
The third one I went to was the first cafe to open up in the neighbourhood. It's a bit of a walk to get to. I was hoping to see the cute chick that used to work there. But instead I found an old woman. There was a little girl of about 15 years of age that I remember seeing from the days that I used to go there. I think she's the owner's daughter. She seemed to be doing all the work. The PC I used sucked. The mouse wasn't optical and for some reason I had to use the keyboard to switch windows. And Yahoo messenger didn't want to sign-in. So I quickly left knowing there a couple more cafes within a minutes reach.
Then I came to this third cafe that I had never been to. Everything's fine except the shakey display. I called these guys up to ask if they offer wireless internet a couple of days ago. I can't remember what these guys said. Somehow the paper I had jotted the responses of the different people I called about the subject got lost. It was either we'll call you back or it costs 50 bucks a month. I already pay $45 bucks and I'm looking for a cheaper alternative.
India found some jokes about whores that Am sent me within the past few days and began wondering how slutty she is. She (Am) gave me a missed call last night. So I called her back. The coversation was boring for me and I really don't understand what the girl wants from me. Of all the girls that want to speak to me it had to be the one with no breasts and a big ass.
Am is a creepy girl, she's the niece of one of my dad's creepy woman-friend. Without prior knowledge of her existence she came into my room 3 years ago. We chatted, she gave me these 'I love you' eyes, I held her hand and wondered why her breasts were so small. On her way out she gave me a quick kiss on the lips and walked out. I was supposed to attend a birthday party of one of her friends the next day. But at the time, I wasn't quite stable in the head and she freaked me out, and so I didn't go after hanging up plenty to times in her face.
She came a couple more times to my house after that. She would take off her hijab because I didn't like it. The second and third time I met her I was more honest with her and so was she. She wanted us to have a relationship that was heading directly for marriage, and that was something I definitely didn't want. After that I didn't hear from her much, until recently.
I've finally solved my sleeping problems with the use of pills. I had some pills that I was supposed to pass onto my senile grandma years ago. They're some kind of anti-anxiety pills. And since I think my trouble going to sleep is anxiety related. I read the pamphlet and it said in case of trouble going to sleep pop 2mg. So I did and it worked.
The cafe is going to close now, it's only 9:30pm. The punks.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
I think I've only got 20 more minutes till the electricity cuts off. Today I got my car stereo back. Paid 20,000 ID to get it repaired. I didn't bother haggling, and for that Nahida would most certainly have a go at me. She had a go at me saying that they pick out the good parts and swap them for 2nd rate parts. Ah well whatever, it works now.
Last night the guys and I slept over at Fal's to watch the Xbox 360 unveiling party on MTV. We were very disappointed. The electricity was really bad, and it was really hot. We stood out on the street, and then Fal's brother came along and brought out the water hose. It was just a matter of time till we all got sprayed. Some of the guys tried to run, but all got wet eventually.
A few developing oppurtunities of how to spend the summer are sprouting around me. None are for certain, so there's no need to make a choice yet. I was sworn to secrecy in regards to two of the possible summer activities. But everybody knows that I'm awful at keeping a secret. In any case I'll mention all of this matter next time.
Friday, May 13, 2005
It took 3 days of drinking, but I'm finally feeling the effects of alcohol. Whoppee.
The car's breaking down again. Things that are still wrong with it:
- The exhaust pipe sounds like it's broken.
- The car takes too much time to switch gear.
- The air-conditioning is bust.
- The car stereo is still bust.
- The axle is making noise.
- When the car comes to a halt the revs go up and down. And as feared the engine is turning off.
Fozzy's back from the farm. And hopefully today I'll finally get to figure out how much profit we made off the farm last year. It's starting to take the piss.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
I think the new electricity schedule is 1 1/2 hours on and 4 1/2 hours off. It's painfully warm. Soon enough it'll be too hot even for the flies and mosquitoes. The electricity has only just come back and now that I have the air-conditioning on the sweat on my forehead is slowly drying up.
