Friday, January 30, 2004

We are in Baghdad! Actaully we are in the Al-Mansoor neighborhood and K and I are at Sky Net, an internet station type place. We arrive in Baghdad yesterday afternoon. The trip from Amman to Baghdad was really long and exhausting. Some drama on the way when one of the suitcases on top of the GMC truck fell off and we did not know until we were at this open market at 4 a.m. Another GMC had picked it up and drove past us. We all rushed in the car and our driver had to chase them down. Anyway we got my Dad's luggage back, it was all rather funny.

Getting in Iraq was a trip. The highway, landscape all flat and dessert. You could see the burnt skeletons of cars and various army tanks on the side of the road. When I finally saw some American army humvees I knew we were definetly in Iraq. Baghdad looks more or less the same but more crowded and no pictures of Saddam anywhere (well if you see one it has mud or paint on his face). The streets are alive and busy. There is an intensity in the air.

We are staying at my Uncle Kamal house. This is the house I used to play soccer with my cousin T who is also living in the same house. Everyone was very happy to see us and my Uncle's wife Samaha keeps trying to feed K!
Ahh I love Iraqi food. I feel completely at home. My cousin gave me his bedroom on the second floor for me and K to sleep in. First thing I noticed was an AK-47 under the bed. I asked T about it and yes it is loaded, he said he may show me how to use it. It's the same gun he used when the news of Saddam capture was broadcast and he fired 30 bullets into the air. My cousin has spent 16 years of his life in the Iraqi Army and now he is just studying computers and just wants to live in freedom and democracy. There is a great hope here. When I asked about the American soldiers there is a complex reaction. They want them here for now but eventaully they have to go.

So many stories. My Uncle Kamal is a respected scholor on Shia and Sufism. He's had 14 books published in Arabic and Persian one book that he wrote in 1961 (I believe it was his thesis from Cambridge) that is in English. But besides that he has an impressive large library with hundreds of books on Islam, Shia, Sunni, Persian folklore, Sufi mystisim. My Uncle is multi-talented. When he was studying in Alexandria, Egypt he started taking photographs and got really good at it. His black and white photos were published in many magazines and even won some awards. This was in the 1940's before he got into Islamic studies. He even had some really sexy nudes...women that posed for him. I asked if he was...if he was with these women, and he answered Yes Yes I was with them and we all laughed. We are having a good time.

Just down the street is my Uncle Abdullah who I have not seen since 1984. He is living in the house that I grew up strange but beautiful all at once.

Baghdad is amazing. There are so many stories. We heard gun shots all night (I am told it is because of celebration, weddings and such, but until 7 in the morning?). Also helicopters, jets, weird artillary sounds all night.

K is doing really well. I don't feel freaked out or anything...maybe just a little cautious and careful. K stands out but I fit right in.

We are going to Kazamyia tonight and K has to cover her hair with an Abaya that my Aunt is lending her.

I am advised not to take any video of the US soldiers...we will see about that.

Before we got to Baghdad we stopped in a market place where K was horrified when she went to the bathroom (eastern style, smelly hole in the ground). But at this market they were selling the US food rations, rice, soy oil, etc. It clearly says on it Gift of US not to be sold! haha-

Anyway this weekend is Eid. Many things going on. More food to eat. Oh I am in heaven with all the good Iraqi food. Everyone is making K feel right at home. This is turning out to be really positive and important journey.

I need more videotape!

p.s- I do not have time to check spelling or grammar right now. More later-

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

We are in Amman, Jordan. It took us almost two days to get here with a pleasant layover in Amsterdam.

I'm very tired. I can't seem to sleep at all. My head is flooded with so much excitment and anticipation. Last night we got in late to Amman and my father made us chicken kabobs and told me the story of the day he met Saddam (it's in the movie and I will relay this later). Anyway we drove around Amman and my Dad showed took me to his office in Amman University where he teaches. Every person we met was surprised that I was my father's oldest son (my father got re-married and has 4 and 2 year old boys). We went to the Al-Salt neighborhood and just talked about politics and made jokes about Saddam. K was happy to find some Red Bull energy drink.

My Arabic is still rough but I am trying and winging it as best as I can. K and I pick up most of our Arabic by hanging out with my young step-brothers.

We are not taking a bus to Baghdad! We will be traveling by GMC (thank Gods I say). We leave Amman around 1a.m and should arrive in Baghdad 9 hours later.

I try really hard and not watch the news. Al-Jazeera is not the best channel to watch hoping for anything good.

If you need to get a hold of me please use the email on this site.

I'm so exhausted.

I still think I'm losing my vision...or going a little insane.

I asked myself this question a few times. Why am I returning after all this time? I think I may have an answer. Because I love Iraq. It's that simple for now.

My Father and I are getting along beautifully. Lets hope it lasts.

See you in Baghdad.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Dream...driving through Iraq at night we stop at a very western gas station but with no pumps. It is the only place open, there is darkness everywhere. There are some Arab men giving us strange looks. Inside there is a little store. We exchange some words and we are off. We continue driving on the road, the only light was from our headlights, illuminating the palm trees as we passed them. Figures in the shadows, driving into a gentle dark haze...

One more night and we leave.