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.


Jeffrey said...


I think you handled that engagement situation pretty well. It sounds like your Dad, though a little disappointed, understood that it wasn't going to work out.


Lynnette In Minnesota said...

...but I failed at delicacy when I told him that I wanted a wife that would go to a nudist beach with me.

ROTFL! Oh, yeah, I think that would get your point across!

I think the silliest question she had for me was whether her skirt which was mid-shin length was too short for my taste.

Oh, no, no, Shaggy. That was actually quite clever of her. She used that question to find out exactly how religious, or perhaps I should say traditional, you were. I would have loved to have seen her face if you had tried the nudist beach remark on her. lol!

Anyway, I realize that arranged marriages are more the norm in the ME, but here it's so different. But you know that. There was a rather interesting thing that took place here awhile back though. A guy who was interested in getting married told his friends to pick out some girls for him to choose from. Reasoning that his friends knew him well enough to know who he would get along well with. So they found some like-minded women and he met with each of them. They actually did a big get together at the Mall of America when he made his choice. You can imagine that it got so much publicity because it was so unusual. Far as I know they are still together. This was a number of years ago.

Good luck with the harvest. It's really too bad that so many people feel the need to try to cheat you. When I was a child my parents would sell corn that they had grown on a roadside stand. They always believed in giving people a bakers dozen. A bakers dozen meaning 13 rather than 12. When you gave the extra bowl of rice to that farmer, you kind of reminded me of that. :) That was cool.

Mister Ghost said...

You're becoming your father, Darth Shaggy.

Soon, you'll break down and give in
to some girl your father arranges for you to marry, and then she'll become pregnant, and then another child, and another.

You'll spend long hours with the farm and then home life, you'll have no escape from the kids, except by leaving your wife and her mother to watch over them, while you're out drinking with your friends.

Perhaps over time, your wife and you will drift apart, and you'll chance upon some woman in Baghdad, and begin an affair with her, but shielding it from your wife, so as not to hurt her or the kids.

LOL, it's all so predictable...

Kafir said...

I'm with Lynnette: the skirt question was to feel you out on how conservative you were. You didn't tell us what your answer was, but I take it she must have thought you were moderate to conservative. That's why she said she only read books about Islam.

I'll bet if you had said something about nude beaches, her list of reading material would have been a bit more interesting.

Shams said...


What I hate the most, is when you know there will never be a match but you go with the flow to tel you parents "hey, I tried" ....

But honestly as a guy and who is also living in Iraq, I would think finding a matching partner is muchof an easier process compared to the dearth we experience here specially of quality liberal minded Iraqis :D

yala all the best, and interesting blog :)

Shams said...

"I'll bet if you had said something about nude beaches, her list of reading material would have been a bit more interesting."

Interesting, however rarely do ppl step out of what is respected especially for a girl where repuation is important.

However me, I did ask one guy if he minded me wearing a mayo and if our future daughter fell in love with a non -Muslim. Hey, I take the credit now that I am honest :)