Saturday, February 28, 2004

Wednesday 25/2

These days the electricity is coming on with an almost regular schedule. On for three hours, off for three hours. We are used to it now and we no longer complain about it. On most mornings I wake up at 5:30, half an hour before the alarm goes off. I waver, should I get up or should I wait until six when the electricity comes on. If I fell tired I just close my eyes and go back to sleep, because the room is very cold and very dark. Nothing to excite me about getting out of bed. But if I need to go to the washroom, then I will need to play the blind lady game. What a fun way to start your day. I will get out of bed and walk a bit, then stop, trying to guess if I reached the door. Then I reach out with my arms and walk slowly until I hit the wall or the door. Then I have to look for the door knob. I finally find it and open the door…Hey!. The morning cheer. I see a faint light coming at me from the living room, where the emergency light is and about to turn off. I very quickly light the candle that is in a plate, the matches are right next to it. This has been the designated place for the plate with the candle and matches since we moved to this house. It has been 9 years. How fast has time passed since we moved into here. Raed was finishing up high school. Khalid was in primary school and Majid was just a kid. Now Raed has graduated from university few years back. Khalid is in college and Majid will finish high school this summer. Insha allah (god willing) will go to university next year. My first few years in this house were tiresome. I worked as a driver to the kids. I had to drive them each to the school or university. We would spend the length of the way chatting and telling stories. Sometimes it was cheerful and we would laugh together. Sometimes our talks were angree and we would end up yelling. Such is life, one day you eat sweetness and the next you must eat the bitter.

I keep remembering those days with a smile. These days planted the seed of love between me and the kids. They knew that mama is tired, has to go to work, cook lunch before work, but she won’t forget them. She won’t let them take public transport so that they won’t get tired out with the crowds, and they won’t get their clothes dirty. I wouldn’t want then to get to school late and then this might effect the rest of the day for them.

Sometimes I would feel very tired and ask that they give a vacation from driving them, but they would yell and complain….what? Whare are we supposed to find a ride? There is not enough time, mama? Offcourse I put my clothes on very quickly and submit to their urging. I can’t stand up to them, they are three and I am only one. All the way I keep murmuring, my mom and dad never gave me rides to school. I tell them that they are spoiled and selfish. They murmur back, Eaaay! your mother didn’t know how to drive. She didn’t own a Mercedes either. The arguing ends with me yelling, Shut up!, all of you! I would have reached the conclusion that it is useless to argue with them.


I remember one time I was busy, I put on my clothes in a hurry while the electricity was off. The kids hurried into the car ahead of me. I decided to apply some light makeup on my lips and eyes. I might have to get out of the car and chat to a teacher or a neighbor and I didn’t want to look inappropriate. I put on my dark sun glasses. I drove Khalid and Majid to school and when we got to the university I asked Raed to come with me to deliver medicine to my nephew who works in one of the departments. We climbed the stairs together and the hallway was dark, so I took off my sunglasses. I stood near the window in the stair well, talking to Raed. He suddenly stared into my face looking worried. Mama? What is wrong with your eyes? I was taken by surprise. I was dumfounded and asked What is wrong with my eyes? They are red, answered Raed, Are you not feeling well? The way he looked at me made me worry. I started to rub my eyes, I looked at my fingers to find them smeared with red lip liner and not eye shadow. I was overtaken with a laughing fit. The electricity was off and I got the pens mixed up. I kept on laughing and laughing. I tried to imagine myself looking like an evil wizard with red eyes. I stood in the stair well wiping away tears and red eye liner. I asked Raed to deliver the medicine to the poor girl because my appearance was not appropriate.


These days I sometime wake up in the middle of the night and it is quiet, calm and dark, except the sounds of tanks driving down the road. Rumbling in the distance and getting closer. That is when I can hear the sound of metal knocking and shaking. So I hide under my bed covers. Somebody suggested that we should put a sign that says “Hi, please reduce speed and noise, you are disturbing the children’s sleep.”. I laughed at this idea. I will deliver the message to the tank’s driver. Should I place a warning sign at the end of the street? Should I use bright neon colors with a smiley face on the side, so that he would accept the message? Or should I stand in the street shouting and waving, like we do in our daily conversations with one another? He might get angry and misunderstand my intentions. He probably doesn’t know that we get angry fast but really have warm hearts. We can’t bare to live in hatred, we forget quickly.


I think about Iraqi children, what have they seen in their childhood? Especially those that were born in the nineties. They were raised on bombs and canons, instead of toys and fun. Their vocabulary consists of war, Saddam and Bush. During the war with Iraq, it was Bush the father. In this war it was Bush the son. It is as if these two had some sort of a family feud to settle with Iraq. The son came after the father to finish it off. When Clinton was in power we didn’t hear much from him. Even though he remembered us with few rockets from the red sea, for further limited purposes in Iraq. But he wasn’t as hostile towards us a Bush number one and Bush number two. I don’t know, perhaps there is some great secret pushing them to get vengeance from Iraq. Then came the Lewinsky scandal with Clinton, as if it was punishment for not being strict enough with Iraq and Palestine. Maybe he pressured Israel a bit too much. His punishment was a whirl pool of scandals that distanced him from the rest of the world and the hot spots in the world that needed help. I am afraid of the consequences of Bush doesn’t win the next elections. If there is another president that is less hostile and more calm in dealing with matters. He will get conspiracies to put him down and make him fail. The power in the US is in the hands of the wealthy and these like to direct things according to their interests and destroy everything in their path. We and the American public will be the losing victims.


Abu Sali is the new driver that drives Majid to school in the morning and sometimes to private tutoring sessions in the evening. Two evenings ago, Majid forgot to tell me that he had a study session in the afternoon. I had a dentist appointment, I went out and left him home sleeping. He was tired on that day. I was going to call him while out to ensure that he was ok. Majid kept sleeping and Abu Sali didn’t come. Majid missed his study session and Abu Sali was missing, no telephone. Suddenly he appeared again. Today Majid came laughing while telling us the story of Abu Sali. It turns out that Abu Sali did come on that day and rang the bell but electricity was off and Majid didn’t hear anything. The poor man didn’t know what to do. So he decided to drive around a bit and come back later. While he was driving he encountered a man carrying big sacks of vegetables and fruits. So Abu Sali decided to stop and give him a lift. He was supposed to be going to a near by place. Then the man with the sacks asked that he stop the car at the end of the streets. The man carried his sacks outside the car and then entered the car again. Abu Sali thought he was going inside to pay him. Instead the man stuck a gun to Abu Sali’s head and told him to get out of the car. Abu Sali says that courage is an inspiration from god. He reached out and too the gun from the hand of the thug and sped up with the car. The thug fell to the ground. But there was another car standing by the side observing what is going on. The car started to chase after Abu Sali. He says that he spent lots of time driving around trying to lose them. He had to drive on top of the island in the middle of the street and drive through streets going in the wrong direction, but they kept chasing after him. Until he got to place where there are butcher shops and he is familiar with many of the people there. Abu Sali stopped the car and yelled out for help. All the butchers ran out with their sharp knifes and some of them had Kalashnikovs. When the thugs saw this they ran away. Every day, people in Baghdad live these stories. Some have a happy ending like Abu Sali and others have a sad ending. Like what happened with my driver Abu Ali few months ago. He was mugged and shot and his car was stolen. The thugs left lying in his blood. Luckily a passer by saw him and took him to the hospital where his life was saved. We told him not to be sad, the main thing is that he is going to be well. Everything else can be replaced but a person that leaves this life can’t be replaced.

[translation by]

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