Saturday, July 18, 2009

Baghdad: love it or leave it

Since my last post I have traveled from Baghdad to Sulimaniyah and back to Baghdad by road. I've also been from Suli to Erbil and back. That's about 19 hours total of car time. I also turned 30, and permanently relocated to our Baghdad office. It's been a busy two weeks.

During my most recent drive down to Baghdad I noticed a lot more Iraqi security on the road, both army and police. This had the opposite effect of making me feel more safe. To enterain myself, I watched the dust devils on the road, learned the word for pommegranite in Arabic (Ro-man) and realized that I am the only person I know who admits to wearing a disguise for their job. I do consider wearing the hijab to be a disguise (and if you saw how different I look, you'd agree). I also considered that other people who wear disguises for work get paid far better than I do - but I decided to abandon that line of thought early on.

So, here I am. The airconditioner is broken in my bedroom, which is super unfortunate because it's about a million degrees outside, and I have way more work than I know what to do with. I spent Thursday going to a couple high level meetings with my regional director, and generally trying not to make an ass out of myself.

I'm new to Baghdad, and don't pretend to have my finger on the pulse of the city, but there seems to be a feeling of waiting to see what will happen. It started when the Americans pulled out of the cities, and it hasn't gone away. There have been quite a few bombings, largely targeting the Shia population, and alot of rumors of things to come. With the elections coming, the general feeling is that the next few months will make or break Iraq's fledgling democracy. We've been warned to be prepared for evacuation, and we've limited the number of expats in Baghdad to a crazy few.

In spite of that, I'm happy to be here (hence the crazy part). I'm thrilled to finally be able to visit programs that are relevant to my job, and to be working directly with the people who need it the most. I hope to be witness to the truimph of the Iraqi people in overcoming the internal conflict that has plagued them, fed largely by the US occupation.

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