Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007

Achievements of this year:

1. Survived and maintained what sanity I have.
2. Spent more time at the farm than I have ever done so before. And have finally accepted it as part of my life.
3. Didn't lose my mobile phone as I have done for the past couple of years in the month of December.
4. Passed one more year of college.

Failures of this year:

1. Didn't achieve independence from Nahida.
2. Didn't get a new passport nor go on vacation.
3. Didn't nail down Arabic grammar.


That's all I can think of aside from not getting laid at all, losing any weight around the waist, turning vegetarian, and quitting smoking, but none of those were actual goals this year.

How about setting some goals for next year...

1. Finish college.
2. Settle down in the farm.
3. Get a big television and a new laptop.
4. Finish the paperwork I started this summer.
5. Read a novel in Arabic.

All in all it was quite an uneventful and forgettable year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Off To The Plantation Tomorrow

Eid is coming and dad's told me that I have to spend it at the plantation. Invite the farmers and everyone for a meal. And I was looking forward to chilling at home and doing nothing. Nahida's busy making pastries for tomorrow's trip. Miz is making salad for today's lunch. And my cousin is on his way from Erbil against his mother's wishes. I'm actually looking forward to have my cousin come with me to the plantation, that way some of the spotlight would be drawn away from me. And overall he's more enthusiastic about the whole plantation.

I got back my first test result from college this past week and things are looking good. I got a three out of five on a subject whose lectures I had missed. I'm managing to do my share of work in regards to my thesis project. Last weekend I produced seven pages of material that I had translated from English to Arabic. And I've begun to learn Japanese. I've got myself a notebook and everyday I jot down a few Hiragama letters down to learn. Learning Arabic is again put on hold. Miz the nutcase is more or less living at my house nowadays which is fine because he's quiet most of the time. The annoying thing about him is that he's so damn pessimistic.

Last week, I figured out who Fulu was, I was on a balcony and I saw a girl that I hadn't noticed before and that matched the simple description that she had given me and that was also sneezing or coughing into a tissue. Now she doesn't want us to talk on the phone because I know who she is now and it's weird. Yesterday, she somehow appeared sitting in front of me as I was walking through college. She was awfully nervous and so was I. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then I walked away. We still chat online though, and she does say she misses talking on the phone.

My cousin's arrived now and we've just had dinner. Surprisingly, he's not all too enthusiastic about going to the plantation.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Life Goes On

I had recently got in touch with a high school friend from my days in Lebanon. We spent most of grade 12 stuck with each other. He had run away from home and stayed with me. We lived the direst life of poverty living off of bread and cheese triangles. Once a week we'd go down to the Irish pub and get rat faced because the manager there wanted a favour from his dad and so he gave us lots of free drinks. Then when he came back home, I moved into his house with his family. But after graduating from school, I stayed in Lebanon and he went on to live in Canada.

So after about ten years, we get back in touch through Facebook and last Wednesday we chatted online. He brought up the idea of spending of me coming to visit him in Lebanon and to spend New Year's together at Faraya. The same place we went to together on New Year's eve ten years ago. That night, ten years ago, he had a fight with the driver after we reached the mountain top village where there's a big party every New Year's eve; and he sent the driver home without us. We were left stranded there with no where to go to. We ended up hitching ourselves back to our regular Irish pub that night.

So I promise that the next day I'd get my ass off the couch and go check out the passport office to get a new passport, something I've been wanting to get since June. And it turns out the office is closed to all but those applying for a passport to go to hajj and that considering holidays and all that are coming up, the passport office isn't going to open itself for applications till mid-January. And I was really looking forward to spending that time catching up and having a well-deserved vacation.

That same day, I went back to Bab Alshargi to see my Wii man who had last week come back from his tour of Asia. I had visited him a couple of days before and he had given me a Japanese copy of Super Mario Galaxy but which didn't work. This time, however, he gave me his copy and it did the update that un-semi-bricked my Japanese Wii. So I'm finally discovering all the internet-enabled features available on the Wii, but in Japanese. It's driving me nuts that my Wii is Japanese. Everything is in Japanese. I'm having to guess my way through menus. I've spent some time voice-chatting with my brother trying to have fun with the Miis. He even gave me his credit card details so I can buy some Wii points. But I'm worried that when the games I download on the virtual console won't be any fun because they'd be in Japanese too. I would love to play Zelda: Ocarina of Time for example. I'm thinking I'm just going to have to learn Japanese. I've printed some books already.

Well the guys just arrived, when I get the time I'll write about the story behind this pic of my car...



[the following was added two weeks later]

It was a rainy early morning two Sundays ago. Miz had already left, Mos and I were ready to head off to college early. Since it was early and raining I decided we would drive to college. So off we were in my car. It was around seven in the morning and the streets were quite empty and I was cruising slower than I usually do. Turned right at an intersection, a police car coming from the opposite end of the street followed behind me. A few seconds later there was a bang and the glass of my window to the side shattered. My first reaction was to burst out in hysterical laughter and I continued to drive along whilst Mos too was laughing in disbelief. The car ahead of us pulled over so I did too. Mos and I got out of the car. To my surprise, the driver of the car in front of me was a lecturer I had last year. As we greeted each other and said the custom "hamd-allah ala salama" phrase (Thank god you're safe) my biggest worry was whether the lecturer would spot the whiskey in my breath. In the meantime, Mos had his attention towards the police car that was the target of the roadside bomb that just hit us. My lecturer invited me to take a look at the damage on his car, and a moment later we all agreed that we should all get on our way as shoots were being fired by security forces as is the odd custom after such an incident.

Mos and I drove off and we began wondering what the strong smell in the car could be. We assumed it was the smell of the explosion. At the checkpoint up ahead, the one soldier there asked us if we saw anything and then told us "hamd-allah ala salama" as he gestured us to go pass through. Mos thought that we were going to go on to college, but I decided to drive back home because of the broken window. It was just after passing that checkpoint that I told Mos that I was too dizzy to drive and so we pulled over so he could take the wheel. At first I thought it could've been the smell or maybe I was losing blood and did not know it, and then later I thought it could be that I was hyperventilating through the laughter. My dizziness had Mos very worried too and when we got the car outside my house we got out and he took a look at my eyes to see if I was okay. Fortunately by then most of the dizziness had dissipated. Mos stood on the street talking to his mum as I opened the gate and then drove the car into the garage; it was then that he was shocked to see the gaping hole in the back of the car.

A piece of shrapnel or maybe a piece of the police car had flown threw into the back of the car and into the fuel tank that is behind the back seats. Fortunate for us the piece of shrapnel didn't get past the fuel tank and hit one of us. And a lot of people had said that had we been in any other car and not in a Mercedes then we would've probably had died. Later that day, Nahida's brother also found a tiny piece of shrapnel wedged into the frame of the shattered window.

So after an hour of fussing about what just happened, Mos and I went off to college by cab. It took us over an hour to get there, and the both of us were still amazed to have survived the whole way. When we did eventually get to college we split and then caught up with each other a few hours later to remark that nobody seemed to be impressed about what had happened to us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dozy and Cozy

Feeling awfully tired these days, don't know why. I sometimes doze off in cabs, and those punks at the checkpoints think it's funny to stop the cab and wake me up. But then again they might be checking whether or not I'm a dead corpse lying in the passenger seat.

Lots of people are getting ill these days. But not me, because I've got whiskey and a stupid determination to go out in a t-shirt and put up with people asking me why the hell don't I put some more clothes. It is nice to have people to ask me that for a change as opposed to asking me why the heck I'm still here.

If I ever do leave this country it would be so that I wouldn't have to have someone ask me just that one question anymore. Of course, I wouldn't want to end up going someplace, to have people telling me not to go back. It's seriously doing my head in.

Okay that's it, I'm off to bed.

First Chilly Week

Winter hit Baghdad Sunday morning. Finally time to pull out those winter clothes that have been stashed away in the back of the closet. And again, I'm regretting not having bought some winter clothes when I went to the UK last year. I could've told my dad to bring me some wool jumpers from M&S before he came to visit last month. Well instead, I'm practicing mind over matter and am going to college in a t-shirt. I wonder how long I'll be able to keep that up. I could then warm myself up by wearing two t-shirts.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Poink Poink Poink

Didn't get far past those ten pages that I had already read earlier this morning. Chatted on the phone, jacked off, had a dump, Nahida made me chicken escallop, and now the movie I've been watching is over. Parts of me want to run away and escape, and other parts of me want things to fill up the voids. I really need to get the reading on. I guess I haven't done too bad so far. What I've done is better than nothing. I could get some more done before bedtime. I want to take a shower, but there's no hot water. The electricity has been quite scarce the past couple of days. Nahida said it came on around three in the morning last night.

I'm starting to feel bad now about not reading. So my first step is to turn of the television. Done that. I'm now trying to chat to that divorcee I mentioned earlier. Her net connection is rather wonky and keeps disconnecting. It seems her sister and her brother-in-law are always over at her home and she'd have to hide the chat window whenever they're peering over. I think I'm too bored to chat to anyone tonight. Too bored to chat and want to chat in the chance to rid myself of this feeling of boredom. There's so many things I could do. I could take pictures of the things around me and post them here. I could do some tidying up too. Try to remember what my dad wanted me to inquire the lawyer about something to do with the classification of some pieces of land. I need to make myself a proper to-do list perhaps, with long term to-dos. I should memorize the names in Arabic of some keywords regarding my thesis project, such as 'master schedule' and 'bill of materials'. I'm going to be so glad once this year is over.

I'm trying to decide if I should try to do something different with my blog. Perhaps put a lot more pictures of mundane things around me or changing the content to something that might get readers to respond to. I wonder how I would do that. The easy path would be to say something political, but I wouldn't want to do that. I'd need to do find some kind of original format or kind of discussion. Nope, can't be bothered. But someday, if I happen to have broadband or a lot of patience I'll try adding some pictures to old posts and maybe someone might want to share their frustration and pain when it comes to Kleenex that sticks to their dick after masturbating and how painful it is sometimes to rip it off.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Poink Poink

Material at college is accumulating. Attendance at college is a lot better than last year. This week we were assigned our thesis subjects. My group ended up with one that so far appears to be really horrible. Something called 'material requirement planning'. Reading about it on the net, it appears to be somewhat outdated. I was hoping to be doing my thesis in English, but I was then explained they have to be in Arabic. I was shocked to find that there was one thesis subject in English that was handed to another group. I feel so screwed. The only good thing about my group's subject is that the teacher's would be reluctant to fail us.

