Saturday, February 27, 2010
Home decorating options for an expat living in Baghdad are fairly limited. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things available in the markets – but we’re not allowed to go to the markets. And since we’re on evacuation watch (all the time) it doesn’t really make sense to invest in anything. I have a plethora of scarves that I could attempt to artistically drape around my room, but given the dust and sandstorm situation, it doesn’t really seem worthwhile. So, in a moment of white wall desperation, I demanded a corkboard from the market and have been reduced to cutting pictures and text out of magazines to decorate my three by four splash of color.
I updated my corkboard collage this evening (this is the second installment) and was wondering what my selections say about me – both my personality and my current state of mind. I’m posting some pictures of the board – I’ll be interested in any comments.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
There were a series of bombings at hotels the last week of January (one of which was closer than comfort to our office). Five political party offices were targeted last week. Violence has increased in Mosul, with many Christians being targeted. The general status quo is being maintained in Baghdad, although we're all waiting for the next big bombing to take place. The pattern of bombings changed recently - it used to be mostly in the morning, between 9-10 am. The hotel attacks were in the afternoon. Mortar fire would usually happen after dark, but last week there were two early in the morning. There's a kind of comfort in thinking that these things follow a pattern; it gives you a false sense of control.
The hotel bombings blew out quite a six of our office windows, knocked an air conditioner off the concrete wall it was drilled into and the force of the blast splintered a 2 ft piece of wood off our front door. Needless to say, not an experience I want to experience again anytime soon.
A lot of international organizations are moving their expats out of Baghdad for the election and post-election period. We're starting to think that the post-election period may be worse than the lead up to the Big Ballot Day because of the feared increase in sectarian violence. My organization is "drawing down" meaning that most of the expats will be leaving the city. I'll be staying in Baghdad and I hope to blog about the events from my front row seat, so to speak.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
My work requires that I travel frequently between Basra, Sulimaniyah and Baghdad. This means that I get to fly on Iraqi Air - or as I lovingly call it, A Rock in the Air - fairly often. At the end of January I flew down to
We were, of course, flying on Iraqi Air which is right up there with Scariana (Ariana - Afghan Airlines) in terms of reliability and safety. I'm pretty sure that if I meet an untimely death in my line of work it will be on a sketchy ass plane. For some reason they never announced our flight on the loudspeaker, so the incredibly grumpy Iraqi man who checked us in ran up to us about 20 min after our flight was supposed to leave yelling at us to hurry up. Apparently we'd missed some invisible signal, because the three other travelers (yes, all three of them) were already in the waiting area.
Once we got settled on our itsy bitsy little plane things seemed to be going alright, if a little bumpy. Then I noticed that I could actually feel the pilot trying to accelerate the plane - in the air. Now, I've flown a lot, and I'm pretty good at noticing changes in altitude, but I have never in my life (until this trip) actually felt the pilot struggle to pick up speed while airborne. Then we kept gaining and losing altitude - to the point that my coworker and I kept glancing over at each other with raised eyebrows. I even left my seatbelt on, which I never do.
After about an hour of that we landed at lovely
Once we finished filling out paperwork and being scanned by their person size thermometer machine we met our driver and headed to the office, where I proceeded to do about a weeks worth of work in 2.5 days.
Our return flight was equally exciting. The flight was scheduled for 4pm which is never a good sign with Iraqi Air. Now I'm going to segway and tell you about how Iraqi Air schedules their flights - basically, they don't. Each week they make rough estimates of when they will fly, and then change it several times. So, if you have a meeting on Friday you should try to catch a flight at three days earlier and anticipate that it will be canceled at least once. The later in the day the flight is scheduled to depart the more likely it is to be canceled.
So, we're just about to leave for the airport when we find out our flight's been delayed by an hour. When we get to the airport it's been delayed another hour. Now it's 6pm and dark outside. Our flight finally left at 7:30 pm - but at least the plane was slightly less scary.
Upon arrival in
The best part of the entire trip was that I finally got to travel through
*author's note: I've flown on Iraqi Air since this last post, and am happy to report it was far less eventful.