Friday, March 05, 2004


February 28, 2004

It is now approximately 7 in the evening. I turned off the generator and the national electricity
returned. Tranquility enveloped the house and street- how lovely the calm is! The weather in the
garden is very nice- there's no cold, the stars are shining and the moon is a beautiful crescent
that says that the Arabic month is at its start.


In the morning I had a headache… I took some pills but it has remained with me all day. I don't
know- maybe it's exhaustion and too little sleep. When I went to the shop, I had intended to hurry
home, have lunch, take more headache pills and then sleep. The work day was ordinary- full of
talk, debates and laughter. Debates on the science of water, and politics… Iraqis can't live without
debating politics and the latest news.

I surfed the internet and checked my emails. There were emails I read that made me smile… and one
email whose writer asked I teach him Arabic words for greeting and welcoming. He wasn't the first
to ask for this help. There was a previous letter from Portugal whose sender asked for the address
of a site that taught Arabic. Another person from Australia said that he wanted to learn Arabic so
that he could read the blogs before they were translated. All those letters made me happy and gave
me the impression that people like our language and are eager to learn something of it… even if
only simple words like: marhaba, shukran and ma'a il salama…

This creates affection between people and supports the theory that the world has become a small
village. I'm thinking about linking a site that will teach a few, limited words for people as an
introduction to learning for any of the readers who want to learn another language.


I left the shop and went to the butcher to buy some chopped and minced meat. This is usually
Azzam's job but since he's traveling- I have to do it. The man said, "Please have a seat- you'll have
to wait a quarter of an hour while I finish up my work…" I had no choice but to sit and wait
because the freezer was empty and I needed to buy something. As the man started working, I looked out
into the street with boredom.

A group of children entered the shop accompanied by an old lady in an abbaya [black cloak-like
garb]. She said to the small girl, "Come in, dear, this is the 'shams il baqila' [horse bean sun]-
don't sit too long in it, you'll catch typhoid." An identical phrase jumped to my memory- my mother
(God have mercy upon her soul) used to say the same thing to me when I was a little girl, sitting
on the roof sunning myself and reading. 'Shams il baqila' [horse bean sun]… as I grew older, I
understood. This is a particularly hot sun that speeds the growth of horse beans in the winter (even
though the beans love the heat)… and they are available for most of the summer. In the winter
though, they are available only for a short period and are often expensive… then they disappear to
return in the summer.

I smiled and looked at the little ones- three girls and a boy. They approached the butcher and the
little one yanked him from his pants and shouted, "Give me some money- I want chocolate!" He
laughed and opened the drawer, handing out paper money. I imagined parents on Eid Day, handing out
'Eidiyat' [gifts of money] to the little children with their voices raised in shouts and mirth. The
kids ran out of the store to the neighboring shop.


I finished purchasing the meat, fruit and cheeses from different stores on the same sidewalk.
Before I entered the car, I glanced at the watch and noted that it was 2 in the afternoon. I felt
annoyed because I was very late for lunch. The smell of kabab filled the car and increased the feeling
of hunger. It had been the butcher's suggestion- "Allow me to cook a kilo of minced meat for you
at the neighboring restaurant…" What a suggestion it had been… I was regretting it that moment.

I noticed an Iraqi police car standing at the beginning of the street I'm accustomed to taking
home every day, so I took another direction. Everything looked normal until I got to a certain point
on the road leading to the airport where there was a sizeable crowd that spread well into the
horizon… Ohhhhhhh… you'll die of hunger and waiting… I said to myself. I began slowing the car. There
were dozens of small cars and trucks with their annoying horns… and large buses… and the smell of
smoke. I recalled my suffering as I used to drop the kids off to school through daily traffic
jams, and I remembered the grandmother and the children at the butcher's and the talk about the horse
bean sun. What luck! I said to myself… a traffic jam and horse bean sun on the same day…

I looked at the car windows of the small cars around me and the passengers. They were spending the
time by talking and I felt lonely and bored. I looked at the watch- it was almost three… I should
have been home over half an hour ago but I was still at the beginning of the way home! I took out
the mobile phone and called the kids. "Where are you mom?" I heard them yelling. "I'm stuck on
the airport road… there's a traffic jam… some sort of a problem. Don't worry about me."

The cars were moving very slowly. I wished there was someone around to explain the reason for
this. Helicopters came and hovered low… then went far away… as if there was some battle field nearby.
I turned and opened the bags. I made myself a small kabab sandwich, opened a can of soda and
smiled. I decided I would ignore everything that was happening and enjoy my time. I turned on the radio
to a station playing songs and retreated from the happenings in the street.

A truck full of American soldiers passed on my left and in front of it and behind it, small
humvees. I watched them from behind the glass, in a state of indifference brought on by exhaustion. I
didn't care. I was trying to pass the time and stared at the details of the truck. On normal days,
they would pass quickly and, terrified, I wouldn't turn to look at them. Today, they were stuck in
the crowd… and it was a chance.

There was something strange in the middle of the truck. The soldiers were sitting to the left and
to the right with their guns aimed and there was something in the middle I couldn't identify at
first. It moved and I thought it was some sort of an animal. I couldn't believe it… an animal? What
would the troops be doing with a strange animal? I continued driving my car slowly with my gaze
stuck on the truck. In a moment, I realized that the strange creature was actually a human. A human
sitting on their knees with their hands tied behind their back and a rough sack on their head with
little points that looked like horns!

I couldn't swallow a bite anymore… I laughed and laughed a black laugh… does laughter have a
color? I knew that moment that laughter does have a color… and this laugh had to be black to match the
moment and I asked myself what that poor person did- throw a bomb at them or simply get in their

The scene deserved a picture with the caption, "No Comment" underneath it. Simply stare and think
of the possibilities… if he pointed something at them, he'll disappear for months and months in
their detainee camps for questioning. If he did something against Iraqi civilians, he'll be out
after a short period of time… and to hell with the Iraqi civilians. I tried to imagine if I had been
out of work, or the ministry I work in had been dismantled, and I had no money, no future and no
chance to work- what would I do???

The idiotic policies are creating an air of animosity against the American presence… and the
people can't be blamed. The sight of that man with a bag on his head… if it had been Iraqi police
surrounding him, I would have felt sympathetic with their situation. But the American troops
surrounding an Iraqi civilian… it's a provocative sight and one word jumps to mind: occupation… and you feel
anger and insult.

The crowd lessened for a moment and the American car sped off in the direction of the airport and
we all went off in another direction as the Iraqi guards shouted, "Take any other direction except
the airport- they'll shoot at you!" I don't know. There was also an attack against them near the
airport… a never-ending tornado. I looked at the gas gauge- there was still enough, I didn't need
to worry about gas.

I started on another long way… the trip home. I got home at around 4 p.m. I was supposed to be
there at 2:15. Thank God, I said to myself, I didn't get a stray bullet… learn to look at the bright
side of things, I said to myself as I knocked the door and heard the sound of the kids welcoming
me home…

[ Translated by Riverbend ]

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