Lately I've been raking chatting up more girls than ever before, of course I'm getting no where. Things between me and Shady had begun to feel a bit distorted between me and her. After I began to try to talk about our relationship, she gave me some crap about how if I didn't have the intention of marriage then that meant that whatever feelings I had for her were meaningless. I then began to spend less time talking to her. I don't know what she wants. Last night, she was complaining about how things aren't as good as they were between us. I tried talking about things we could do such as not arguing, and then she said that I'm not capable of handling the relationship we had. Truth is I'm not, but we could make what we have more pleasant.

There's another girl, Fulu. Met her on-line back in the summer, it turned out that she was in the same college as I was and that she knew who I was. She had even joked about me to her friends last year, saying that I resembled her uncle. Something she said that began an inside joke between her and her friends. Unlike Shady, she doesn't mind getting kinky on the phone, it seems that her anonymity grants her the freedom to do so. It's been a month of college, and I still don't know who she is. It's like a little game between the two of us. Everyday she'd tell me where she had spotted me and about how she was so scared when I looked at her. I of course am looking at all the girls trying to guess which one she is or simply just checking them out.

There are another two girl's. One's a girl I've been chatting to for some while. Recently she's been having me help her translate things for her to communicate with her friend who I presume is an American soldier. Her dream is to someday work in the US embassy. And there's another, who I met on-line ages ago. I finally suggested we exchange phone numbers to which she responded that it was about time. She's a twenty-nine year old divorcee. So who knows? I might get lucky.

Mos and Miz are still sleeping over regularly. I wasn't expecting them to keep on coming over after classes started. These days they invite themselves over. I don't think I can play another round of Mario Party 8. Mario Party on the Gamecube was more fun. I'm waiting on the dude from Bab-AlShargi to finish off his tour of the far east. I wonder if a US copy of Mario Galaxy will work on my modded Japanese Wii. I should just learn Japanese. Now if I were to manage my time better and if I were more determined that would be somewhat feasible. But then again, I do need to nail down my Arabic first.

I need to go back to studying to studying production management now. I've got to catch up two lectures that amount to over fifty pages. I've read ten pages so far today, but haven't understood much.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dad Came and Went

Just for a second, I missed the English cold a moment ago.

My dad came to visit last week, a couple days after my birthday. His visit went pretty well. The only time he got close to being angry at me was when he wanted me to switch the channel whilst I was eating my dinner and watching Scrubs. Overall, he was suprisingly happy to see my change attitude towards the plantation.

He did my head in with all the things he had to tell me about the plantation and my future. He was trying to make the most of his time with me I guess. There's so much for me to learn and he's the only one that can point everything out for me. Despite having spent several years on the plantation himself, he understands the business so much more than others who have spent their whole lives in the business.

He also brought up the marriage issue and the suitable cousin of mine in Canada. He told me that I ought to e-mail her dad, and ask him for her e-mail address, and then go on and chat with her online on the premise that I want to get to know family. I didn't feel comfortable with e-mailing some guy and asking him for his daughter's e-mail address. At the time we agreed that he'd help me write the e-mail with him Monday, the next day.

I went to college on Monday hoping that it'd be the day we start taking lectures. The day before I got told off by one teacher after I persistently asked her to give us a lecture. She gave me some deal about how I 'the student' should not be ordering her around, I in return pleaded that I was just trying to encourage her without bringing things like my father's paid one million dinars or that I have to go through one hour of traffic to get to college or that I as a student expect to learn something.

The lecturer of Monday's first class had been on leave and the head of department told us to nevermind taking a class with him. So wound up moping about college yet again waiting for the next class. The teacher had yesterday sat in class with just one student yesterday and he seemed eager to get started. A couple of classmates of mine and I went over to his office just before our class was about to start and my punk classmate friend got the teacher to agree to not give us class till Sunday.

I did not stop whining at my classmates that day. Whilst I was there Nahida's sister called me telling me that she's at the airport and that they're telling her that there's no flight to Beirut tomorrow as had thought my dad, but that there was one today. I explained to her that I wasn't home and that she should call Nahida to get through to my dad. Nahida and my dad were supposed to call me earlier that day to go visit the bank with them. That was another thing that was pissing me off that day.

I was pissed off and hungry. I went over to the nearest decent restaurant that also happens to be quite expensive at $20 a meal. The turkish-coffee guy at the door greeted me very warmly. I hadn't been there since the summer started. He assumed that I had a summer vacation abroad, I wish it were true. I wondered if I had ever tipped him, and if he was being extra nice to me for another tip.

It's always a bit weird going to that restaurant because I'm always the only one that's eating alone and leave as soon as I've finished eating. I've even got a little routine. They bring a bunch of mezzas to my table and I always the little plates that I finish. Whilst I was eating my dad called to tell me that he's leaving to the airport. Which of course sucked because I did want to greet him off, get him to write that e-mail with me so that he could stop badgering me about that girl in Canada and to listen and ask him more stuff about the farm.

When I got home tired and disappointed, I called up Miz and Mos told them to come over and sleep over.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Silences In Between

Riding in a taxi on my way back from college today, I passed the one street where booze is sold abundantly regretting that I hadn't made any provisions for booze today. Today's my birthday and I'm spending it sober (Yes Tomas, I screwed big time). I'm handling it well, despite feeling a silent resentment for all the twists and turns that have led me up to this point and ending up the way I am. I'm not feeling as hungry as usual, haven't eaten much today.

Shady was the first to wish me happy birthday. It was four in the morning, and so she was the first. She surprised me because I had refused to tell her when my birthday was previously but she dug it out on a social networking site. At college, only four guys from my class showed up including me. Two of them bought me lunch as a birthday gift which was very nice of them. Whilst i was at college Zaif called me to wish me happy birthday as well as my mum. My dad's wife called too, but I had my phone on silent.

Dad just called me now, told me to save some of my birthday cake. Didn't make one yet. Told him that we're waiting for him to arrive. Which he is tomorrow. Despite my better judgment, I'm still not quite sure if it's worth asking for a new laptop. With my taking over the farm, I could just buy one and charge it as a farm expense. A new car perhaps? I'd rather wait till I graduate, but I'll throw the idea at him anyway.

Something odd has been happening recently. Men, grown up men, have been coming up to me to beg. Usually, it's just kids, old women, or the two combined. Yesterday morning, Miz dropped Mos and me off near the Sinak bridge on his way to college. After getting off the car, some really scruffy guy came up to me with his hand out to shake mine. And as it is a habit, I began to reach out but then realised that I don't know this guy and he's just going to waste my time to beg for some money, so I just ignored the guy and walked past him. The same thing happened with a much less scruffier guy the last time I was there a week ago.

Mos and I then hitched another cab, and I got off near my college on his way to work. After crossing the street some guy asked me for some money so he could get himself home. I lied and told him that I didn't have any change to give him and walked off.

And today it got even creepier, whilst the guys and I were at the restaurant I left to get some farm accounts photocopied. At the photocopying shop a dirty looking dumb (the kind that doesn't speak) guy with a large cloth sack slung over his shoulder comes in and begins to gesture for money. The shop owner refused to hand the man any cash, said that he hadn't had any work yet. But this beggar was persistent and began poking me and gesturing at me too. I refused to give him money too. And then he made a throat slitting gesture and pointed at the army check point, I think he was suggesting that I should give him some money otherwise I'd have trouble with the army guys. The shop owner and I were both surprised for a second, but didn't bother talking about it after the beggar shortly left. But then the beggar came back, and again began poking and gesturing for cash. I gave him a long slow look into his eyes, he held out his hand for a handshake, I took it and then we kissed each other on the cheek (nothing gay about that here, it's just how men say hi to each other over here). He gestured one last time for some cash, I again refused and he left.

I wonder if this is going to get even creepier tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dehydrated Thoughts

Dehydrated... just a little drunk really. Electricity has been good of late, could it be the state's Eid present or is it because the weather has cooled down? Maybe, in my neighbourhood it's good and in some other neighbourhood people are cursing because they hadn't had any for a week. Because wouldn't it be a cunning trick to not have everyone complain at the same time.

I've got trouble adapting. The shift from the farm back to the city, I'm not too good at it. I hate moving. It's why I hate traveling. It takes me about a week to settle in and for my grumpiness to subside.

I know there's some soft drink in the fridge to drink. It would be so good right now. I'm looking forward to beginning college. I met another girl online this summer, and she tells me she attends the same college and knows who I am. She's not revealing who she is to me. Which does make for a fun situation for a bit. She says she's even talked about me with her friends last year, telling her friends that I look like her uncle.

Nahida's been re-arranging the house. She's had all the rugs put in. It's the kind of thing that's done once summer is over. She says some of these rugs are worth thousands of dollars. I dropped a cigarette on one of them yesterday.

Last night, I slept in my bedroom instead of the living room for the first time since the heat began. The trouble with sleeping in my bedroom is that the generator is right outside of it, making it even more impossible to sleep. But the climate is much better now and I don't need to run the generator to run the fan to go to sleep anymore.

It's nearly two in the morning now and that juice in the fridge is waiting for me, and I don't want to sleep too late either.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Ramadhan Is Over

I'm not entirely sure why I haven't been bothered to post lately. Maybe there are so many little mundane details in my life these days that to write them all down or filter them down. And then it seems as I was talking to Remy over the phone a few days ago that drinking is the key. So I've got myself of some of that gin that my uncle left me mixed with two squeezed limes, some and salt. I've discovered that salt makes the gin a lot more bearable.

I got back from a week long stay at my farm two days ago. And when I got back I had the best sleep I've had for months. Went to sleep at around six in the afternoon and woke up at quarter to six in the morning. The weather has finally cooled down enough so that I don't wake up in a pool of my own sweat.

