Saturday, January 10, 2004

I believe the only way that Iraq can survive is for the whole country to stay unified. This ethnic clashing and the bombings of mosques is really awful. How can someone bomb a mosque?

So K and I decided that we are both going together. Even though it is going to make it tougher on our pockets. Money is a problem, as usual...

It's snowing so hard and thick righ now. The whole city is white-orange and fluffy.
I pass newspaper stands and see headlines about Iraq. The wounded, another bomb. And as I pass it I think I will be there. I hope. But I don't want to make the news. I just want to hang out and see what's going on in Baghdad. My Dad is ecstatic about this trip.
I am as well.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I've been a sack of hacky, tossed back and forth regarding going, not going. Money. That's what it's comes down to.

Emotionally I sway from an angry "You can't possibly go without me, this is my project too!" to a resigned "Of course you have to go, even if I can't go. It must be done." I've been overly emotional about it all. Lashing out in a strange child-like manner. Snipping, snotting, snapping, weeping. We have just barely enough to get U there. It's a cruel dilema. Seperate the husband and wife team by just a couple of thousand dollars.

But I am determined. It's not over yet. Still a few more avenues to explore regarding funding.

My U whispers encouraging thoughts in my ear as I write and my heart is lifted.


Thursday, January 08, 2004

I spoke to my father today. He says that his wife's brother just came from Baghdad. The news is good and bad regarding the state of Iraq. We talked about our trip and he reassured me that everything would be fine and encouraged me to bring K along. We spoke about the last time he was in Iraq, I believe he it was 1980. He still has a letter from the Iraqi govt telling him that he is prohibited from teaching at Baghdad University. This is the same govt that gave him a scholarship to complete his PhD in the USA. He tells me he still has the letter and he wants to show it to me. Of course the first thing I want to do when I arrive in Baghdad is eat fresh Iraqi bread!

K has been in tears with the prospect of me going alone to Iraq, that is, without her. I want her to come...but money is tight. Somehow I am determined to have her come with me. She has never seen the Middle East and (I know) she would be very excited to see the land of my birth...Iraq.

I want her to come
I do
I do!

I just want to connect to anybody out there in Baghdad or even Basrah. I am neither here or there.


Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I've been listening the American controlled radio Sawa. Spreading the goodwill of USA through really bad American pop songs and some okay Arab pop. The Arabic music is not so bad... but some of the Western pop makes me want to vomit.

I wish I could pick up some Iraqi radio through the internet.

My wife says I've been a little obsessed with Iraqi lately. She's right. I can't stop thinking about Iraq. I try to age my memory in order to have some idea of what I may see.

When we left Iraq and ended up in Saudi Arabia, I was shocked. I admit it felt 'safe' being surrounded by such western motifs, like large malls, KFC and the most advanced techy toys out there. All laid out in at the open market. But my childhood attraction to those shiny American symbols of capitalism quickly wore off. I had never really been exposed to Islam in such an overwhelming manner. Living in Iraq I had never really been pressured to go to Mosque or pray. We observed Ramadan and my Grandfather would sometimes borrow my space-themed sleeping bag to pray on. And certainly the whole country did not shut down and rush to mosque when it was time. And another thing that bothered me, I could never see women in Saudi Arabia. When attending dinner parties at the homes of Saudi's the men would enter from one side of the house (the main section, of course) and the women would usually go behind, with the servants and such. After these segregated events my sisters and I would consult and compare notes. Of course their events were more casual and less formal.
I really don't think it's healthy to always be separated from the opposite sex. As a young boy I was always in total awe of the beautiful Iraqi women my parents knew. I even remember one lady that was almost 10 years older then me teasing me and telling me she had my picture in her wallet. My father would joke with her and tell her that I was going to marry her soon.

In 3rd grade, while in Baghdad, I knew these twins. I took an interest in these two girls and felt that they were my girls. I used to wear this black turtleneck jacket and comb my thick, shiny black hair straight down before I greeted my girl-twins. Our parents would go to some Baghdad dinner club and the twins would accompany me, one girl on my left and the other on my right, holding their hands. I was a proud young man. This was before the war with Iran.
How quickly things changed when war broke out.
Everything got darker. No lights. No more nightclubs.

I just don't want Iraq to turn into a large McDonalds with a repressive religious govt. I don't want the Saudi Arabia model. Just look at what that has produced.

We need to keep America's ugly capitalism away from Iraq. We need to set up restriction on what chain stores and western business are allowed to open. Trust me, if you say yes to Starbucks, McDonalds, Nike, etc you will open the flood gates to something much uglier and insidious than the current situation.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I still have my hopes high to return to Baghdad at the end of January but my father has not gotten back to me. sigh.
I've been manic over this whole Iraqi trip. I'm hyper to go but also weary of my poor planning. That mixed with my father's erratic and sometimes risky adventures will definitely make it a memorable trip. But I suspect I will be surprised either way.

Watching N.American news gives you no indication of the what's really happening in Iraq. With all due respect to the US soldiers, I'm tired of the media focusing on just the military point of view. And I'm sure the soldiers are tired of what the administration is hiding. The fact that we have not seen more then a few coffins on the nightly news is alarming. How many have been injured? Tell me?

