Sunday, May 8, 2011

first world problems

This flight to Baghdad was an experience unlike the last, and definitely unlike my journeys pre-war. First an foremost, I was stopped by TSA (not a big surprise for a Muslim girl in a scarf) to be sniffed and warmly complimented on my perfume with a big smile and "have a great flight!" (big surprise for a Muslim girl in a scarf--and not the smelling good part, obvi. We smell good every day).
I'd spent all of the previous night at a wedding, nearly straight from the 16 hour LAX-DXB flight. With barely enough time to iron my gown and wash my face, my family rushed to Abu Dhabi for friends well worth the effort. The hours after the wedding that we had rushed to were followed by delirious confessions with my family.  My brother Mo's new addiction to eastern medicine rivaled Viyan's secret video gaming obsession in hilarity. Viyan's accusations of Mohammed's robbing a Saks to fill his bathroom with shishi facial products. I ultimately pulled another all nighter to end up on this plane to Baghdad.
            Now here I am, on Jupiter Air, in quite possibly the world's first plane. While peeping in the cockpit, I noticed buttons comparable to those on a 60s Chevy. I walked down the aisle to hear Iraqis yelling "kalb ibn alkalb" and going off angrily about something or another. Behind a young girl sat my mother. The girl lay across a row of 3 seats, and wore a brace to indicate a disability. Her father forced a humble attempt at English to an Asian flight attendant. "She not sit she hurt she," " good bad now please sleep." 
            My mother interjected from behind, "he would like a pillow."
"O bataniya," he desperately plead.
"And a blanket," said moms.
"Shidee rjilha!"
"Please fasten her feet."
The frightened flight attendant gently responded to the demands in an effort not to hurt the disabled girl.
The plane took off, with a heavy native Iraqi presence, and a few American soldier implants. The curiosity to understand the psychologies of the soldiers surrounding me faded immensely since the last time I had visited. Call me jaded, or blame the crankiness that tends to follow a couple all nighters, but I couldn't muster a conversation if I was paid.
I released all thoughts and spiraled into a deep sleep when the 30 year old Iraqi boy next to me nudged me. "It's not good for you to have your head down before a plane is in the air. You really should get up now and sleep later."
Respect trumped skepticism as I managed to lightly smile and lift my head. "Thank you." never bruise a well intentioned man's ego.
As the plane ascended, I fell deeply into sleep for a second time on my mother's shoulder until I woke up to...a ring tone. "Aloo, yes we are flying. In the air, yes" loudly yelled the lady behind me in Arabic. Great, as if the world’s first plane flying into a war zone was not bad enough, now we had cell phones interfering signals while we were in the air. Holding in my laughter, my attention was captured by the father of the sick girl. "Ma'am, water?" he asked of me as he pointed to the half empty bottle of free hotel water in my purse. "Right, of course" I replied as I quickly handed him the bottle, fighting American thoughts along the lines of "what if I was diseased!? He doesn’t even know me!"
Then the realization hit. Like high fructose corn syrup and organic cotton, check yo' first world issues at the door, Laylool.  We are Baghdad bound and there's a war out there.

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