The farm trip was good. I've finally began processing the transfer of ownership of the three plots from my dad to me. It was the first time I had to deal with government bureaucracy on my own. And it went surprisingly well. Whenever it seemed I was stuck I just had to mention that I was my father's son and a 'come back tomorrow' would change to a 'have a seat'. But so far I've had one woman mention that she has a boy or nephew that has fluid in his spine and needs medical attention abroad (it takes the piss that government can spend three billion dollars on importing weapons but can't provide the money for health care) and another that asked me to contact a relative of mine in the government so that he can provide a hajj permit. Saudi Arabia allots quotas of how many people may be sent to the hajj to each state. The relative of mine has the power to grant such a permit but I don't have any contact with him and I don't want to create one. Fozzy told the woman that Nahida who does have contact will do it. I just don't want to be the one making any promises.

I also got to meet some relatives of mine that are my age. They're cool guys and it's great to know someone that it's in the same business as me and with whom I could chill out with. One of them works in a micro-financing company, which is interesting. They provide loans of up to a thousand or two thousand dollars I think to anyone that can bring along a government employee to guarantee re-payment. The lender receives the loan minus one year's interest at the beginning and pays the rest in monthly installments for 12 months.

Kiki is in Malaysia now, he finally got his foot in the UNHCR's door, he had to stand outside the door five hours or so and fight for his place as others arrived so that he could get in when they opened the door for him. He was given an appointment for an interview to seek asylum, the appointment is in a year. India in Sweden got granted asylum and is now beginning to settle in with forty four year old Russian flatmate and now girlfriend.

I met a girl online, meet quite a few of those, this one gave me her number and we have been talking for about an hour or two every night. Last night, We fell asleep together whilst talking to each other on the phone. Shady's got a sexy voice and makes lots of tiny moans when she's talking to me from her bed that give me a hard on all the time. She's very affectionate, she helps me out with my Arabic, always pointing out whatever mistake I make and taking the time to explain things that I don't understand. Two weeks ago I downloaded a great book to study Arabic with and she'd encourage me to study, but she hasn't lately, and I haven't touched the book ever since I went to the farm. I should study a bit today and get back in the routine.

Last week at the farm I couldn't help myself and had to beat one off whilst talking to Shady, she didn't believe that I was actually did it until I was done. And then as revenge she got very serious and told me I should be punished and that she would have one of my nails ripped out which grossed me out. The next day she explained that when I do such stuff I should do it with a special someone and she threatened that if I don't get a girlfriend a in a month or two that she would start loving me. But I made her promise that she would never love me when we first began chatting.

Next week classes start as decided by the students, classes should have officially started at the beginning of October. There's another girl that I've met online during the summer who hasn't revealed to me who she is but tells me she's in college with me and knows who I am. It might make for a fun situation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In Da House For Too Long Da Da Da

Looking at the archive list of my posts, the last time I posted in the month of September was back in 2004 when I started. Back then I said that having 3 hours on 3 hours off electricity routine was bad. Nowadays I expect just an hour or two of electricity a day. 2004 feels like a lifetime away. But all in all, the last seven or maybe even 10 years are a blur. I'm going to be twenty-six next month. I don't feel I am where I'm supposed to be at that age. But there's nothing to be done about that. I feel like a confused sixteen year old in a forty year old body. I'm looking forward to college a lot, even though it's going to be one hell of a pain. My teachers are going to give me grief for not learning Arabic yet. I had it set in my mind that I'd cement some foundations, but I didn't get past memorizing the conjugation of four basic verbs.

Nothing is going on in my life right now aside from my dad's machinations. I've spent the past week or so stuck at home too lazy to go out. Going out is troublesome. The fight for my independence from Nahida is now a lost cause. I don't even go out to buy myself cigarettes from the shop down the street. I've given up on my car. The battery went flat, today Nahida's bro pulled it out and I think the thing is charging now.

Miz has been sleeping over most nights. He's been getting petrol for the generator for us. We're now stockpiling about fifty litres I think. And since it's Ramadhan Nahida's making futoor for us. And then Mazin monopolizes the TV to watch Ramadhan special shows till midnight. His nighttime monopoly over the telly permits me to play Zelda all day without feeling guilty. I'm really close to the end now, I've got nineteen hearts.

Dad's calling me a lot, lecturing me about how I'm supposed to start taking over things and complaining that he's having to deal with Nahida and Fozzy and I'm not going about with them to learn. He's coming over next month, in time for my birthday. I've asked him to get me a couple of pairs of linen trousers, socks, boxers from Marks & Spencers and an electric toothbrush which at first he refused to get but then changed his mind the next day, Nahida probably had a word with him.

Crap I'm bored. I'm going to try to sleep early tonight. I'll close my eyes and try to focus on something and make myself a dream.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ass Wipe

Recently it dawned on me why there's so much unfriendly to the nose 2 ply tissue paper in clear plastic bag packs. And the reason which isn't obvious because it's not printed on the pack is that the tissue meant to be used to wipe your ass with. I got the pack from my toilet in front of me now. Gentle and absorbent it says, and believe me there's no way a person should go through a cold with this stuff. And it goes on to call itself facial tissues when it is in of fact it's butt tissue. But I'm a convert to this cheap 'facial tissue' ever since my uncle stayed with me and put a pack of it in the toilet. One of the pack's trademark was my name come to think of it, does my uncle have a sick sense of humour and did he buy that brand on purpose? So the trouble I was facing with normal toilet paper was that bits of toilet paper would get stuck on my hairy butt because my butt would be so wet from using the bidet. The larger area of tissue paper is also a plus.

It's been about two weeks I've been more or less stuck at home. It's really hard to want to go out once I think about the heat outside and the horrendous traffic. And there was that stupid traffic ban earlier this week. I've had Miz and Mos sleepover a lot. Nahida found us a couple of deck of cards and we spent two nights playing konkan (or 51) in the garden. And we made up a rule that after every round the losers do as many push ups as they have cards in their hands to a limit of ten. Miz ended up doing over a hundred the first night because he didn't want to lay down his cards until he was ready to win, whereas I being the least healthy was all too willing to lay down my cards even if it meant losing.

In a couple of days I'll be heading back to the farm. I haven't achieved anything there yet. But I really must get something done on this trip. I've been spending some time trying to make out heads and tails of OpenOffice's Calc whilst I've been here. I've got a lot to learn to make Calc work for me. I'm worried it would get so complicated that I won't be able to get it to do what I want. But when I'll be in the farm I know I'll be able to focus on it a lot better than whilst I'm here in Baghdad. I'm feeling guilty for not getting anything done over there. It's going to be hard to tell my dad I'm going on a vacation if I don't get at least a few things done.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Poink

I live in a shell, oblivious to what's going on outside. The shell has cracks and when I get the time I fill in the gaps. Being at the farm gave me a lot of time to fill in those gaps and now I'm back in Baghdad the gaps are reappearing. Yesterday, I wanted to go to Sana'a street (the computer market). Nahida got me to ask Miz to tag along with me. He came over and we took a cab to go. On our way one of the roads to the Jadriya bridge was blocked, we took another to find a hundred cars stalled stalled at the beginning of the bridge. We let the cab head back without us. We walked ahead, at the end of the jam a checkpoint usually run by the Iraqis was being run by American soldiers. They were searching every single car one by one. A soldier asked Miz and I what was in our pockets and to pull up our trousers whilst gesturing what he was saying. We did as asked without uttering a word and went on. I called Mos once we reached the middle of the bridge he too was stuck in a cab somewhere in the jam behind us on his way to work. We waited for him for a while but he was so far behind and still intended to go to work so we ended up going ahead without him. Miz at this point began complaining about the heat and about the walk. He's not much of a walker and his hair is trimmed very short. Miz and I ended up walking a whole lot that day, after Sana'a street we went to a restaurant nearby and then to Karada and then caught up with Mos at work, where we enjoyed some good old air conditioning. We eventually wound up back at my place for another sleepover, Miz played with Mos' PSP, Mos played Zelda on my Wii for over six hours, and I watched a copy of Die Hard 4 that Mos got from Kala on Mos' laptop, and we all played some dominoes together.

Today I finally got myself to Bab AlShargi and got myself some power adapters for my access point and wireless router. Also got some Wii games which took ages because the shop owner had to make me copies. And the one game: Brain Age, that I really wanted didn't work when I got home.

Just had an excited conversation with my dad, which couldn't be helped since I had just had a drink. He's complaining that I'm still in Baghdad and that I'm carrying out the work he's tasked me too slowly. I'm came back at him, by describing the circumstances I'm having to deal with. He gave me permissions to spend money more freely to get the job done fast. The conversation was a continuation of a previous call which included questions like why didn't I take my our car to go to the farm or why do I need to get a check to make a new passport.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Afternoon at Home

I got back from the farm yesterday. What's strange is that I feel I somehow got used to being there. Nahida isn't in such a great mood since we got back, she says it's the heat. Urban Baghdad is warmer. Mos says he's hungry and I am too. He's playing Zelda, he's got a long way till he catches up with me. I need to have over Mos to make use of his wireless access point because I'm still too lazy to look for new adapters to replace my fried access point and wireless router power adapters. I could go buy a new access point for fifty bucks in the mean time. Made cheddar cheese sandwiches, warmed them up in the oven, picked up some mint leaves from the garden and put them in the sandwiches also added some Worcestershire sauce. I don't think I like Worcestershire sauce. Spoke to dad on the phone just now, Gave me a list of things to do regarding the farm. He wants me to do an inventory check on the seeds and fertilizer. I've been trying to imagine if it's possible to make some kind of database with a program to make running the farm easier. Od's back from Yemen, he went there to visit his family. Should be looking forward to catching up with him and telling him off for not bringing some qat up his anus.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I Went To Najaf

Yesterday I was planning to go back to Baghdad because I had run out of food. But the government pulled off a last minute traffic ban meaning I'm stuck in the farm till Saturday or Sunday I think. So instead of going to Baghdad yesterday Nahida, Fozzy and I went to check out Najaf which isn't very far at all. The last time I went there must've been over ten years ago and visiting my grandfather's crypt in the basement of a house too creeped out to take a good look. Someday I'm expected to be burried there too. I really ought to check it out again sometime before I'm dead. Was hoping to find some food in Najaf and we wound up heading to one of the poshest neighbourhoods to find a grocery shop but they didn't have much of anything good either aside from some beans in a tin and Nescafe gold blend.