Then there is treatment of Iraqis at the hands of young and culturally inexperienced troops. There is no way putting Iraqis civilians in back of jeep with bags over their head and their hands cuffed will looks good. Maybe the soldiers need to balance the need for security and that of respect to basic human rights.
I am trying to stay optimistic but even salampax says things are not looking good when I asked of the current climate in Baghdad. My father can be a risk taker and I'm willing to go. Of course I am swayed by the symbolic gesture of the two of us entering together after so many years being away. My return will probably be a bit more abstract then his...well in a sense. Of course I will see many relatives and cousins that I played with when I was young boy in Iraq.

There is mixture of encouragement and weariness from some of the people I have told.
I'm not afraid of people. As my sister would say, and she's correct. People in Iraq are wonderful. But then you have this animosity of what is perceived to threaten Iraq.

Some of the US soldiers seem really respectful and genuinely good...others not so good.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Iraqis know all too well what occupation looks and feels like. I believe, that Iraqis are appreciative but they are also hesitant to embrace the USA since they have not really delivered much. Yes there are many great improvements but it's moving too slow.
The US needs to understand that it cannot trick the Iraqis. If it's going to sell them 'freedom' then it better be for real or there will be hell to pay.

This is just my impression. But I do not want to be so presumptuous in declaring what the Iraqis want or do not want.

So, Iraq. I was just saying to U that four or five years ago I would have never imagined myself preparing for a trip to the Near East. It's not that I had anything against it, it's just that I knew very little about it, aside form the images of the Gulf War a ways back (I was pregnant at the time, and cried at the thought of war, every time I saw the images on the news). I had studied ancient world history, of course, and knew that it was the so called "Cradle of Civilization," and I'd read the Epic of Gilgamesh, but I had no idea what the contemporary Middle East was like.

An ex-friend in Undergrad had been a zealous Zionist Israeli girl. She had a passionate dislike for Arabs in general, which I had always thought was quite foolish and racist. When I met my husband and his family I was embraced with a warmth I had never experienced in a lifetime of dealings with most Americans. My love for this new family and for my husband gradually melted away the inherent sort of ignorance of the Middle East within which I had once lived. I became interested in the politics, the music, the art, the history. The complex politics often had me raging mad. The fact that I had known so little and was discovering so much doubled my angst. I wanted more people to be aware. I kept a journal at the time in which I let my opinions fly. This upset someone, and they phoned in an anonymous tip to the FBI, saying that I may be involved in terrorist activity. The FBI agents were very polite when they showed up at my door to investigate the tip.

Anyway, that's just a little background. What else?

U has been talking on the phone endlessly to family members. Those on his mother's side are very worried about us. They feel it's quite dangerous, especially for me as a white American woman. His father, who is to be our guide, is much more optimistic. He says not to worry. I suppose it just depends on where you are and who you speak to. The conditions of Iraq seem to be a highly subjective issue.

I haven't told my family about the trip yet. I already know their reaction. They are bound to freak out completely - especially my grandmother, and probably my mom. They will try to talk me out of it.

How do I feel? That's tough one. The other night U's sister asked him if he's prepared to die to do this movie. He said that if that is our fate, he is okay with it. I was lying in the bathtub when I heard the conversation - neck deep in warm water like a fetus. I asked myself "Am I okay with it?"

I still don't know how to answer. Beyond the mortal danger of bombs and stray bullets, or hostile insurgents, I am worried about how to interact with U's family. This has never been a problem before. I am very quiet and his family don't take offense to that like other people I've known (I'm often seen as a snob because I speak so little in social situations. The opposite is true. I usually like the people I meet. I am just naturally very quiet.). But he and his father sometimes fight. I spent several hours in a car with the two of them on a road trip once and by the time we got home I felt as if someone had been screaming at me all day long. Neither of them even got me involved in their arguments, but just listening to them was emotionally exhausting. My nerves were fried.

I don't think this will happen again. At least I hope not.

U's aunt was saying that she was treated badly when she went back as a teenager. She said that people gossiped about her and said mean things. She said she will never go back. But I'm quite sure the level of gossip among those I will meet could not exceed the level of gossip that goes on within my own family. I'm not too worried. Being kind of a black sheep much of my life has conditioned me to disregard such things.

Then there's a matter of dress. I see images of Iraqi girls in tight blue jeans, looking very Westernized, but I'm told I may have to cover my hair because it's blonde and will draw attention. I don't mind covering up. I like it actually. I always dress modestly. But it seems to be another of the many mixed messages I'm getting about what to expect.

So, I guess that's about it... We've raised almost half of what we need to go. If we don't raise the other half, U may go alone (if at all). This would be extremely difficult for me. Communications are very limited within Iraq, and I would tear my hair out worrying about my husband. I can't imagine being here at home by myself, not knowing where or how he is. Besides, I want to go! I want to form my own impressions! Everything I hear is so contradictory. I want a chance to find out what it's like from my own unique prospective. It will be so fresh to me, and I'll have so much to learn.

Speaking of learning, I'm looking forward to learning a little Arabic. I know only a few phrases such as Ana hebic, and Shookrun.

I guess that's all I have to say for the time being. As soon as we buy our tickets I will know that this is real.