Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back from Erbil

And I'm back home. I've been more or less stuck in front of the television ever since. Not much good on either. I really need to think about finding a solution to this couch of mine, it really isn't that comfortable.

Erbil was a good break. Everyday I'd wake up and then struggle to wake up my even lazier cousin Shin (that means blue in Kurdish and not his real name) to start a quest for breakfast. We'd usually end up going to a Lebanese fast food place and one time we went to a Lebanese restaurant and got drunk on home-made Arak. Afterwards we'd sometimes go play billiards because he likes it so much. He'd also beat me at it. I had a snooker table in my house, he shouldn't be able to beat me.

His mum and sister Zard would then come back from work. Zard's friend would then come pick us up and we'd go out to restaurants and I'd stuff myself with so much food. There were days when my belly was protroduing way too far out. It was a challenge for me to stuff myself with all the foods that I've missed. Sadly though, they didn't always get the orders right. At one place I ordered a milkshake and got some balls of icecream with some syrup at the bottom. At the end of the one week I spent there, the winner of the best dish there was the crab salad at Bakery And More.

We went bowling a couple of times, the first time I lost miserably to my cousin Zard who was blessed with beginner's luck. We also went karting a couple of times and in the last couple of races were beaten by a girl that had taken lessons. The karting was amazing fun though. Except that the second time I went I was a bit drunk and that kind of spoilt the fun for me.

I paid a visit to one of my relatives that had moved to Erbil because of the security situation and because he got some good rent off of his house here in Baghdad. He's an old guy and it was good to see him in good spirits. He was a horse racing addict and now the old guy tells me he spends his time making bets online. He tells me that everything's really nice in Erbil and that the people most of all are very nice. The only complaint he had was that of greedy and dodgy doctors. A lot of doctors had moved from Baghdad to there, and I guess they no longer worry so much about their reputation and care more for the money.

It's quite unimaginable to imagine you're still in Iraq over there. There is so much business happening there. The government's leasing and selling off big plots of land to real estate developers for cheap and in so doing so are creating many jobs. And unlike in the rest of Iraq, there is a sense of political stability in as there are two major established political parties.

I met a Kiwi woman there that works as an education consultant for the Kurdish government and she's got a programme that involves getting children with special needs around the region into mainstream schools by putting special teachers along with them in the school. To think that the government there is actually going so far as to seek foreign expertise is wonderful.

It might feel that the parties are like some kind of modern day mafias that get a cut out of every big business deal and not always operating as fair as it should be, but on the other hand it's being done in such a manner that people's lives are improving and the people do feel optimistic.

I was expecting to get license plates for my new car as soon as I get back. Now the showroom is telling me that it's going to take much longer than thought and that there's no way I'd get it before Eid and not in time for my dad's arrival because the paperwork is taking more time than expected. My dad's going to be very disappointed not to ride the new car in front of the folks at the plantation.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In Erbil

I'm in Erbil, Kurdistan... taking a week long break from it all. Having a good time, going to restaurants that don't serve just what I expect what I ordered. Yesterday, went karting, the best fun I've had so far. Getting a bit drunk every day. One day it was Lebanese home made Arak over lunch with raw kubba, today it's little bottles of red wine. Need to go pee perhaps...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Very Hot September

Yesterday, Fozzy, Nahida and I headed out to the plantation in the new car. But halfway there, a traffic police guy told us that we weren't allowed to drive the car without plates on a Friday or a Saturday because I'm only allowed to drive the car to go to government offices to get plates. Government offices aren't open on Fridays and Saturdays. Nahida and Fozzy had checked with the traffic police in Baghdad whether it was okay to drive and they were told that it was okay. But Fozzy and I didn't want to risk it considering that different provinces may interpret the laws differently and that other traffic police won't be so forgiving.

So we on the road again today. It was a sweet and air conditioned ride the whole way. It felt a lot quicker than when going by cab. It took about 3 hours, 40 litres of petrol and 200 Kilometers to make the trip. I remember nearly finishing a whole tank with my old Mercedes. It was also the first time I made use of cruise control. Cruise control is amazing. Press a button and lift your foot off the gas. Brake at a checkpoint. Pass the checkpoint and then press a button to bring you back to your cruising speed. It's wonderful.