We also went to the big market they've got over there. On the way there we passed by a fire station wondering whether they should move out because there was lots of smoke rising from behind a wall across the street. The market was very lively. The whole city appeared a significant degree cleaner than Baghdad. The number of shops in the market was incredible considering they're all selling pretty much the same stuff mostly textiles, basic foods and speciality sweets, and gold jewelery. There was one little shop with a guy making 'head turds'. It looked like a lot of work went into one of those, but I imagine most of them are machine made now. It wasn't difficult to spot Iranian tourists either even though they appeared to make an effort to blend in. Some of the shop keepers were even speaking Farsi. There were private security soldiers there too, they were the only ones that appeared to be taking maintaining security seriously. They'd stand firmly in one place whilst Iraqi security forces would mop around, play around with their mobile phones or congregate over some tea.

I really want to get back to Baghdad. I think there might be some hypocrisy when the government imposes a traffic ban so that people can do their "walk" to Kadhimiya. The government is very big on the idea of the majority yet I don't think the majority of people are going on this walk in the first place.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sweaty and Dirty

I'm inside a baking hot first floor internet cafe in Shamiya right now. I've got to stay put here till Fozzy finishes seeing the doctor because he's got a nasty flu or something. Early this morning he was wailing puke out. I'm surprised I'm not sick myself yet.

I got back here a couple days ago. The good news is that unlike last time, I was able to take a dump the very day I arrived. Last time I think it took me three days for my bum to feel at home enough to take a poo.

The electricity isn't as good as last time unfortunately and there's no fuel being at the petrol station either. Oh yay, the electricity is here but it's been five minutes and the air conditioner looks dead to me.

Looks like it's nearly time for me to get picked up. I wasn't able to finish my last post at home because the mains adapter to both my access point and wireless router died on me. Another problem with having no national electricity is that you end up using bad electricity that fries everything. Today I was thinking of sweeping the tarmac area in front of our storage rooms. But changed my mind because I didn't have a good enough broom and because I don't know how to deal with the many piles of dog poo that are scattered all around.

Water's pretty scarce at my house here too. I haven't had a shower since I got here. But I'm okay with that so far. I'm a dirty person. I did shampoo my hair today though with bottled water. Apparently today our guard let some punks take water from the guest hall tanks. And the thing is that those water tanks need to be filled before the one for the house begins to fill up. This guard of ours is such a wanker. And there's another one that I don't see much, which I like more but just because I do not see him. Apparently the other one is planning to ditch his wife and seven daughters to get married to another and then perhaps hop off to another town.

Back in Baghdad, my brother has a house that last year I was visiting every other week to photograph during it's construction and which this year I used the "it's not safe" excuse to avoid the hassle. The last time I went there before going off to the UK for my summer vacation last year, the guys building the house put a lady to live in the place to avoid squatters from moving into it. It's recently been revealed to me when Nahida chatted to a friend of mine who lives in the neighbourhood that the woman has three girls that she prostitutes. Unfortunately, it was to late to take advantage of that because the scene there has indeed become too dangerous for me since Nahida has been receiving threats regarding my dad's house which is next to my bro's.

At first the threats demanded that she puts decent people to occupy the house. The house had been occupied by a Sudanese man for the past few years but he went to Samara to fix some engines and never came back. After the first threat call Nahida got a Sudanese woman and her children in the house. And it's around about this time that the police who had set up a checkpoint near the house began hassling the Sudanese woman asking her to share the house with them. The guys making the threats then began sending SMS messages because Nahida wouldn't pick up when they call. They disapproved of the Sudanese family. Nahida suspects that it's the police that's pretending to be part of a militia and is making the threats. One of my friends thinks that the guys making the threats aren't the real deal since they haven't come to our doorstep yet. I think it was at this point that Nahida and my dad got our high up government connection in action for the first time. I think the threats have stopped and a few days ago the army came and picked up the woman and her prostitute daughters.

Whilst Nahida was chit chatting with Mos it turned out that the same woman and her prostituted daughters used to live near his house until they were threatened to leave with a grenade. He also said the girls were very hot.

It would've been so cool had I known there were cute prostitutes there from the beginning. Just pop in because I've got to take pics for my bro and get a blow job and walk out.

Ah no, I was mistaken the army didn't pick up the woman and her daughters.

[update 18/9/07: I got this whole story messed up towards the end... our government connection got the cops that wanted to move into my dad's house off of our backs, but it was the angry neighbours who complained to a local official and had the army come and pay the prostitutes a visit. The neighbours then approached the prostitutes and convinced them it was best for them to leave and gave them some money from a mosque to get them on their way. And apparently the latest is that they didn't move all that far away, and they'll eventually got kicked off again rather soon.]

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back From The Plantation




If only it was a cannabis plantation instead of a rice plantation.

Last Tuesday at around midday Nahida's brother dropped Nahida and I at Allawi, supposedly there's been a direct Shamiya-Baghdad route running for the past two years. But we were too late and all that we found were minivans when we got there. Nahida's brother then dropped us off at the spot where the Diwaniya cars go and we agreed with a cab driver to take up the three rear seats to ourselves. We then had to wait for two more passengers to take up the two front seats. But anybody that approached us was then drawn to another cab driver with a people carrier car that was offering a better deal. After a long wait, Nahida went to check out the Shamiya spot and came back with a Shamiya driver. We then had to wait again for another two people to fill up the front seats. Eventually some strange guy showed up and Nahida convinced him to ride with us.

The dude was an interesting character he said he had escaped from Iraq during the Intifada and moved to Lebanon and spent thirteen years of his life there only to come back after the '03 war ended. He works as a contractor and hadn't been in Iraq for over a year. The poor guy kept on complaining about the heat and how half of the population have become cops or soldiers.

The road to Shamiya is a four hour pain (was a two hour drive before the war). We couldn't take the highway because it's considered too dangerous, instead we drove on two lane roads and passed through cities. We'd go through a jammed checkpoint every fifteen or thirty minutes. During the first half of the way we got caught behind a convoy of fuel trucks which slowed us down and caused a major jam whenever it reached a checkpoint.

We then got to Hilla and as the car came to a halt at a checkpoint the engine turned off and wouldn't start again. We pushed the car aside and understood from the driver that the fuel pump in his Caprice Classic (also known as a Dolpheen) needs to cool down. Well after a long wait, it still didn't work and we got a ride with another car to get us to Shamiya. There was one checkpoint that got on our nerves as the tattooed policeman insisted on thoroughly checking our luggage so as to insure messing everything inside up.

We got to Shamiya at around five o'clock. Fozzy picked us up in his car from the city. We saw a little progress on the new bridge that was contracted prior to the war, but had only begun after the war. On one end it faces an alley. It was the first time Nahida and I see the new tarmac road along our street that the Americans contracted. The first night was quite cool actually because for the first time in ages I got out at night and had tikka and narguila at a cafe by the river.

When we got back there was a pissed off farmer carrying a Kalashnikov. He had a go at Fozzy because his plot of land wasn't irrigated. I just watched the farmer yell at Fozzy whilst Fozzy's right hand man, Nabil, tried to calm the situation. I later understood from Fozzy that the farmer had missed his chance to irrigate and then had not followed up the work of the shovel guy in charge of irrigation to make sure he got some water earlier the same day.

I conveyed what I understood from Fozzy to my dad to ask him what should I of said in such a situation. Dad told me that I should express of my disapproval of such behaviour on behalf of the farmer. In a later phone call, he brought the subject up again, and took side with the farmer and told me that it's the irrigation manager's fault. We pay the irrigation manager to deal with this. And if a farmer gets so heated to come to Fozzy that it shows how much the farmer cares. Dad's already not happy with the irrigation manager and wants to get rid of him. So dad wanted me to make a big deal about it and form some kind of confrontation between the farmer and the irrigation manager and make it a point to show fault on behalf of the irrigation manager.

I then asked Fozzy and Nabil about the whole deal, and it turned out that the farmer in question is simply a trouble maker in the first place. And then when I conveyed the name of the farmer to my dad, he instantly scrapped all the fuss he wanted me to make.



The next day I tagged along Fozzy who had to pick up a receipt and give it to the warehouse next door so that some guys can pick up a batch of government subsidized fertilizers. After that Fozzy and I walked around town to look for a fan because the guys at the office that handed him the receipt asked for a fan. We picked one out and bought it the next day and gave it to them. We later then checked out a piece of junk that was become to a new irrigation pump and a new pipe that Fozzy had installed to separate our irrigation network from the 'agrarian reformed' network. The agrarian reform guys figured had figured out that they need not run their water pumps since ours were working and fed into their network so Fozzy had a pipe installed to get their water go through our network without mixing.

After dropping off the fan, some guy who had participated in the installation of the our mill took us to a neighbouring city to check out some mill machinery imported from China. Fozzy really wants us to upgrade to the new stuff because the milling machines we have are terribly out-dated. But last year my dad was reluctant to upgrade. Perhaps I'll be able to convince my dad to upgrade, but there's no rush yet. And it shouldn't be too hard to convince dad considering one new production line would mill rice twice as fast as the four production lines we already have and with far fewer workers.

The government gives batches of unmilled rice that it has purchased from farmers at a heavily subsidized price to private mills. The size of the batch is based on the number of production lines (not on capacity) and guarantees in the form of real estate. Once a mill has processed that certain quantity, it may try to get a second and then a third batch until the government has no more rice to milled.

This nearby city's plantations were so much nicer than ours. The river there was wider and nearly touched the edged of the land. We sat and listened to the guy's selling the milling machines in their home and there was talk about the government, Fozzy wanted to see if there was anything indicating any change in government policy in the milling industry, I think the answer was no. The government wouldn't do anything to piss off the farmers even more because they are the main support base. Apparently this year's scam on the government was done by selling rice imported from Iran to the government. We wound up having lunch at there. I didn't imagine I would've been caught in the lunch trap so early in my stay. But fortunately it wasn't too bad, even though it was fish. And I don't like the fish there. But I do like tuna.

The weather in these parts are a few degrees cooler than Baghdad. And I guess the humidity from the irrigation that's taking place helps too. From now till September the plantations will go through three or four phases of irrigation. Each plot of land is bordered on two sides by streams. One stream feeds water into the plot that is slightly slanted so that the water then runs off into the drainage stream on the other side. However on the last phase in September the drainage stream is closed off and the water is left still on the plot. It's when the that water is left still that the mosquito spawning begins in earnest. Will try to avoid going there in September.

