Sunday, November 16, 2008


I'm now spending my days harvesting the rice crops. It involves going out to the little plots watching a bunch of guys weigh a pile or rice paddy left behind by a combine harvester, then calculating how much is to be left for the farmer and finally following the cart carrying my paddy to the mill factory where the paddy is dried.

My first harvest with the weighing workers and the combine harvesters was a good experience, everyone around me tried to pull off every trick in the book to rip me off. And what's worse was that the guy who is supposed to manage the harvest and who my dad made my number one adviser let every trick pass. That was two days ago, today however went much smoother.

My dad left about a week ago. But before that he did get me to wear the traditional local tribal dress and on the first day that I wore the dress I saw a wild hawk as I was driving out of the farm. I'm told that now that I've put them on, I can no longer take them off. I can still take the dress off when I go back to Baghdad and beyond fortunately. I guess I'm coping with it quite well. I've never had to wear the dishdasha before and my biggest complaint about it is that I can't take full strides when walking with it. As for the head gear, it stays on most of the time unlike the abaya which keeps falling off whenever I get out of the car.

The other thing my dad tried to do for me before leaving was finding me a wife. After a couple of no's. He found a distant relative of mine which as far as he was concerned was good enough. We went to their house for lunch. The girl popped into the living room to show herself, she was so shy and then left shortly. After she left my dad without any consideration for my opinion brought up the subject of an engagement period for the two of us to get to know each other. When we got home, I had a talk with him telling him that I wasn't interested in her, but he asked me to give the girl a chance for his sake so I went along with it.

What my dad didn't realize was that a failed engagement was a very serious issue for a girl's reputation, something that I myself didn't know until I told my friends about what had happened, but then again my dad doesn't always care for social conventions. When a week later, the family came over for lunch at our house the dad took me to the side to ask me to give him some assurance from me that I was truly interested in marrying the girl after I sit with her alone.

So the girl and I sat on the swing in the garden and asked each other questions about each other. I think the silliest question she had for me was whether her skirt which was mid-shin length was too short for my taste. I asked her if she read books, and I understood from her that the only books she reads are books about Islam. And then she somehow is convinced that she's open-minded and modern. I'm not saying that a person that reads books about Islam is necessarily not open-minded, but that's all she reads! She must be comparing herself and her family to some super-orthodox Muslims. Then we went inside, and my dad was now talking about buying the engagement rings the next day and doing the engagement ceremony a few days after that.

Later that evening after they had left, I called the dad to delicately say that I wasn't interested saying that I couldn't make my mind up after just talking with her for an hour or so, but I failed at delicacy when I told him that I wanted a wife that would go to a nudist beach with me. I didn't know that this guy was going to repeat everything I said to his family, which made it quite awkward when I later spoke to his daughter much later in the night. His daughter wanted to understand the situation from me. She herself was reluctant to get engaged so quickly and didn't say anything much different from what the father had to say except that at the end of the call she asked me what if we would delay the engagement to which I responded with a long pause and then a no.

After all the calls ended, I went downstairs to find my dad awake and told him of what had happened. My father had been so excited about the whole affair and after hearing the news he looked so disappointed. He understood that the father had unfairly cornered me into giving a decision which I guess is cool because that means as far as my dad's concerned I did give it a try. To that my dad added that I don't want a head-scarfed girl. I responded to that by saying that some head-scarfed girls are quite cool, which is true. But generally speaking he's right and I wish he'd had figured that out sooner.

He concluded by saying that he can't find another girl that he she was the only one left and that it's up to me to find one but insisted that he approves of her family. I don't think he's really given up yet. Now though, he's changed his tune, saying that I'm too busy with work to deal with marriage.

I hope my harvest is more successful. What sucks about this harvest is that it takes over three weeks to go through and throughout this whole time I'm stuck here and can't go back to Baghdad. I wonder if the paper work for my new car is ready. It wasn't the last time I was there, but there's not much point in calling them unless it rains in which case the harvest stops and I can go back to Baghdad to pick it up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My First Harvest

This cheerful chap is the first farmer I met on my first harvest a couple of days ago. I can't remember his name and I forgot to write down how much he harvested by hand. I think he counted 60 bowls each of which are supposed to be 12.5 kg. Amazingly Fozzy does remember me telling him about it, and he remembers the guy's name and the total harvested: 61 bowls one of which I told the farmer to keep. The 60 then gets split evenly between the two of us.