I remember when electricity cuts were considered as some kind of punishement handed out by Saddam, we used to joke about it being a matter of time till he cuts off the air to breathe. Constantly flowing electricity is something that alot of people take for granted. But during Saddam's day, it wasn't so much of a inconvenience. We used to use the electricity cuts as an excuse to go to someone else's house. We'd just bounce around town going to friend's houses and then move on when the electricity cuts wherever we were. Of course back then there was no traffic and it was safe to go out whatever the time.
A schedule used to be printed in the newspaper of when the electricity would be cut also. These days it would radically change without warning every week at best. I hear most of the blame is goes to the corruption going on at the electric plants. On the other hand, from time to time I would hear someone say that they heard from a reliable source that the people there are working around the clock to fix the problem. 2 years of this crap, and such rumours become less credible. Somewhere I saw a chart showing that only on one day did the electricity reach pre-war levels.
Today I woke up at 5 pm. I went out and did some groceries. Took the car stereo to the repairs, he told me to come back after 2 hours at 8pm. He said that probably an IC was burnt, and that he had to replace it and that it'll cost 10,000 Iraqi Dinars (7 bucks). When I told Nahida that I had taken it to get repaired she got all excited , telling me that I should'nt of taken it to get repaired because they'll nick the parts inside, and that I should've taken her with me. She wanted to come with me when I pick it up. It really takes the piss when she gives me this kind of attitude. I'll admit that I'm not the saviest of people and probably an imbecile when it comes to dealing with Iraqis. But I've got to learn, and I've got to make mistakes in the process. I yelled back at her and she cooled off quickly enough. When I did go back to the guy he told me that I'd have to come back tomorrow because the tape player was a real mess.
After I get it repaired I'm thinking of getting it replaced. The sound is crap and the radio is doesn't go further than 99 MHz on the FM band because it's from some weird region (maybe the gulf). It would be nice to get a CD player. I could burn CDs and listen to them in the car. Much easier than burning CDs than using the tap deck to record them onto cassettes. Or I could just buy an mp3 player and use a CD car kit.
Kiki came over for a short bit to watch a DVD that contained the CBS report in which he was interviewed. He had told me to come with him on the day of the interview but opted not to since I spent a month working for CBS and therefore didn't feel it was right of me to participate. To be honest I didn't do any work while I was there. I just drank as much of their supply of beer as possible. I later figured that drinking is looked very down upon during work in the US. Anyway, Kiki was quite was disappointed when he saw the report not only did they only use a 30 second sound byte of what he said during an hour long interview, but they also took out of context what he had said. He was describing the presence of American culture before the war, but in the report it's shown to describe the new presence of American culture after the war.
The generator is acting weird. It's working fine but every hour maybe it just dies down and restarts by itself.
So what's in-store for the coming day? Somehow need to get new tires for the car. At the moment I'm cruising about without a spare. And the bolts on the spare are sticking out, making it appear that they're loose and nice people on the street are warning me about them. It's been such a long time since I've driven a car. I feel so clumsy on the road, the car being a '90 300 SEL makes it feel that much awkward. Some guy asked if I wanted to buy it while I was at the car audio repair guy. I replied that it was a pile of shit. Who'd want to buy a car with bullet holes anyway? hehehe.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
My face is all red! I've only had one beer or maybe it's because I walked a bit in the sunlight today. Maybe my tolerence isn't that high after all. And maybe I've just got a problem appreciating the buzz. But I would like to mention what I did buy. For 25,000 I.D. I purchased 12 bottles of Corona beer, and a half-bottle of some suspicious Grant's whiskey.
Trying to learn how to use CSS is paying off in the smallest ways. I figured how to justify the text in my posts. Yippeee :)
A couple of nights ago, I bumped into Hans on msn messenger. He was drunk. There was a short time we used to get on-line together and get pissed drunk and re-live the old days when we used to do the same on his balcony at his Beirut appartement. We've known each other for a long time, somewhat by coincidence, we met in Baghdad International School. And we bumped into each other in Lebanon where we both stayed for 5 or so years.
He's been studying 3rd developement in the UK for the past several years. So when I started telling him about my farm in Al-Shamiya and how much of a smelly place it is he got rather excited, realising the potential good that could be done in the community there. So I posed him the question of how do I convince some of the people to make their kids attend school. He certainly enlightened me on how to go about the subject. The only ideas I was able to come up with so far was to find some way to force them to do so. Hans explained to me that I've got to understand why they think school is of no use. Is it because they don't have an example of somebody succeeding through education for example. He even provided me with ways to go about it.