It's during this summer period of irrigation that the government makes it a point to give more electricity to the plantations so to run the irrigation pumps (this was practiced before the war too). I never did count the number of hours that we got over there but it was much better than anything we have been getting in Baghdad in a long time. It might have been something like ten hours a day. But even with ten hours of electricity we're still dependent on running our pumps on diesel too. We've got a couple of one hundred year old British water pumps there that used to run on some obsolete form of petrol that's been converted to run on diesel. It makes a sweet choo choo sound when it runs.

The increase of electricity during this period does create a suspicion that the government chooses not to supply the same amount of electricity the rest of the year. I asked how come the municipality doesn't get some major generators and just hook up the people with electricity that way. I was told that that was tried in Najaf but the Najaf government couldn't get its hands on the diesel to run the generators.

I spoke to dad everyday whilst I was there. He would re-iterate what I'd have to get done and ask how far I've got. And I'd ask him about the situations that I'd see unfold before me. So at this point, I hadn't started on any of the things I was supposed to do. Fozzy handed me a bunch of deeds that I tried to make some sense out of. Then Fozzy took me to meet the lawyer, one of two people that my dad told me to meet to get the ownership of plots transferred to me. The lawyer ran me through the steps of red tape required to do the transfer. I'd have to get a new version of the deed from the local surveyor's office and then make a request that then has to be taken to another 2 local government offices and then finally to a regional office.

There was a nice guy at the lawyer's office a few years older than me who jotted down the steps in more detail and told me a bit about his experience transferring a couple of plots. He told me it took him about six months to get them done. And at this point I'm imagining that I've got a hundred of such deeds. The lawyer also explained to me that the government offices don't have the capacity to process more than a hundred and fifty applications a month, so I'd have to do them in small batches. From the start the lawyer suggested that I only transfer the plots whose value outweigh the cost of processing. But I explained that so far the idea is to do all of them for now.

The day after I saw the other person that my dad told me to see in his home. My dad had told me this guy who works at the surveyor's office was going to be more valuable to me than the lawyer in so far as getting things done. This guy also started off with the idea that I shouldn't bother transferring all of the plots to my ownership but that rather there were a few big ones and that he'd have them done for me in a week as soon as he gets back from his 'Omrah' trip in two weeks but in the meantime I could get a new version of the deeds of those plots. The Omrah trip, like the Hajj involves going to Mecca but not during Ramadhan or the Hajj time of year. Luckily the other guest at his house was an employee in the same office and offered to help me out too, because we're all related.

I was introduced to a lot of people whilst I was there, something which I dislike because I'm terrible at learning people's names. And the people I was introduced to were, more often than not, related to me. It got really silly at one point when I was shopping for some snacks and cigarettes and as I walked out of the shop Fozzy told me that the shop keeper was my relative too. The nice effect of this is that everybody's nice to me. Fozzy expressed his surprise to find the people at the bank acting a little nicer than expected to me. Bank employees are usually unfriendly and strive to be as unhelpful as possible, but instead they had me sit down under the air-conditioner to talk and joke with me. I guess it falls down to the novelty of me.

After I had open a current and savings account I asked one of the employees to do a 'taghviya' thing for me. A paper that authorizes that bank to withdraw money from my deposit account if my current account doesn't have enough funds to honour a check I've written. The employee told me to forget about it so I went to the manager. The bank manager said he had thought that I had opened only a current account because he hadn't signed the savings account form and then he pressed a buzzer. He explained to me that he hadn't a sample so that he may write one up for me. What ticked me off was that I did take a partial sample of it when I had opened the bank accounts in Baghdad but had forgotten it. But I was glad I got out of the office before one of the employees came in to get told off by the manager.

Any ideas I've had about marrying a farmer girl there has been struck off. I have now understood that over there a groom meets his wife the day of the wedding.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Summer Laziness

Peacefully bored, or just about. There's a subtle feeling of anticipation nagging somewhere in my head. It's nearly four in the morning. For the past few days, I've had Miz and Mos sleeping over and I've been messing up my sleeping schedule. I now wake up around two in the afternoon or even later. I might go out tomorrow, out of the house that is. I wonder how long I've been house bound. Can't be more than three days. I went to the bank didn't I.

Nahida wants to go and take the generator to someplace on the other side of the city to get it repaired. It's a chance to take my laptop to the repair shop to, but I'm hesitant to take it there. Nahida tells me that there's an internet cafe at the farm. That might not be true, but it's about time that they do have one. An internet cafe might also mean that there would also be a wireless internet provider. I still wonder how long I'm going to last over there. Why does that place have to be so dirty and everybody so conservative. That place needs an untraditional upper class or to be exposed to foreigners perhaps.

My uncle's going off to meet up with my dad in Lebanon tomorrow. He's finally going to leave. I don't know if he plans to move back in or not after he comes back, but I don't want to ask either, because that could be interpreted as inviting him to. After he does, I've got draw up some plans to avoid him from moving back in when he comes back from there. Such as instructing Nahida to turn off the generator line when he comes back and telling him it doesn't work anymore. Another idea would be to collect all the stuff that he's left behind in a big box and have it ready so that when he comes knocking in the door I'd be able to hand it over to him and make up some excuse why he can't come in.

I can't believe that it's been two weeks since my summer holiday began. And I haven't begun any of the plans I had to make the most of my summer. I haven't even bothered to print out those Arabic verbs I need to memorize or go to the swimming pool. I was hoping Miz would come along with me but he doesn't want to pay the annual membership fee. And I missed all my chances, which weren't that many, to go with my uncle. He doesn't like the outdoor pool and the indoor pool is supposedly under maintenance. Nahida's having trouble getting in touch with my Arabic tutor which is odd. My other idea was to start studying some maths. I'll take my math book with me to the farm and see if I can find a math teacher there to tutor me in my free time. What I need to do is get a piece of paper and write this stuff down to make it happen. Things are easier to get done if I write them down. Today I did complete the third chapter of eight of Super Paper Mario so at least I'm getting something done.

The oldest friend, the only one that I've remained in touch with from my days in Paris got married today. He got married in Lebanon and invited me over since it's nearby to Iraq so I told him I'd try to come, but then told him I couldn't make it. I felt guilty over that. And the same thing is happening with K who's getting married in Germany and unlike everyone else I don't have the visa excuse. And as much as I'd like to attend both, I'm broke. It seems like it's one of those odd ways that life's trying to pressure me to get to work. I've got to take over that damn smelly farm.

Why does Nahida want to go out tomorrow... tomorrow's the day with the most traffic. It's the day that most employees go to work for appearances sake. She says it's evens tomorrow, Miz called later telling me that tomorrow's odds. And it's not really that hot outside except when you're stuck in a traffic jam of which there will be plenty of tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Wiiii

I was planning to be at the farm by now, but I'm still in Baghdad. And Nahida tells me she spoke to my dad and delayed my trip a few more days. My dad's been speaking to me a lot recently, lecturing me about the farm and telling me what I must do.

So far I've got two objectives, the first is to start transferring ownership of my dad's plots of lands to me. I didn't think that was a big deal until I had a look at the maps and my dad explained to me that he has an inheritance share in so and so sectors and each sector is split up into many smaller plots and each of these plots has an individual title deed whose ownership is shared among the inheritors of my grandfather. It looks like there's over a hundred of these little plots. It's starting to look like quite a big project on its own.

The second objective is to start taking over the farm accounts from the manager and to run some sort of petty cash account for him. What's surprising about this is that my dad's finally going to trust me with vast amounts of money. Today I opened bank accounts in Baghdad and when I go to the farm I'll have to open a couple of accounts there too. And then I'm supposed to take account of the manager's expenses and feed his petty cash fund at the end of every month. I wonder if this really means that Nahida and her husband would no longer be in charge of handing me my pocket money.

Whilst I was there I asked how does a bank make a profit. The bank manager explained to me that because of the security situation the bank does not rely on loans to make generate revenue but instead makes deposits at the central bank which gives the bank a higher rate of interest than the bank gives out to its customers with deposit accounts.

Well summer's started, and I have begun to spend money a bit more freely. I got myself a Japanese modded Wii a couple of days ago for 390 bucks from the only shop that sells them. Nintendo is not popular in Iraq, the reason according to the guy at the shop was that there never are any great football titles on Nintendo systems.

The Wii's great fun, the games work fine and are in English. But since the thing is Japanese the Wii menus are in Japanese and there's no choice to switch the menu language to English and it seems I won't be able to make any use of any of the online functionality. And after I slapped in a game the console performed an update, and I'm no longer able to access the settings menu.

It takes the piss that the manuals are in Japanese too. I'm wondering how in the world am I going to get some Wii and DS interoperability going on, or if that's even possible. I've even the read that that Wii points, the credit system to make online purchases, are region specific. I'm thinking that I might some day sell this one and then buy a legal Wii.

So far I've got 5 games: Wii Play, NFS Carbon, Mario Strikers Charged Football, Super Paper Mario, and Zelda. The games are a dollar and a half each. There is a bright side to having a modded Wii. The one game I'm looking forward to now is Mario Party 8, but I've yet to get more Wiimotes. The shop owner was only willing to sell me one but for nearly 50 bucks. Maybe I could get my dad to send some to me from Lebanon.

In the mean time I should start trying to figure out how to get in touch with my feelings. Maybe, I should try to get down and start meditating. Shut up the chattering monkey in my head.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Alexithymia

I think I've finally figured out what's wrong with me inside or I'm just on another one of my hypochondriac mind trips.

Well today was a pretty normal day. I woke up late, finished watching the animes that a friend had left me a couple of nights ago, when him and miz slept over. Went out and bought some black market fuel which I think messed up the fuel injection system in my car because I couldn't get the car to move faster than sixty kilometers per hour. I called up Nahida's brother who's going to end up fixing it about it. He said it might not necessarily be so but that if it was then the fuel would've been mixed with water and that he'd have to drain the injection system and the fuel tank.

My uncle had mentioned that there's a retired shrink in my neighbourhood that he visits. I told him that I'd be interested in visiting the man with him. And today he took me along with him. Nahida reminded me that I had met this shrink once before.

