Tuesday, May 10, 2011

don't stop a donkey that isn't yours

I think it's Friday morning in LA, and I haven't slept a full night since last Sunday. My slumber has happened between random flights and power naps, strategically planned to satisfy REM needs. I can barely muster the energy to open my heavy eyelids, but I'm so excited that I have to write. Iraq is...so...much...better!
11 pm on our first night, and 40+ "Hello, have you beens?" later, we stepped outside of my aunt's home to find a wet desert. It was raining in Baghdad. The smell was majestic and the floor damp. My brother Mohammed, my mother, some relatives and I set off for the huge shrine in Kadhimiya--Masjid al-Kadhimayn.
As we walked, my brother commented on the barbershops and corner stores that he had recognized from 21 years earlier. "It looks the same." My heart fluttered as though I was the princess of Baghdad. Why? Because the last time I was here in 09, nothing was the same. The country was barely recognizable. So, in retrospect, I ironically felt incredibly satisfied that the streets surrounding my Bebe’s house were in the same shape that my brother had left it in circa 1990.
  Sometimes I wonder if I mistake normalcy for beauty. Or maybe nostalgia.
            Our Ziyara the other night (visit to a holy Islamic shrine) was followed by a visit to our garayeb, where a shared cup of water was distributed amongst everybody in the house. The water was likely tap, the same tap water that took the roll as #1 murderer of children due to (easily treatable, with appropriate medicines) dysentery under the sanctions. Source, and a good read to understand the repercussions of the sanctions on Iraq's children (as well as the book with the cover image in my father's library that plagued me as a child).
As I sipped a calculated amount of glasses of water to treat potential threats of dehydration and early aging, I rested assured that my stomach had developed a degree of resistance throughout the years. Don't stop a donkey that isn't yours--one of my favorite proverbs from Khalid Hussein's "The Kite Runner." AKA, go with the flow. My petty recurring theme of first world problems flashed in my head. Seriously, Layla? For real? I remembered the days of my childhood, when my siblings and I would all get sick within the first 48 hours in the country. My villager Kurdish grandmother would bake large rocks in the oven that we would have to sit on like little ducks, crying throughout the night.  

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