Hans emphasized that what I should be doing is satisfying the wants of the people as opposed to imposing my own opinion of what's best for them.
It's such a shame that I didn't save the conversation, because I can't remember half of what he said, he wasn't that much sense either because he was so drunk and tired hehe. It's a shame I have zero interest in the place and rarely go there. But my dad wants me to get involved in it. I don't know how it's all going to work out.
A day earlier I had downloaded Keyhole and got a free 7 day trial. The bastards had mis-spelt Al-Shamiya. They had spelt it Al-Samiya. It's in between Najaf and Al-Diwaniya btw (something I didn't really know until then).
Yesterday I finally got my dad's car back! First thing I did: buy some booze. I'm drinking much slower than I expected which is a good thing. I'm pretty happy about that. It doesn't seem I'm going to enjoy getting drunk though. I wish I could get drunk but I just seem to be too tolerant.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
At no point in my life so far have I been so unproductive and aware of it.
The past couple of days Kiki has been over to watch Liverpool and Milan reach the final of the Uefa Cup. Both of them were exciting games, but I wouldn't of watched them had Kiki not been here. We also watched a bunch of DVDs. Most of all though I've been playing Mario 64 on his Nintendo DS. During the past 3 days I've colleted 75 stars and I've got 25 from previous football games.
In regards to how unproductive I am, I'm not referring to the past couple of days but the past couple of months.
The car is still in repairs. How long has it been? It's moments like these I find this blog useful. After I'm done writing this post I could check my archives and see how long the car has been broken down.
Nahida's improved her kebab recipe. Finally they're starting to taste more like the way they should taste.
The other day at a fast food restaurant I bumped into a classmate from the uni that i attended last year. He tells me that half of the students weren't attending this year and that two of the students either got kidnapped or received threats of kidnapping (I was too hungry to pay attention).
If I wasn't such a lazy person, there's a moderate chance that I would've been dead or kidnapped by now. But that doesn't justify being lazy.
I'm so brain dead these days that I've accumulated hours and hours of staring at the google search page or an empty desktop. I'm beginning to think that maybe if I stare at the tv turned off it would provide me with the same amount of entertainement. But seeing the colours on the tellie change is still more entertaining than my reflection on a black screen.
My dad's in the UK now, and I spoke to him on the phone the other day and he confirmed to me that he's decided to move permanently back to London. My mum and bro along with his family are in Bath and my sis is somewhere in the UK. So why the hell am I in Iraq?! People have often asked me that question but now that my dad has moved to the UK, the question of why I'm here is burning my butt-hole more than ever.
I didn't directly ask the question to my dad but he pointed out that I should be learning how to run the farm. Living in Baghdad wears any person down, my farm has the same effect but to a much higher degree. So far all I've done in regards of the farm is type in the expenses of the past 3 months. I still haven't figured how much profit was made last year, because Fozzy hasn't been around and shown me the books.
One problem is that if I don't learn how to run the farm now I'll never learn simply because there'll be no one to show me the ropes apart from Fozzy who's a really old dude who I can't count on being around much longer.
Maybe I should take the initiatve and go back to the UK and get any job possible. I should be able to find some kind of solution there.
For a long while now, I've been thinking about my dual national-identitiy. For years I've considered myself an Iraqi. But that wasn't until I moved here when I was 12. Until the age of 12 I thought of myself as British and eversince I've always said that I'm Iraqi unless in situations I have to present the red passport. And I miss feeling British, there's so much less to get depressed about.
I think I would've still called myself British in the UK if I had a British accent but I lost it in Lebanon. Now when I go to the UK people take guesses of where I got my accent from. I realised that I lost my accent when I went to uni in Lebanon along with whatever intelligence that I was once admired for. But I didn't realise that I had acquired a new accent until someone during my last visit to Lebanon said that I had a Lebanese accent when I talk english.
Wouldn't it be simpler if I called myself a British Iraqi. Yeah, I like that.