I remember that meeting vaguely. I remember it was in a different neighbourhood and that the man's house was nice. He had told me that the initial treatment that I got from my original shrink to deal with my hypomania was wrong. But I knew that by then and it was too late, the initial treatment I had received swung me from the greatest of highs to the most miserable of depressions. My original shrink who I continued with from the start till the end had given me what he considered the ideal substitute (carbamazebine I think it was), considering the correct treatment (lithium) wasn't available at the time. Well in the end to deal with depression I was given prozac and I don't know what else, none of it really worked. And I ended up satisfied with some intense acupuncture.

After the acupuncture, which was three summers ago, I felt a big chunk of my depression had finally been removed. I took my acupuncturist's advice and never sought any more anti-depressants. The fear became that all the headway I had made through acupuncture would go to waste if I tried to medicate myself again. But the memory of being hypomanic lingers, and so does the desire to return to such a state. It was great because when I was hypomanic I had feelings. But sure enough there were serious drawbacks to being hypomanic, I hallucinated a bit, spent money carelessly, I wasn't able to sit or sleep either. And there was a stage in between the hypomania and the depression that was great, I was able to feel emotions without all the drawbacks of hypomania, but that stage was short lived.

It'd been years since I've seen a shrink. And I thought maybe I could get some insight from this guy. I no longer consider myself depressed and I'm certain of that. But the lack of emotions, which I've compared to not being able to taste the food one eats, that renders life tasteless is something that still plagues me and something I could maybe take up with this shrink.

I was surprised to find the shrink living in a rundown house now, he sat in his patio wearing a dishdasha with three packets of cigarettes laid in front of him on the table. I don't have any memory of the man himself the last time I met him so I wasn't able to compare the memory of him to the old tired man that sat there. From talking to my uncle before meeting him, I understood that he no longer works as a professional but just enjoys the presence of people seeking advice from him, which I guess is all that such a man can do when life's become too rough for men of his age.

I told him about my lack of emotions and he went on about the specific chemical that brings about all the emotions and that it's a part of depression. At first he suggested I take some ludiomil and get back to him in a couple of weeks. I told him that I didn't consider myself depressed, and that I was reluctant to try any drugs but that I was enticed by the idea of amphetamines, and he began stressing that amphetamines are no good. And after chatting some more, he began to change his mind about my need to take drugs but that he'd still like to see me in a couple of weeks. I tried to get some tips on how to deal with my problem, when should I fake emotions and when shouldn't I. The answer being it's good most of the time, but I shouldn't tell a girl I love her if I don't mean it.

Later on in the evening I got searching on the net about the medication he suggested to see if it would be any different from prozac. And then I to check out buproprion, because I had told them there was an antidepressant that's used to quit smoking but at the time couldn't remember its name. It's one I always wanted to give a shot. He said he'd be delighted if such a drug existed to help him quit himself. And then I began to search for things like lack of emotions or something, which at first gave me some results on schizophrenia but after tweaking the search entry I stumbled upon alexithymia.

And at first, I didn't think it really applied to me... but the more I read the more I related with the symptoms and so on. And then I got to an msn group and a person had left a description of how they've been living their life and for the first time I felt that there was someone that I could relate to. What sucks is that it's not even considered a mental illness and there is no medical treatment for it.

I've yet to get deep into it, but one of the interesting things to note is that a person with Alexithymia is considered an 'Alex' where as normal people are considered 'feelers'. Right now I'm looking forward to reading more of people's experience and how they cope with it. But now it's six in the morning, I'm really tired and I'm going to the pool with my uncle tomorrow morning.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Another Year Finished

Finals are over and the summer holidays have begun. Now why do I feel so drained?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Moon and Planet (I think)



That was the view of the moon yesterday. There's, I think, a planet next to it.

Still have finals, Angus has been staying with me. Mum's gone, uncle is still here. He's got me rubbing cream on his back now (yuck).

Well knackered, just got two more finals to go, one tomorrow and the other Saturday. Saturday's was supposed to be last Saturday, but got postponed because of the curfew the day before the test. It looks like I'll be passing without any re-tests.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Another Day

I'm so bored.

Suzy called today. Hi, how are you?, what's up?, how's studying coming along?, goodbye. Hours later I sent her a message asking if she wanted to tell me something. She called back saying that she wanted to say she misses me, I told her I had missed her too. It felt as if she wished I would elaborate but heck, she's got a tedious habit of making me the only one to talk so I'm trying to maintain a balance now. I won't say any more than she does. She told me she was low on credit and had to go, I told her that if she wanted she could leave me a missed call and I'd call her back. She asked if it was alright if she called after midnight, I said it was fine, yet she asked again to make sure as if it was awkward or that it could imply something.

Can't be bothered to study.

Nothing much going on here. Uncle's still here, mum's at grandma's. For the past few days we've been having water shortages. I thought it was over today, but as I was beginning to wipe my ass on the bidet a little earlier the flow of water was weak and cut off. It's not a great situation to be in. Luckily I had managed to rinse my hands a little before the water cut off. I dried off my butt a bit with the last few squares of toilet paper. What is it with toilet paper? After noticing I'm at a dangerously low level of it, I never bother getting a second roll until the one at hand is finished. I noticed a bottle of water, but it was empty. I was on the phone with India and the line cut-off. I went to the kitchen grabbed a bottle of mineral water and a roll of kitchen paper and finished the job off.

That was the most exciting thing to happen to me today by the way.

I was mucking about on my guitar a while ago and and a few notes sprung out that sounded like Pink Floyd's "Is There Anybody Out There?". So I got on the net and got the tabs to the song which are dead easy and I'm going to try to learn how to play it.

Hotel

Mum's here. She was here last night and the night before, today she went back to grandma's. Yesterday, my uncle moved in to my place because his neighbourhood generators aren't working and he's having trouble with the heat. My uncle and I are doing a great job of more or less staying out of each other's hair. And I'm maintaining supremacy over the telly.

My old computer is acting up now, it won't complete start up. I'm guessing it's because of the crappy generator line that fluctuates too much. Everything's falling apart on me. What the heck?

My finals start in a week. Still haven't really got myself studying in earnest yet. I was hoping to have classmates come sleep over and study with me, but my uncle's presence has killed that idea. I wonder how long he plans to stay here.

Feeling very lazy. And it's late now, I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Poor Laptop

My laptop is falling apart on me. A month or two ago the battery's life suddenly decreased dramatically to no more than fifteen minutes and continued to decline up. As of yesterday the battery doesn't work at all. And during the past couple of weeks the 'C' key on the keyboard became temperamental. And then the 'D' key started acting up and now a couple of others. The 'C' key doesn't work at all anymore now and I was resorting to copy/pasting the letter.

Fixing the old desktop earlier this year is now paying because without any battery functionality on the laptop to prevent bad shutdowns it now makes sense to make more use of my old desktop and suffer the same fate without messing the harmony of my never once re-formatted laptop.

I've come to the conclusion that my eyesight is going too. I'm having trouble reading the name's of the songs on VH1. I must get my eyes checked someday soon.

Recently I've been explaining the material of one our classes called quantitative techniques (otherwise known as operational research). It seems I'm the only one who understand that class. It's the one class that's mathematical and therefore not in Arabic. What struck me as sad when going through exercises with them was how poor some of them could be a performing simple algebra or working fractions.

Last night a couple of my classmates slept over and Nahida made a big paranoid fuss about one of them who I had mentioned a while ago. She was against me having him over at my place on the simple basis that he comes from a neighbourhood which she considers dodgy. She urged me not to divulge any personal information that could bring any evil attention to myself such as any suggestion of my wealth.

The day after I broke up with Suzy, I saw her come up online and said 'hello' and she didn't reply back. I guess she doesn't want to talk to me, and even though we're in the same class, she's still not speaking to me and not even saying hello. That she doesn't want to talk to me probably isn't true, I imagine she's just making a statement and trying to perhaps disintegrate her perception of me somehow (does that make sense?). Well, I'm just ignoring her too and waiting for to get over it. I'll just have to make the most of that moment when she's in position to have to come over and talk to me or when I've got a real good excuse to talk to her.

I've been chatting to a couple of Baghdad girls online over the past month. The first of whom I met through my annual Yahoo chat room rampage. The first then introduced me to her cousin. More recently I've been chatting to the latter, Nosa, more regularly. I told Nosa about breaking up with Suzy, and the next day she asked me if I could come to her university to meet her and if I had a mobile phone. I gave her my number and I tried posing the question of what would we do then, but didn't get an answer. This chick ain't much more interesting to chat to than Suzy. But I do chat with her in English which is somewhat of a comfort for me and a challenge for her.

Nosa's the type of girl that wants to get out of Iraq. She tells me she envies all my friends for being abroad. When I asked her what does she want to do after university, she said she wanted to work at the US embassy. If this girl is anyway interested in me it's because she thinks I could potentially be her way out of this country. What's odd is that it's difficult for most people to sink in the idea that I've got every intention to build my future here in Iraq in spite of nearly everything.

Well it might be interesting and it will seem to be more trouble than it's worth to go see her. I think she's changed her mind about the subject already. I'll make sure to ask her next time she's online. I'm really not that excited about the thought of going to her university, it's just too much trouble and it's too hot.

Mum should be coming any day soon. She'll be visiting my grandma and will stay for about a couple of weeks. I don't plan on spending much time with my mum because I'm supposed to be studying. Had I had enough notice I would've got her to get me a new keyboard and battery for my laptop. But she should be getting me some Fusion razor blades among other things such as clothes. I've been using the same Fusion blade since October last year, maybe that isn't hygienic.

Electricity is even worse than last year. I think I'm getting an hour a day of electricity a day at the most. I should maybe bother checking what the Brookings institute or whichever think-tank it was that measures progress in Iraq and see what the megawatt levels have been this year.

Up until last week I was trying to write a paper for my economics teacher for some bonus marks. Inflation is a problem in Iraq at a level of about 30% (prices of petrol aside) from what I read (which in some way is offset by an appreciation of the Iraqi Dinar versus the dollar, I wish I understood the implication of that). How everything relates to another doesn't make much sense to me yet. But the weird thing I understood was that to control inflation the government is going to have to restrain spending; and I don't think there's any issue of a budget deficit and that on the contrary the budget is on the surplus (I might be wrong on that). But supposing that the budget isn't in deficit, wouldn't it be weird to choose not to spend money on government services such as hospitals and schools for the sake of controlling inflation? Understanding economics should become one of my summer projects.

