In the midst of what has turned out to be a very busy week, I stumbled across this.

It's perhaps the most important thing I've ever posted here.


As Promised

One picture may be all you get. This one took, like, 30 minutes to upload!

This is my house from the front yard.

I'll try again tomorrow!


I (heart) Iraq

Ok, so I still don't have any pictures to post here. Someone already gave me a hard time for it this morning, so I will try harder. Which should be easy because I haven't really tried at all up to this point.

I spent the weekend at the lake boating and swimming. I even got to enjoy some tex-mex fare, so I was very happy. (I won't mention that syringes were found in the lake, though. That ruins the mental picture)

Now, we're all back in our town working hard at what we do. The English classes have been postponed for a week and a half due to lack of cooperation from the College, but Ernie saved the day as he often does.

Have I mentioned that there is a pack of (let's call them feral) dogs in my neighborhood? There are about 5 to 7 dogs that run around after midnight. I don't know where they go during the day, but I see them wondering around late at night. 3 or 4 of them are very large. They look like horses. One or more of them has taken to howling at night, which is nice.


Had Lunch with Haval

Not much happening here today. We had lunch with Haval who is visiting from the US. He was our language teacher in the States. Today we met his parents and his brother-in-law.

His mother made yaprax and it was better than Nyan's, but don't tell her.

They also have an Indonesian house maid! Can you believe it? It's crazy. Gary was able to chat with her in Indonesian. It was surprising to see her in Kurdistan!

We are going to a nearby lake this weekend (Thursday through Saturday) for a company retreat. I am not looking forward to it, but I hope it'll be a good time.



Not much to say today, but I have electricity and internet access, so I thought I'd go ahead and update.

Janie is due back in the country tomorrow morning (4 am-ish). Todd and I will go pick her up from Capital City tomorrow morning (not 4 am-ish). And, no, I don't mean that capital city. I mean H-town. The one my mom pronounces to rhyme with gerbil.

Other than that, the only news is that it's really hot here today. I feel hot and dirty and gross, but I guess that's to be expected.

I still haven't taken any pictures of the new house, but I will. I promise. I'll even post them here so you can all share in my joy.



Yesterday, we went on a picnic.

Yesterday, I got food poisoning.

So, at 2:30 this morning. I found myself puking in the sink. Good times.

You may ask yourself, "Why the sink? Why not the toilet?"

That'd be a good question. The answer to which is roaches.

Yeah, that's right. My eastern-style toilet has roaches in it. I discovered them two days ago and haven't had a chance to get rid of them given the picnic and the sickness.

I will admit, though, that they've been good to me since I got sick, mostly keeping themselves in the drain pipe and not venturing into the toilet bowel. But, I wasn't about to risk putting my face anywhere near them, just in case they were trying to lull me into some sort of sense of false security only to attack me when I was at my weakest.

Before the puking, I spent the evening tossing and turning in my bed and moaning from the pain in my stomach. After the puking, I spent the evening sleeping, so it was good.

I didn't go to work this morning and at noon, I got myself up and dressed. I decided to walk to work because fresh air would do me good. It did for about 20 minutes.

Now I am at the office feeling hot and nauseous. Good times, good times.


Who Exactly is This "Everybody"

Angie says everybody is reading. Well, thanks everybody, but this a two way street; you can give feedback. Here I am slaving away in Iraq and nobody will leave a comment.

Poor me...

Ok, but, really. Lately? Poor me, indeed.

Sunday night my computer crashed. Well, Windows just stopped loading. The computer offered a simple solution: run the original CDs. Simple except that the CD-Rom drive doesn't really work. It ran two of the CDs, but not the third. Yesterday, Gary tried to help me, but my computer was not cooperating. He tried his best, but today I had to take it to a repair shop. So, now they are stealing all of my personal information and installing spy-ware to track my every move.

You may also be aware that Janie was very sick on Saturday and ended up in Jordan for medical treatment. It was really bad for a while, but now things seem to be going well for her.

I also moved into my new house. I will send pictures, but on another day. I haven't taken any yet.

I would have posted more journal excerpts, but there aren't any given the computer situation. What are you all into? I know Sis has been going to hillbilly concerts and Nikki has been busy with the Arts Festival. How'd that go, by the way? I know what Angie's into because she e-mails me.


New Content

I checked out my blog stats this morning and found that June 2007 is on track to only have half the hits of June 2006. What's up with that? Was the content from June '06 that good?

Or is the content from June 2007, that bad?

No, wait. Don't tell me.

Not much is going on lately, really. Todd had hemorrhoid surgery this week at the Korean army base in Erbil. He told me before that he had "meat" on his "hole ass," which I found very funny when he said it and I did not correct his English.

He got back into town last night and is doing well, although sitting is painful. Obviously. He said the Koreans were very nice to him. I think it's the first time he's really been around actual, live Koreans.

He also told me that the night before surgery, they had a karaoke party. It was definitely, the first time he'd ever done that and he sang a Britney Spears song. Obviously.

