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.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
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.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I'm watching way too much TV these days. It's getting chronic. And there's never anything really worth watching either. I've only got eleven satellite channels to watch and only one of them is a porn channel. Sometimes get startled by the chicks with dicks when flipping to that channel. I wish I had more documentary channels. There's something calming about watching animals in the wild.
I missed college today. I left home an hour late and the traffic was horrendous, not only that but the cab took what I assume he thought was a short cut. After over an hour riding with him, I gave him his fare and just walked home. I needed a walk.
Found some decent crunchy peanut butter on the way back home. The last jar of peanut butter I bought was from a different shop and they don't have anymore, and the jar before that was from another shop and they don't have anymore either.
I think I've found myself in another imperfect state of equilibrium. I'm getting through the days but I'm incredibly unproductive. I don't understand what's wrong with me, I do near to nothing of anything that would give me a sense of moving forward in life, and I've got no compulsion to change.
The above might be slightly exaggerated. I've made changes in my life over the past six months, but they were so slow to implement, I could've achieved the same in two intensive weeks.The big idea from last year was to move out of Nahida's floor of the house and move all of my stuff downstairs along with me.
So far, I've got most of my stuff downstairs. All that's remaining are a bunch of old CDs, most of my clothes, my bench and weights. There are two pending issues to be resolved, the water heater downstairs doesn't work so I still have to shower upstairs but as soon as the summer warms up I won't need to warm up the water. The other issue is the land line phone, the thing has got to move upstairs since I never use it but Nahida does which gives her an excuse to come downstairs.
Step by step I've got to eliminate reasons for Nahida to want to come downstairs. But each one is more of a psychological barrier for me to overcome rather than a practical thing that needs to be done. For example, I've finally convinced to cook my own food, but I've yet to begin cleaning my own dishes. But as long as I keep identifying these barriers and imagining how I'll overcome them, I should finally be able to get past them.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Yes I found it... what has been to me the holy grail of all things sticky: Blu-Tack.
I was a stationary browsing through all the potentially useful things I could find. I found a Staedtler self-adhesive white board thing smaller than an A4 piece of paper that was really cool too. He didn't have a label maker but he did recognize what it was when I was describing it and said that it was old. So as I was paying the guy I noticed an aged pack with "Power-Tack" written on it hanging from the shelf behind him. I asked him what it was whilst pointing at it. He said he didn't know, he handed it to me and I opened it to show him what it was. The shop owner went on about how so many things that he'd pull out from the old American boxes that surprise people.
And now I'm happy because I've got the power of Blu-Tack. Building a new Iraq now seems possible. I'll spread the word about Blu-Tack and give hope to all.
Well so far the only use I've found is sticking my pick to my guitar. I think there's one problem, I think Blu-Tack starts to melt into chewing gum in the heat.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Having spent nearly a whole week at home it was great to get out today and go to college. I was in a good mood and people were happy to see me with a haircut. And a couple of the girls in the class said I lost weight.
Some guy whose name I don't know told me that there are rumors that Suzy and I are a couple, and I actually paused to brain storm how to respond something that's very rare for me since I'm usually to lazy to think. I denied it and answered we just hang out and so on. Suzy doesn't want the world to know we're going out and that's true for any girl here. What's pissing me off is that she's the one that's made it blatant not me and she'll get pissed off at me if I were to tell her. This could be a good oppurtunity for me to break up with her.
After college I choose to go get some food from Al-Lami's and eat it at Od's place. Od came back a couple of days ago from Syria. He had intened to see his family in Yemen but they didn't give him a visa. So I ordered a couple of meat shawerma's and a chicken burger which I just wanted to taste to see if it's any good. Did some shopping, bought some basterma meat and ice-cream. The chicken burger took ages to make so I chucked everything in the car and went back to wait for the damn burger. I finally get my chicken burger and I'm walking towards my car and in my view a gentle explosion goes off further along the road just ahead of the intersection next to the Baghdad University campus where some minivans park up (opposite neighbour's grandma's home).
I don't think many people died or got injured, it was a small explosion to start off and I only saw one technical and one civilian car driving away with injured people. I had to go through the intersection to get to my house and with all that commotion taking place there I decided to just solemnly eat my shawerma sandwich by the restaurant. I'm not sure how long I waited for them to open up the intersection, eventually I just drove ahead and there was an alley to go around the intersection. By the time I got to Od's the meat and ice-cream had melted. And that chicken burger sucked.
I chatted to an Iraqi girl on-line yesterday and she told me that she the same thing happened to her regarding the change of birthplace when she got a new ID and that she was told it was a Saddam thing. And that she got her ID a year ago I guess makes it more believable than the story that it's a new order from the council of ministers.
Yesterday, Nahida brought me a pan and some eggs so that I could fry myself some eggs for breakfast. I think it's the second time I ever tried to fry eggs because I remember screwing it up once. I pulled it off and made myself fried eggs and I'm so proud of that that I'm telling everybody. Yesterday I bought some chicken breasts and today I've cut a bit of it into strips and I'm going to try cooking that with butter and Tabasco sauce for dinner. I'm finally going to end my daily subsistence of cheese sandwiches.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I'm now born in Baghdad. I went to the ID centre again today. I heard it from the administrator there that I have to change my place of birth because of orders from the council of ministers. So I got it done. In the process I had to sign a paper that described my want to change my place of birth that made reference to a 1999 order from Saddam's revolution council or something like that. The guy who had me sign denied that my having to change my place of birth had anything to do with a new order with from the government and that these orders came from Saddam's while pointing at the the paper I had signed.