While I was in class today I got several missed calls from an unrecognized number. For several months now the mobile networks have been screwing up and I as well as others have been receiving missed calls from strange numbers and when we'd call those numbers back they'd say that they had never placed the call in the first place. I had forgotten about the missed calls until a while after I got home. So I decided to call just in case it was really for me. So I call and say I had received missed calls from the number earlier in the morning and the man at the other end of the line tells me that the number I'm calling is a Ministry of Interior number and he then asked me my name and I just gave him my first name and told him that I did not know that. He said that it was probably the 'net' screwing up and that was that. Except he used the technical word 'net' instead of the Arabic word 'shehbeka', which I take to be a reasonably good sign that the guy was safe. It was just a bit creepy to wind up calling the Ministry of Interior.

I should start studying for my finals. Today I haven't studied anything. Today was a holiday, as of tomorrow I will begin to dedicate time to studying for my finals.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dump Me

Today, was a cool day. It even rained, which was a welcome surprise. There were lightening storms a little earlier. I had a test at college today and for some reason the teacher didn't let me finish the test. While I was taking the test, the teacher made fun of a punk trying to cheat from me. Then I acknowledged the punk, the punk asked me what the answer was to a question; I wasn't going to give him the answer to that specific question simply because I myself didn't know the answer. And then the lecturer comes and takes my paper. All I wanted to write was one more sentence and without much of a fight on my behalf I walked off. I've got to remember to go see him and ask him what the hell was up with that.

Later on Suzy and I were in the library. Suzy's been making an extra effort to make things work between us by trying to get us to spend more time together at college. Whilst I, on the other hand, have been playing along but without any sincere intent. Today I goofed up well enough however, when two classmates (her friends) came in and sat on another table, I ditched Suzy without a word and sat with them to study with them. It was a very blatant ditch maneuver and it really ticked off Suzy.

On my way home in the cab we got stopped by a checkpoint whilst entering my neighbourhood. The soldier that stopped might have been barely eighteen. He asked what was in my backpack, I had to repeat 'books' several times till he understood and then he asked me to open it up for him. Then he had the cab driver open up the trunk. After we were cleared and the cab driver got his engine started a couple of soldiers approached and one yelled to the kid to check if there was no booze found. The cab driver drove off and I began to ask him about what had just happened and what would've happened if we were carrying booze. I've already heard a couple of stories about people getting beaten up by checkpoints for carrying booze. It got me worried enough to ask Nahida's brothers to bring some to me last time. A week ago, I saw that same checkpoint harassing an seemingly drunk old man. The cab driver explained that the soldiers want the booze for themselves and would threaten to give you trouble if you don't give some of it to them.

Dad called later. It's quite rare that he bothers to call me. He might call me maybe once a month to check up on me and give me the lecture about my future at the farm. He started the conversation by bringing up my antagonism towards Nahida. I explained to him that if I were to act nice to her that would invite her to get closer to me and thus give her the opportunity to stress me out. He understood where I was coming from and said he'll deal with it. He also brought up the marriage issue in the context of my future with the farm. He mentioned that if I didn't find myself a girl that he had loads he could introduce me to. Of course, we agreed I wasn't ready for any of that yet. The rest of the conversation came back to dissing my mum and my brother a little too.

Later on I called Suzy, she didn't answer. I sent her an SMS and tried calling her a little later, this time she answered. For the first thirty seconds she was as cool as usual, and then she took a deep breath and I made a silly remark and her temper raged out. She told me that she would never forgive me for what happened today. I kept on saying she was totally in the right throughout the rest of the conversation. She said she didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore. I told her that I've been wanting us to go back to friends for a while but that I was afraid. She ended the call by calling me a coward.

It was a bit of a struggle to sound sincere and focused throughout the call. But I'm really glad to be over and done with it. It took about ten minutes to reminisce the good parts and I feel a bit of sorrow for a few minutes. It was a lousy relationship: my pseudo-girlfriend and me. I know it meant a lot more to her. But at the end of the day, I'm sure it was just puppy-love on her behalf. Someday she'll meet somebody she'll really love and who would really love her back. Now I've got to wait till Sunday to see how pissed off she'll choose to stay to be at me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Steam Yeah Baby

I bought a steamer for 50,000 ID and my pursuit for nutritional independence from Nahida perseveres. It's my first cooking appliance. It's a wonderful way to start considering it's impossible to burn your food with it. And the vegetables are tastier.

So far I've cooked three meals with it. The first I didn't eat myself and instead gave it to Atiya to give it a go. He said it came out alright except that the potatoes weren't cooked well enough. Today I gave rice a second go, the first time I tried rice I didn't add water. This time I don't think I added enough water but it came out alright anyway. And what's great is that I don't have to deal with rice stuck to the base of a pan as I would with the normal way of cooking rice. Come to think of it, it is really weird that Iraqis haven't adopted the use of rice cookers in the masses.

Have to admit it's time consuming cooking with it but the result I guess are worth it. The only annoying thing about the model I bought is that the LCD timer display takes about 20 minutes to work after I've started steaming. It's great to be able to break away from cheese or chicken sandwiches and fried eggs with the optional basterma.

Nahida is helping me out with the vegetables since I've yet to learn how to buy them, maybe I should go with her next time and learn. It's wonderful to see veggies in the fridge now. Right now, I've got a cauliflower, a green pepper, peas, carrots, tomatoes, and I'm not sure what else right now. I noticed that Nahida's slipped in an eggplant. I hate eggplants, but who knows it might be tasty... but no, I don't like them.

I've been struggling to figure out how to do a couple of reports for two classes taught by the same nutty lecturer. After spending all of last night browsing the net looking for something to write about I gave up concluding that I haven't been taught enough to make a decent critique of anything to do with banking or economics. I wanted to talk about inflation in Iraq for example, and I realised that I have no idea what steps should be taken to avoid hyper-inflation. I've got a test on Monday too, and it requires me to memorize a dump load of stuff in Arabic. Well I'm kind of used to that now, but it's a drag and I haven't started yet.

Suzy is getting awfully boring these days. She's just so incredibly empty and void of imagination. And I'm feeling that I'm beginning to feel that I've become her pet. She often ends our phone conversations with 'habibi' or 'hayati' (meaning my darling and my life). And it's weird because I'm not reciprocating all those cuddly words. And it is a trap of sorts, isn't it? I don't love her, and I'm not liking/loving her anymore than I did at the beginning of the scholastic year. I can't wait for the summer, that way I'd have an excuse to break contact with her. Because I know she doesn't write e-mails. She wouldn't even know how to. She has a hard enough time conjuring up a conversation over the phone and instead just yaps at me for being quiet and orders me to talk. So I've tried getting her to talk, but she's not interested in anything in particular. She's never even read a book. That was a shocker, she has never even had to read a book at school.

I just had an idea... why don't I just throw the idea of becoming friends again at her? Would I do it over the phone since 99% of our conversations take place over the phone or should it deserve being done face-to-face? How badly would she take it? I'm betting that it wouldn't change much except saving me from continuing to live in a lie. But it would be interesting to see her reaction.

Marriage is a topic that's been on my mind lately. The way it works in Iraq is that you're best chance of getting a good wife is if you pick her out of college. Like one of my classmates was explaining to me, college is a great place to find a wife. First of all, at college you can find all kinds of girls and second of all you can get all the dirty information about her, because you wouldn't want to have a wife that's been messing around before she met you if you were a typical Iraqi guy. My brother's wife is a girl he met in college, probably in his last year too. And my bro got laid with a countless number of girls when he was in college here. I'm still not convinced he married her for who she was but instead that he was feeling the pressure of his age. He was 29 at the time.

What are the alternatives if one was to not pick a wife out of college, well there's daddy's and mummy's match making skills. My dad's tried to hook me up with girls twice already. They both came onto me really hard and freaked me out. And neither seemed worth getting to know. My dad's come to the conclusion that I need a wife that's more like me and not your run-of-the-mill Iraqi bred chick. Nahida tells me that he's mentioned to her that there's a girl in Canada that he could introduce me to, i.e. send me over to Canada to meet. But what girl in her right mind would want to move back to Iraq with me in the first place.

The other alternative as described by the classmate I mentioned earlier was meeting a girl 'in the street' (that was the expression he used). The first problem with that is they're far and few between and he explained that one wouldn't be able to dig out all the dirt out of her past to check whether or not she has messed around previously.

There's always the last ditch resort: get a wife from the farm. A wife from there, how do I begin to describe that? What can one expect someone who's been brought up somewhere that's been more or less has been detached from modern civilization. Somebody that probably hasn't ever read a book either and has never experienced the internet. A wife who has poor cleaning and cooking skills. Essentially a woman that's just good for screwing for a few years before she happily lets her body go to waste. That said, the guys at the farm have explained to me that by marrying a local girl would help me out a lot with the running of the farm. It would create a relationship between myself and the family of the wife. The family of the wife would thus find it in their interest to assist me in the administration in my farm which for a great part is done through personal relationships. Personal relationships which I don't have and which are very difficult for me to acquire since I haven't grown up with the locals.

It's getting hot here. I mean very hot. It's not fucking hot yet. The difference between very hot and fucking hot is that when it's very hot a fan does the job of cooling you down. Fucking hot makes a fan just blows hot air in your face. The problem I've got is that I've only got one fan. I really ought to go get another one or two. The odd thing about my house is that when my dad renovated the bottom floor a few years back he choose not to install ceiling fans in any of the rooms except the kitchen under the assumption that electricity would flow normally and that air conditioners would be all we would want. Well I'm not a big fan of fans either, I used to hate the feeling of air blowing onto me and so that was cool with me. But I guess it was hard to imagine that since the beginning of May this year that we'll have only maybe 5 hours of electricity at the most.

