Tuesday, July 14, 2009

who's your baghdaddy?

Me and Zayneb on my street circa 1989

My street circa 2009

I heard through the grapevine where to find the neighborhood internet—and it was at our lifelong neighbor’s home! The neighbor, who had grown up with my mom and watched me grow up, was in a chat room when I arrived. Emoticons galore. IrAq4LoVe or something of that sort. “Layla, please pick up the headphones and talk to my chatroom in English! I told my friends that we have a guest who speaks English! Please! And don’t say my name. I have an alias.” I awkwardly picked up the headphones and said “Hi. I hope you are all well,” trying desperately not to look rude or uninterested. She told me what to say, "I am getting my degree in architecture. I am Arabic and Kurdish..." Apparently, Habibi332 wanted to get to know me, according to the neighbor who is my mother’s age. She told me to come back later so that I could speak more English to her friends. I never went back (and believe me I paid for it upon the next visit).

In the meantime, my garayeb (relatives of some sort—who knows how), a 12-year-old boy named Haidoori was standing by. He has assumed the position of my bodyguard since the first night that we arrived. Actually, he just called me to let me know that he would be escorting me to dinner at his house down the road and it wasn't my choice. The kid knows every soldier in town, and walks through checkpoints like he’s commander in chief. “Haidoori!” yells each and every soldier, as my little Kurdish blondie, at 4’9”, confidently strolls through. In fact, one night while sitting in the middle of town, he tried to convince a soldier to let me sit in the barrack because he thought I was tired. Without a clue about what was going on, I turned around to see his arms flailing as he yelled at the unconvinced soldier. Somewhere between holding my stomach out of laughter and wanting to vomit out of fear, I managed to call him over. “Haidoori! Don’t push your luck, and pleeease don’t tell anybody we are American!” Unfortunately, kidnappings for ransom are common around here--and the wrong person just needs the right peice of information for a kidnapping to occur.

So, back to the original story. We left the neighbors house to go back to Haidoori’s house, where my family and his were laying around. Suddenly, the boy had an outburst. “Auntie! Layla has an internet boyfriend! I saw her talking to him, I swear I saw it! She was voice chatting him. She talks to him all day, I am sure! I swear I saw it! I heard it! I am sure that’s all she will do while she is here. Talk to her internet boyfriend. What is this?! Did you know? Now you know!” Not sure how to explain that he was partially correct, but mostly not, without embarrassing the neighbor, I turned bright red. Somewhere in the corner of the room, I noticed my sister Zayneb nearly pass out from laughter as the other ten garayeb sat perplexed.

So, folks. Here is the deal. Yes, I have internet. Obstacles include lack of availability, lack of electricity, and, of course, avoiding internet boyfriends. As a result, posts may be inconsistent. Likewise, the grammatical integrity may also be compromised. I will post pictures upon my return to the land of freedom and wifi, US and A.


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