Keep im in your prayers as I don't expect him to heed the doctors' advice to take it easy for the next 5 days. He's already at a picnic today at a village 2 hours away from here.


Someone Finally Sent Me Pictures

Maybe you've all seen this already, but I just got a copy of this picture. This is Erin as she appears somewhere near I-70 in Columbus.

Rumor has it that there's another billboard where she's climbing a ladder, but I don't have a pic. Sorry.

She is also prominently featured on the Jeffrey Place website.

Thanks to Kate for finally sending me a copy of it.

Speaking of Kate, she also sent me a couple of pictures from prom.

Isn't she lovely?


More Excerpts

This is a long post of some more journal excerpts covering the last few days. I hope it isn't too long for my ADD friends.

Oh, and two Lucies appear in these stories. I will assume you'll know the difference between the two.

Day 4-

"I woke up with high expectations this morning. Today is the day that my house would get water and it was the day that the city was supposed to have 12 to 16 hours of electricity daily. At 9 am, however, I didn't have either yet. I got dressed and waited for Gary to come pick me up and drive me to the office."

"...Todd also gave us a tour of the house and showed us his father's new gun.

He told us again how he had threatened the taxi driver with it. Cory asked to hold it and, before Todd gave it to him, Todd took the cartridge out, but when the time came, he couldn't get the cartridge back in. For some reason, Todd decided to put the barrel of the gun up to his eye to see if there was a blockage. I told Cory that this is how so many after-school specials start. Luckily, Todd did not shoot himself and he managed to get the cartridge back into the gun and he put the gun back where he found it"

"...We headed back to pick up Lucy and then go to [the park in my town]. [the park in my town] is the main park in [my town] and tonight it was packed with people. The main entrance and parking lot were full of cars and the streets surrounding the park were all bumper-to-bumper. This park was once the sight of one of Saddam Hussein's prison/torture facilities, but the Kurds have turned it into a beautiful recreational area complete with an amusement part, fountains, restaurants, gardens and a pond. It's name means Freedom Park."

"[the park in my town] is Todd's favorite place to go in the city. I think it may be everyone's favorite place. I have never seen so many people in the park at one time. It was is everyone in [my town] had come out. It was a gorgeous night, too. The sky was clear and there was a slight breeze. The temperature couldn't have been much above 80 degrees.

Lucy was the star of the show tonight. When people saw her their faces lit up. I mean real smiles, too. Lucy is a little black and white, shaggy-haired dog. And, man, she's a star when she goes out in public. Pet dogs are very rare in the Muslim world. Even in a place like [my town], which is very liberal and full of Kurds who have returned from Europe or the US, dogs aren't common. I am told that the prophet Mohamed deemed dogs dirty in the Quran, so Muslims don't keep them.

But when Lucy walked down the park paths, people took notice. Children squealed with delight and parents brought their kids to pet her. I think in the West we are too accustomed to seeing dogs out in public, but imagine seeing a dog for the first time. A little happy-looking dog with it's hair sticking up and it's tongue sticking out. I can imagine what it must be like because I have seen the faces of people who are seeing a live dog for the first time. There's a moment of surprise and then a broad smile follows. If they don't know anyone can see them, the smile lasts awhile and it's pure and sweet and full of innocent joy and laughter. And, I don't just mean kids. I mean adult men and women, too.

I was sitting in the grass with Lucy while Cory and Todd went to the restroom and two guys passed in front of us. They were probably my age or a little older and I saw them take notice of Lucy. A minute later, I saw them coming back from the other direction. They were whispering to one another and I knew they had questions about Lucy. They had come back just to pet her and to ask to take a picture of her. They both wanted to be in the picture with her and they weren't the only ones. A group of maybe five younger guys followed and throughout the night Lucy had her picture taken everywhere she went.

She's like a one-dog revolution. I don't know if people grasp the importance of Lucy. Just by her being she confronts Islam and people's understanding of what it means to be a Muslim. I don't think I'm overstating it either. I mean these people see joy and happiness when they look at Lucy. They long to touch her and be near her. But their religion says that they must not.

Not everyone likes Lucy. Todd tells a story about an Imam that confronted him about Lucy. The Imam told Todd that Mohamed says dog's are dirty. Todd says, “I know. My dog's name is Mohamed.” Understandably the Imam got very angry and Todd had to run from him to avoid bodily injury."

"...I came home to electricity! I guess the rumors are true!"

Day 5-

"Today was a free day, so I slept in as long as I could. I made it until almost 11 am. I woke and spent the remainder of the morning sweeping the front balcony, porch and driveway and washing my dishes. I had to use the water I had salvaged from the bathroom flood, so the dishes aren't really clean, just clear of food and out of the sink.

Yesterday, I came home after meeting at the office and found that I had indeed gotten water like the neighbors said I would, but I had left a faucet on. All of the water I got ran out of that faucet and flooded the bathroom. That meant that instead of filling the rooftop tank that would have provided water for days, it filled the bathroom.

I filled two medium-sized blue trashcans full of this water and set them aside for later. I know, I can't drink it or bathe with it, but I can use it flush the toilet and a variety of other things.