The good news which I think I forgot to mention in my previous post is that Nahida's got us a generator line. In Baghdad there's two alternative electricity sources: your own electric generator in your backyard that runs on petrol and if it's a big one diesel perhaps. Well getting your hands on petrol or diesel is a big hassle considering the constant fuel crises. The other alternative is getting a few amperes of electricity from a neighbourhood generator. A neighbourhood generator would be larger than one used by just a single household. It would be run by some guy in the neighbourhood that would take a monthly rate for providing X number of amperes over a cable to your home. The number of amperes are just enough to turn on lights, fridge and water cooler but not enough to operate an electric kettle, microwave or air conditioner. The extra cool thing about the generator line that Nahida hooked us up with is that operates around the clock whereas most just operate during the evening, from sunset to maybe one in the morning. The thing that sucks about it is that sometimes it causes the lights to continuously blink on and off gently and it's messed up my UPS which keeps ticking along with the pulsating lights. But heck, it must be admitted that just having lights alone cools you down compared to sitting in the dark in the heat where it's impossible to distract oneself from the horrible heat.

Fozzy came from the farm today. It's been ages since he last came. The news is that terrorism has reached the farm. The head of the municipality, who's a relative of mine, had his house hit with an RPG from across the river that blew a hole in his guest hall. Well that kind of sucks. That was probably just a threat, next time it'll be for a killing unless he ends his involvement with the government and so on.

I should try to get to sleep soon. I've got an OR test tomorrow morning that I haven't bothered studying for. I wonder how I'd do considering it's the only subject I'm supposed to be good at.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Burn Up, Drink Up

It's getting hot outside. Fair to say the summer's kicking in now. It rained earlier this week but I think that's going to be the last time, there's nothing but blue sky and the blazing sun.

Mustn't forget to get some smokes before it gets dark.

After a couple of whiskeys I've decided to have some fun with a glass of water and my nose. Trying to drink through my nose. Left nostril good, right is kind of blocked. As close as I'm getting to going to the pool. It's been two years since I've been to a swimming pool.

India's got me trying the Grateful Dead, they're not bad. But I would've appreciated them more back in the days when I listened to Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. But it ain't that bad listening to whilst drunk in the garden. These live recordings have a great open air sound.

Slowly munching on a jar of Turkish-made cornichons. 350 grammes jar for one dollar, a bargain compared to the real French stuff. French stuff is tastier though.

My ISP guy called asking me to come over and help. He needed my English skills to communicate to his new ISP to ask if they'll do the cross-polarization today, whatever that means. Got smokes on the way back home. I must say it was nice to leave the house. A few hours ago, when I got back from college and started posting, I thought I was stuck at home for the rest of the day.

Oh great my internet just died. That's a bit odd, well if I really wanted to I could use my modem since my laptop is already attached to the land line. I'm drunk. That was what I decided to do to do when I got home. It just sucks to be drunk alone. Internet's back.

Where to go when drunk and bored... Yahoo! chat rooms, maybe I'll find a horny chick to chat to. I'm trying out the French chat rooms, try and learn how to type in French.

No luck in the Yahoo! chat rooms. But I did get to meet a couple of friendly bots. It's getting hard to keep my eyes open. It's warm, I should take a shower.

I've been reading a novel called The Kite-Runner. It's a horrible book, it describes a beautiful place prior to the Soviet invasion. And well these days everybody I speak to seems to have lost hope in Iraq.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mouth Ulcer Painful

It's been a bit of while since my last post, and the whole while I've been making mental notes of all the things I want to jot down.

Last week the weather changed as our encyclopedic stock management teacher pointed out to us. Winds have begun to blow from the south carrying along with them dust and humidity. The teacher pointed out that as soon as that wind comes into contact with meat, the meat rots. This is the same character that tells us that bottled water isn't as clean as we'd like to believe making reference to the high Total Dissolved Solids mark on the bottle is triple that what it should be. He also says that he doesn't use local tap water to brush his teeth, but has now installed a super duper water filtering system at home. And so, he said he was in a bad mood because the southern winds were blowing. The weather isn't so comfortable no more that's true, but I'm glad that the skies still have clouds.

Ever since the Sarrafiya and Jadriya bridge bombings getting to and from college has become a nightmare. I don't make use of the Sarrafiya bridge and the next closest alternative is the Adhamiya bridge which I don't use. Not until today that is. Sarrafiya bridge has collapsed but the Jadriya bridge is fine. Last week Monday, I was driving home at around five in the evening and decided to take the Jadriya bridge. I ended up getting caught in a two hour traffic jam that had no end in sight all because the government had the bright idea of placing a checkpoint splat in the middle of the Jadriya bridge and to let one car pass at a time so as to avoid any further bridge carnage on what was a free-flowing bridge that used to take five minutes to cross.

Not only is it a ridiculous hassle to place a checkpoint in the middle of a three lane bridge and only let one car slowly pass through one at a time and create a bottle-neck of traffic that takes two hours to get through. And the cars can't handle the heat and the jam, the last time I was on the Jadriya bridge four or five breakdown and it's not even summer yet when every car is on the verge of overheating. But the royal stroke of stupidity goes to actually putting the checkpoint in the middle of the bridge as opposed to just before it is sheer stupid. If some dude's going to let the blast off, he's obviously going to do it at the checkpoint and if the blast's strong enough that's bye-bye bridge number two along with all the people caught in the jam. And in effect, the government has done the terrorists' bidding and has rendered a bridge useless.

So with the two bridges less, and the consequent increased traffic, security forces feel nothing and continue to unexpectedly block other bridges like the two that are by the green zone or even the roads to drive in and out of my neighbourhood. I've made some changes in my lifestyle, I've ditched the car for good. I'm better off taking a cab and in the case that a road is blocked I could just get out and walk on past which is good exercise that I need. The other change I've made is I now carry my stuff in my backpack instead of in my hands which is what all the other kids at college do. It's a hell of a lot easier to walk with my hands free. The only resulting hassle is that since I'm the only guy walking the streets with a backpack, I occasionally get told by a soldier or a cop to open my backpack from a distance to assure him I'm not going to spontaneously explode.

Our house got searched twice last week-end. The first time I was asleep and didn't have to wake up, a couple days another bunch came and this I was awake. Nahida said that Iraqi army and the Americans were in the street at first and then she said it was just the Iraqis. I was asking, because if the Americans were coming along with the Iraqis I felt it would've been better if I took off my t-shirt which read "I don't have a drinking problem, I drink, I get drunk, I pass out... No Problem!".

So three Iraqi soldiers came into the house, as soon as they stepped in they said that they knew we were from Diwaniya which is true in my case but not Nahida's. Nahida replied by saying our grandfather's grandfather's were from Diwaniya. We felt it was a bit odd that they had that kind of info on the house and volunteered it. The leader took off his helmet and sat his ass down and Nahida began to ask him why we were being searched a second time. The leader said that his bunch were the only ones allowed to do searches in the neighbourhood and that we weren't supposed to be searched by the first bunch. One soldier took Nahida's brother upstairs to guide him through and the other asked me to show him the downstairs bedrooms.

The soldier asked me to open the closet doors of my bedroom, the first one of which had my books neatly arranged. I took a little gasp when I noticed that the corner of my British passport was sticking out. The soldier just took a glance and asked me to open the other closet doors and began to explain to me that they can tell the bad guys just from their faces and that it was obvious to him that we didn't have such faces. I tried saying that it was good that they're able to do that now, suggesting they've acquired the experience. Only three things caught his attention: my guitar, a Gerber knife and an army belt the latter two I had got from Bab-Al Shargi, but he didn't ask.

Nahida was still chit-chatting with the leader and offering pomegranate juice to him and the other two, she had brought out a box of little cartons of orange juice and told me to offer to the guys outside. So I picked it up with both hands and walked out to find an Iraqi soldier and three Americans. I offered the juice by holding out the box, the American who seemed to be the leader because he was acting the most serious declined and said thank you in Arabic. The other two also declined and one said that he liked my t-shirt, I just made a dumb smile and walked back in without having said a word.

Sure enough it would be fun to chat to someone in English for a change, but it's not worth appearing chummy with the American in front of the neighbours or the Iraqi army guys either.

A couple of days ago, the head of my department called for me. He's heard that I'm losing hope on passing, so he listened to all my problems and all that. The one teacher that I have this year that teaches me a mathematical subject (Operational Research) and therefore no trouble with repeated that I had told him that I felt conned since when I first joined I was given the impression that there were a lot of subjects that would be taught in English and indeed this year there are two subjects (that I'm failing) that are supposed to be in English but this year are taught in Arabic and so this year I don't have a single class in English.

The head of department wondered how did I manage to pass the previous two years despite my language problem and I explained to him how this year situational circumstances that didn't exist last year or had exacerbated this year have made it so much harder for me. For example, I was able to stay at a friend's house and with study at his till later than I can now. He told me not to give up and that he'll try to get the teachers to give me some freebie marks to get me by, and that I should maybe consider focusing on some subjects and leaving a couple so that I re-test them during the summer.

During the past few days I've tried to pick up the pace and I've spoken with the teachers that I'm having trouble with. I've even written a five hundred word report in Arabic which I had simply translated material from one of my old college textbooks from Lebanon and then had corrected by my Arabic tutor.

On one hand I know I could've studied much more than I have, but on the other I can't be blamed for under performing with so many things stacked against me. It's just such a waste. I've never got this far in college before (this is my third college).

I had a couple of weird war dreams yesterday. Throughout my life I remember having the weirdest war dreams. Like a detonation of a nuclear missile in the sky followed by sensation of scorching heat on my skin, or masturbating on a couch in a hall dug into the side of a mountain with a large glass wall with a view of my army fighting below in the valley. The couple of dreams I had this time involved a Caucasian who I'd be talking nothing intelligible to and then he'd split and get into a car on the road. In the first dream he catches a car with a bunch of dodgy guys with a camcorder and in the second dream he gets into a car with another bunch of dodgy guys this time however they're carrying rifles and he points a gun at them and tells them to drive on.

It turns out my guitar tutor's on vacation in Erbil, Kurdistan. So I was kind of stuck with nothing to work on. But then Konfused Kid who is abroad taught me how to do the intro "The Man Who Sold The World" song, I've still got trouble with the rest of the song. Switching from chord to chord on that song is hard especially since one of them is a F bar chord and I've got no clue how to strum. Konfused Kid suggested down, down/up, down/up, down/up; but that's not working out, he says that the strumming is supposed to just flow out naturally. My guitar tutor better come back. Worst case scenario, I go there during the summer and see him, he better have a guitar on hand there.

Oh and out of the blue I've got the most incredibly painful mouth ulcer. Something I had forgotten existed. And it really hurts when I eat or brush my teeth.