I feel soooo much better after a good night’s sleep. Once I got my brain to stop talking to itself and filtered out the sound of the helicopters (which shake my whole tin can of a room) I had the BEST night’s sleep I have had in ages. At least ten hours. Not surprising really as I categorically failed to get any sleep at all the previous night. The main contributor was the knowledge that because things are better here now, it was very unlikely that there would be any IDF (rockets or mortars) landing over night. Very different from my stay in Basra – where it was a nightly occurrence and kept us permanently on tender hooks (which as a vegetarian, I have just realised is a horrible expression).
The place where I am staying is a collection of porta-cabins reinforced with pile of sandbags and the odd T-wall. I am told that the T-wall’s are disappearing as the city recovers. T-walls are large reinforced concrete 10 foot high slabs – at least they are supposed to be (at $500 a shot one would expect it) – but I learned yesterday that someone recently drove a car into one (by mistake) and shattered the T-wall to reveal it was packed with egg-boxes. Lumux.
I was very lucky to meet Z yesterday – the only female ex-pat where I am staying. I was suffering a severe lack of toiletries and beginning to feel a bit rank by the end of the day so Z took me to the local Iraqi store to stock up. It was great to wander around in the evening sun and gather some supplies (biscuits, yoghurts and what MUST be hooky Malborough Lights at $11 for 200). And amongst the crumbling T walls, rubble and dusty palms I was introduced to an ice-cream parlour – complete with bistro chairs and a patch of bright astro turf outside. Is cafe culture arriving in Baghdad? It’s early days, and the Green Zone is clearly not representative, but as I sat eating the best apricot ice-cream ever, overlooking a football pitch filled with young people exercising, watching a pale sandy sun disappear over the horizon I was delighted with the scene. The reality came in some of the harrowing tales that Z was telling me about her time in the military. Not unusual to find exceptional, incredible people in a place like this – and they are not all Iraqis – Z definitely among them (but I don’t think she even recognises it herself). BIG respect to our unsung heroes.