Multi-cultural Cosmopolitan Baghdad

Lady at the Chinese Restaurant

Lady at the Chinese Restaurant

Oh yeah!  I just managed to drag my notebook and all its cables from the desk back to the bed, so I can cuddle up in bed whilst typing.  I feel a bit like a hospital patient with a life line drip to the world (or maybe more like a victim of the Matrix).

I am sooo tired.  At least my head ache had gone this morning.  As I went to bed last night it pierced my brain so much I started having an anxiety attack about dying of a brain haemorrhage and trying to work out how the British Embassy would get my body back to the UK.  But this morning I’ve got that lovely tired teenager feeling, where I just want to stay in bed, cloaked in bed clothes, and relaxed but not asleep.  I did a good amount of ceiling-staring before I properly stirred – I think my poor brain is completely overloaded.

What is really taking it out of me is spending all day speaking through a translator.  I can’t imagine how exhausted he is.  Translating my English into Arabic isn’t a problem, but it is tougher for him going from Arabic to English and he is doing so with a classroom of up to ten students (who invariably all speak at once).  But we have a great rapport and everyone is good humoured with the situation and very patient.  I have learned that by barking “shabbab!” (guys!) it grabs their attention.   The most exciting thing is that I think we are really making progress – and although everyone is usually exhausted when they first arrive – having been through long waits in the hot sun and faced aggressive security to get into the Green Zone – by the time they leave in the afternoon, they remain enthused about the work ahead and every one of them contributes with passion to the discussions we have.  I have total respect for their resilience and for their treatment of me.  I wouldn’t be comfortable coming to Iraq to train people if I didn’t think I had some unique skills to share.  Frankly some of the “capacity building” provided by the international community is a bit patronizing and pushes out-of-step values that aren’t relevant to Iraqi society .  But the gang I am working with are very receptive to some outside expertise in a foreign language – and I am very excited about continuing to work with the team in the future, and supporting them in any way I can.



Work aside, we have many laughs together.  Yesterday two women arrived on the course so I sat with them at lunch time in another room from the men and we shared some Iraqi salads and rice and some conversation – one of the women is a part time journalist who spoke a little English.  (BTW we were separate from the men because the room they ate in was too small for us all to fit in). Unlike her colleague she wore a hijab and I could feel a core of strength inside her.  Although I speak no Arabic I can tell by how she is interacting with the others that they follow her lead.   I told her that being a journalist in Iraq was one of the most dangerous professions in the world (press freedom is a real issue here).  She nodded and told me firmly that she liked it.  She specialises in writing about human rights abuses – so she is no lightweight celebrity correspondent.  Again – nuff respect.

In complete contrast I was invited out for a Chinese meal with a group who work where I am staying  this evening (and we were joined by an odd American woman with a strange look in her eye).  I could have been in another world really.  The “restaurant” was really another huge portakabin which they had curiously built a willow-pattern bridge at the entrance – for no apparent reason.  Once inside the international community was having supper.  Beers served in tea mugs.  The usual tack on the walls.  And tired looking Chinese waitresses who apparently turned tricks in the back room.  The company was great and we talked about music, France and Sheffield (which made me miss my old man summit rotten).  Although an outsider to the private security world, I have travelled enough to tell a tale or two and understand how it is to leave an institutional organisation but keep in a similar line of business.    

Earlier I met Salam Pax!  OMG, not only my all time favourite famous blogger, like, ever!  (note – I don’t speak like this normally, this is a joke).  Given his story, and given how everyone back home say how “brave” I am coming to Iraq – I am slightly ashamed to show the picture below.  Yes…erm…..some of Baghdad is actually QUITE nice.  This is the Hotel Rashid.  Not half bad (although I lost a little sleep as I can’t remember if anyone paid for my tea or not and fear I may have done a runner from five star Baghdad).  I found Salam to be the nice man I expected through our online exchanges.  There is some chance I may do some work with him soon – which is great because he seems to really “get it” in terms of communications.  The other lovely lady in the photo is my mate J, who I seem to bump into all over the world.  Where’s YOUR blog then J?  Eh?  Eh? Honestly.

 j, me and sp

So I’m to work now – much preparation to do.  I really SHOULD get out of bed.  [stretch].  I want to get out and about and take some photos to share with you later. [yawn].  Bye for now.

3 responses to “Multi-cultural Cosmopolitan Baghdad

  1. Pingback: Twitted by CarolineJaine

  2. A series of devastating attacks across Baghdad killed at least 49 people, in the worst day of carnage to hit the Iraqi capital since US troops pulled out of the conflict-hit nation’s cities.

    Nearly 400 people were also wounded in two massive truck bombings outside government ministries, including one near the heavily-fortified Green Zone, a car bombing and a spate of mortar attacks.

    The bloodshed struck on the six-year anniversary of a truck bombing on the UN compound in Baghdad in 2003, killing UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 other people.

    ”We accuse the Baathist alliance of executing these terrorist operations,” said Major General Qassim Atta, the spokesman for the Iraqi Army’s Baghdad operations, referring to the party of executed former dictator Saddam Hussein.


  3. Wow, I stumbled upon blog catalog and joined just because and I received an email from them today with a highlight of your blog and I decided to pay a visit. I am glad I did because it has put a face on Iraq that’s humanistic and unadulterated and I like that.

    Happy travels and be safe.

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