Sunday, June 15, 2008

First Road Trip

Within my first week of being in Iraq, I drove (well, I didn’t drive, the driver drove) down to some of our offices that are about 2-3 hours south of my current location. I went down to meet the staff and to begin the project that I am working on, which will incorporate all of offices in N. Iraq, including some unopened ones.

The drive was beautiful – mountains that looked like wind swept sand dunes on both sides and a river running beside the road most of the way. We drove through some small towns, or maybe villages would be a better word. They reminded me of Kabul in that they were little strips of storefronts, all one story, all connected and with the same paint jobs. But here the shops weren’t made out of mud brick like they were in Afghanistan, they are made of cement.

As we drove along the villages dropped off and there was nothing but checkpoints, mountains, the river playing hide-and-seek and white Nissan pick-up trucks. They’re everywhere. Seriously – you’ll see three or four of them together on the road – like little herds of wild Nissans, traveling together for protection.

You could also see lots of agricultural land beside the road – and lots of sunflower crops. I assume they are grown for their seeds, but it made for a cheerful ride – I mean, who can look at fields of sunflowers and not smile?

The checkpoints were uneventful; we were waved through most of them. When I got out of the car at our first destination, it was hot. Much hotter than it had been up north. I visited two offices, then caught a ride with a driver who only speaks Arabic, which was fun. We talked about music, his mothers dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and the economy in the US. He told me about his wife and child, and then told me I should get married and make dolma – then I would be happy.

It was a bit of a frantic trip because we can’t travel after dark, so down and back with two office visits in between was a lot. The next time I go down, I’ll stay overnight, and the driver has promised to bring me some of his mother’s famed dolma…

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