The most surprising thing about the trip was the change in attitude at the checkpoints. When riding in taxis they're really mean and suspicious, but when driving in my new car they all acted much nicer to me.

I don't know what's up with the weather now. When I was in Baghdad it was very hot, hotter than any other time this summer. I was looking forward to coming back to the farm because the weather here is maybe five degrees cooler. But it's gotten hotter here too but still a little cooler than Baghdad. The heat's not supposed to peak in September! I usually don't complain so much about the heat, but it's really getting bad. Nahida tells me everyone's complaining. A girl from college on facebook set her status as "موت حار" (don't know how to translate it, literally it might mean "death heat") yesterday. The forecast for Baghdad today was 48 Centegrade (that's nearly 120 Farenheit).

Now, I've got to think of how I'm going to make use of the few days to come. Because I have to drive the car back on Thursday which will be the last day I'm allowed to drive the car until I get number plates.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Soaked in Sweat

I've been having trouble getting to sleep lately. Could be that that's what Baghdad does to someone. It's hot and the fan's noisy. Everytime I wake up, I find myself soaked in sweat, very unpleasant. I tried getting myself drunk to fall asleep earlier in the evening. It worked until the power went out and then again I woke up soaked in sweat. Maybe I should've drank myself another beer and knocked myself back to sleep again. It's too late now that I've sobered up.

Tomorrow morning, I'm planning on going to college. Most of them have a re-test tomorrow and therefore it's going to be my last chance to see most of them together. I'm going to take my new license plate free car with me. It's a long way to college, and there'll be plenty of traffic wardens on the way. It's going to take me quite a while to get there.

Today and Yesterday, have been unbearably boring. I've been pretty much stuck at home with nothing to do. I wish I had some interest in playing with my Wii, but I just don't. What in the world is wrong with me? Why can't I get myself to play video games all of a sudden?

I thought that with the improved security situation that Baghdad might become a bit more lively at night during Ramadan. But I get the feeling that I was wrong. Od suggested we have futoor together with one of his mates before I go back to the plantation, so I'll find out for sure then.

Right now I'm thinking I don't have that much work to do this month. There really isn't anything urgent that requires my personal attention. I think I could go on a vacation if I like. It would have to be somewhere nearby and preferably somewhere with weed. It's just my luck that it's Ramadan now, and that has the potential of making any destination in the Middle East that much more boring. Besides, I really can't make up my mind on where to go, so I'll probably just end up staying here.

Oh no! I've hit rock bottom here. I started watching the "Sex and the City" movie.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Happy Ramadan... Have a Beer

Yesterday, I drove Od with his fiancee and their mums to the new courthouse for them to do their marriage contract. I had the honour of being one of the witnesses as well as the witness to the marriage of another couple who I didn't know. Od too was a witness to someone else's marriage. People just don't bother bringing their own witnesses it seems. It was the first time I met Od's fiancee now wife. She's quite nice, speaks English well and perhaps a bit goofy or something.

Later that day, I got caught by a traffic warden for driving my car without plates. I was told I can't drive with the car after three in the afternoon. But I hadn't realised that the ones I was supposed to avoid were the traffic wardens. Good thing I had Od with me. Od knew how to talk to the guy. And after a little chat, Wissam the traffic warden let us go after pocketing ten thousand dinars (about seven dollars). Od had suggested I give five thousand, but I'm still surprised that the dude even settled for the ten I gave him.

Today, I've stayed home all day and done nothing except to walk out to pay my subscription to my nearby internet provider. I've been watching the movies my anime friends gave me the other day: Hancock, Don't Mess With Zohan, Harold and Kumar 2 and Wanted. The only movie I've got left to watch on my laptop tonight is 'Sex and the City' but I don't think I'm going to be bored enough to watch it here in Baghdad.

It's nearly five in the morning now. A little earlier, I caught Mos online and the punk told me he was leaving in a few hours. "I'm not good at good byes" he said. In exchange, Sav's coming tomorrow. I spoke to him today, and he told me he's saved a joint for me. I'm betting that joint will get smoked before it reaches here.