At one point I had to hand over my papers to some kid so that he could supposedly hand it over to the big guy to sign, the kid asked me what year I was born and the name of my mum (I goofed up and gave a slightly different name of my mum's) he told me to wait outside. Now what I'm guessing is he's the one that ended up signing in whoever's stead and asked me to piss off so that he can get away with it. I forgot to get them to add my blood type on the thing.
Nahida and I also went to the passport office. According to the police man outside they're closed till the 15th because the main passport centre on the other side of town is too busy and because Nahida tells me that over 40 employees have been nabbed at this passport office and they're gathering a new bunch to take over.
Suzy's pissed off at me because I didn't wish her Happy Easter. I tried calling her and she wouldn't pick up. I don't know if it's something endemic or true everywhere, but girls here often have an urge to pick a fight. I'm pretty sure the guys here do it too. I don't know what the hell is up with that.
And why the hell do I get so sleep in the late afternoon? It's really annoying. Got to walk to the shops and buy some cigs and fruit juice.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Walked to the place where they issue IDs this morning with Nahida. Got the forms, had them filled in and handed them in without a hitch. We were told the ID would be ready in the afternoon and that Nahida could pick it up in my stead because I was going to busy with my Arabic tutor.
Walked back home and finally got a haircut. People will be celebrating. Did a little shopping too, got some crisps, peanut butter sandwich crackers, pomegranate juice, toothpaste, gel, bread, cigs and ate a kebab sandwich on the way too. I'm eating way too many of those kebab sandwiches and they're getting stingy with the vegetables. I need those vegetables.
After I was done with my tutor, Nahida had already got back and repeated the same story as last time about me needing to change my birthplace again and added that the civil worker there showed her a memo was sent from the government cabinet telling them to make everyone's birthplace Baghdad which Nahida explains is a government ploy to permit Iranians to infiltrate the Iraqi population.
I just don't believe it. I'm going to go there tomorrow and try to talk to the administrator. I've thought up of another good reason why I need to keep my real place of birth on the ID, which is that it could convince a checkpoint if it has doubts that I'm Iraqi by showing that I was born abroad. I'm also having to consider calling the British Embassy to check if it would be any problem if my Iraqi passport had a different birthplace when at a passport control. I don't know if they're the right person to ask but I can't think of anyone better to check with.
I'm really trying to understand the ramifications of changing my birthplace should if I'm eventually forced to. My aunt thinks it's a good thing to change it to Baghdad just in case a crazy ruler like Saddam comes into power and removes the rights of people who aren't born in Iraq.
This crazy story has got my paranoia working up. If things were to go the way of the powers that be all my Iraqi documents would state that I was born in Baghdad. And to what purpose?
After having a fit with Nahida, I went on a munchie rampage and fell half-asleep on my couch for a while. I stayed up very late last night chatting to Suzy on the phone. I've forgotten to mention that things have somewhat developed between me and her. We're now playing the roles of a couple, we occasionally stay up late at night on the phone and I blow kisses on the phone and I'm getting away with a lot of perverted talk too and exchange those mushy words too. And I can't believe that she's pointed out that I'm very shy about public displays of affection. That's actually a problem I've had before but how can it be a problem when she also makes it a point that she doesn't want the guys at uni to know about 'us'. A large part of me wishes that I could get out of this relationship but there's no way out, I have to wait another year and a bit.
I'm surprised that sky is still cloudy at this time of year. Most of my memories of Baghdad have a clear blue sky and a scorching sun. Maybe it's normal to have clouds at this time of year but then maybe not I'm not sure. Whenever there's talk about the environment on the tellie of late I'm often wondering what the effects of global warming are on Iraq could they possibly good or are they really bad?
There was a short feature on CNN about banking through the use of mobile phones in an African state by a company called Wizzit. It's such a great idea and would be a great quick solution to the problems that Iraq faces with the banking system which has a knock on effect that produces high levels of absenteeism among the Iraqi army (they leave work to get their wages and give it to their families). It's amazing how there are so many quick fixes to a lot of Iraq's problems which can be cost effectively implemented to improve the situation here. At college nearly all the students in my class have an internet connection at home but my college which boasts about its IT departments doesn't make any use whatsoever of the potential available.
Monday, April 02, 2007
A mind that farts thoughts that's what I feel I have sometimes. They usually have the same smell too. Regular diet of baked brain beans does that maybe. Tediously boring exhaustion, remember when exhaustion was accompanied by a sensation of achievement. Life made bland by a remarkably unreal situation. The fruit tree drops its fruit and they're not ripe yet. Can't be free all on my own and I'm the crazy one. Water isn't pure but you better believe it is. Don't need TV to numb my head, it's numb enough already. It's getting harder to imagine. A river run dry perhaps. Night comes and curtains are pulled. To keep people from looking inside and to keep me from seeing the moon or a star. I've heard that a mortar or two landed in the neighbourhood. A boredom so spectacular.