Thursday, July 30, 2009

"now your soul may belong to jesus, but your ass belongs to the marine corps" (full metal jacket)

Serious barracks

Serious bunkers


The Iraqi army here is really hilarious. Iraqis are known for their sarcasm and clever comments. We were driving to Kadhimiyya from Karbala and we were stopped. “Are you carrying weapons?” asked the soldier. “No, no—just a kaffan” answered my mom. A kaffan is the cotton wrap that Muslims use to bury the dead. The idea is that Muslims come from dirt (Adam was made from clay, similar to other monotheistic ideologies), and to the dirt we return. The soldier monotonously replied, “Oh sorrow, we are going to get killed. Keep driving, mama.”

Or the soldiers close to my house who saw me walk alone once took the opportunity to figure out who I was. "Where are you going and where are you from?" None of which are questions related to their job.
"Down the street and Dubai," I responded as I continued to walk with my head down. The soldier smirked at me as I continued to walk. The next day I walked through the same checkpoint with my entire family, and the soldier yelled "Hela' ib'Dubai!" (Los Angeles equivalent: What up, Dubai!) across the check point. I couldn't help but laugh while my mom urged me not to laugh in a muffled voice. She's always worried about the Indian movie love story that she's convinced will happen on this trip.
Beats me, I just tease her about it. Me and the Iraqi military man with a mind like Rumi's who talks me into eloping and crossing the border to Iran on a donkey. How romantic.
As we walked, I teased under my breath "You know, I can not only get you hooked up in LA, but now I can get you past Baghdad's checkpoints. Holla!"

Another day, moms and I went to the soog, as she had to go to the tailor for something or another. I, of course, took the opportunity to roam around and take pictures of the buildings that I knew so well. “Lady! Stop! What are you doing?!” Two Iraqi military men stopped me. “I am taking pictures, uncle—what else?” I said lightheartedly.
“You aren’t allowed to take pictures here.” One officer took my camera.
“Ok, sure, I will stop—but please, give me one rule and I will stick to it! I know for a fact that you can take pictures here, but you cant take pictures at the Kadhimiyya’s mosque. I am a Kurdish traveler and I just want pictures of my mom's old hometown.” “So you are saying you weren’t taking pictures of the military?”
“Uncle, look through all my pictures. You can get to know each and every one of my relatives at every angle. Don’t be offended when you don’t find your picture.” I teased. One officer cracked a smile. “Give me my camera. I will show you.” The man started to walk away with my camera and expected me to follow. “Listen, I am not walking with you. I am sorry. I am a girl, alone, and you know how the situation is. I will call my mom. She’s around that corner getting something or another tailored. Take us both. I promise you will be thoroughly amused as we walk through memory lane.”
The officer couldn’t hold his laughter in anymore.
“Give me your ID card.”

“Amu, won’t you tell me who on earth brings an ID to a bazaar? Can't a girl take a couple sentimental pictures anymore?!” The officers were laughing at that point and returned my camera.
“Listen, you are right. You can take pictures. Don’t take pictures of the military. Or at the mosque. And be careful, lady. Just be careful" the officer warned with care. I walked away snapping pictures as not to look scared as I remembered why 24 year old girls don’t walk these streets alone. Of course, lesson so not learned...because I love these run-ins. Each and every one of them, along with the hilarity that tends to ensue.
I finally found my mom. "Moms...I was stopped by the police..." She looked worried for a second, until she realized that I was standing infront of her safe and sound. I don't think she worries much about me--I tend to be a magnet for sticky situations, and have learned to gracefully dance my way out of them. Kind of...

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