While I was washing the dishes, I noticed that my bread bag was open. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it hadn't been opened, but rather gnawed through. I don't know what animal did it although I can safely assume it was either cat or rat, I was mostly just mad that now I couldn't eat my bread. I ate cookies for lunch instead.

After the cookies, I went back outside and finished sweeping. I don't know when the house was last swept, but the concrete was covered in dead leaves and dirt. I didn't use any water to clean because I didn't have any to spare, so everything is still covered with a layer of dirt, but it looks cleaner.

I felt so dirty from sweeping and sweating that I decided to clean off with the salvaged water. Even though I knew it was probably dirty, I figured it was cleaner than me. It looked clear at least.

Once, I was clean, I spent the afternoon downstairs in the little sitting room planning for work this week and doing some of the puzzle books Lucy left behind.

Todd called and told me he had found a house for me. Actually, he said he had found four houses. He wanted to go see them this evening, but I put him off until tomorrow. It's very hard for me to say no especially when the person to whom I have to say no is trying to help me, but the simple act of going to see the houses involved too many steps: 1. Get dressed, 2. brush my teeth, 3. Take a taxi, 4.exchange money to have dinars with which to pay for more taxis, 5. Pick up Todd, 6. More taxis. 7. See houses, 8. Find out the rent is too high, 9. Wish I had more money, 10. More taxis

It was just too much to bear, so I stayed home and listened to music and did more of Lucy's puzzles."

"I came home tonight to find my back door wide open. I, of course, assumed that terrorists had broken in, so I went back out on the front porch to think through my options. I didn't have any electricity and it was after 9 pm, so it was pretty dark. I decided to wait it out in the kitchen.

I figured there were two likely scenarios: 1. No one was in the house, and 2. al Qaeda was hiding in either the bathroom or the stairwell. I figured scenario 1 was the realistic one, but I parked myself in the kitchen with the door open to wait for the lights to come on, just in case scenario 2 was the real one.

I listened to a podcast of As The World Turns from April and lit a candle, so I could see and I waited for about 45 minutes. When the lights came on, I searched my house for al Qaeda. I took along a pair of scissors, just in case I had to do any stabbing. I did not.

My house was completely empty and it seemed that no one had been in at all. I guess the door just came open some how. Even though, I knew I was safe, I locked my bedroom door while I slept, just to feel better."


Live From Iraq

This picture to the left is of my bathroom here in Iraq.

Just kidding. I mean it is one of the bathrooms at my house, but I use the one that's inside the house, not this one. Although, they're both pretty similar being that they're both a hole in the ground - what all the foreigners refer to as a "squatty potty." Classy, huh?

You'll notice the bright blue bag of trash in the bottom left corner. I added the trash to make a brighter, more lively composition. I hope you like.

I have been trying to journal this time around. As many of you know, I did not journal last time, and I wish I had. Now I am journaling and I wish that I wasn't. Because I am lazy.

Here are a couple of exerpts:

Day 2-

" When I finally got out of bed, I found that in addition to not having electricity overnight, I also didn't have any water. Janie showed me the empty tank when she gave me the tour of the house, but she assured me that the house got water every other night, therefore, since I didn't have water now, I would probably get it tonight. I did not. That meant a bath of hand wipes and brushing my teeth with bottled water.

I got dressed and walked to the office. I underestimated the distance between the two and ended up walking for more than twenty minutes which wouldn't have been bad except that it was already above 90 degrees and there wasn't a shadow to hide under as I walked. I passed the new elevated portion of S. Street, which I was very excited to drive over yesterday when I arrived. It was under construction last year and it caused a mess of traffic. Now, traffic flows very smoothly through the area and it's a magnet for graffiti.

I love graffiti, so I took some time to look at the designs of the local artists. I have to say that it's low-quality graffiti at best. Things like 'Hama Power' and 'CC For Life' in big block letters with very little color. I have seen Kurdish art, so I know they could do better than this."

" D-Dog was waiting for us in the front yard and she hurried to greet me. I was very happy to see her and she gave me a big hug and ushered me into the kitchen for cold water which I was very grateful to have after my hike from my neighborhood. Janie told me that D-Dog had something very special to tell me, so she did. “Whassup, Kak Aso?” she said and laughed. I laughed, too and praised her English She has been trying to learn some English since she started working with us and, when I left, she pretty much just knew 'I'm sorry' and 'I love you' which she often confused for one another.

She had been practicing 'Whassup' for a couple of weeks so she could greet me with something special. I felt very welcomed by it. "

Day 3 -

" I awoke to another day without water, but I wasn't too upset about it. Sometimes things happen and you just have to go with it. Plus, it's too hot to be angry here.

I decided to walk to the office again, too. When I started, it was zor xoşe (very lovely), but about halfway there, I wondered when exactly I had gone crazy enough to think walking to work in the Middle East in the heat of the day was a good idea. I didn't grab a taxi or a bus, though, I just kept walking. Like an idiot."

" After Pak City, I came home and tried to convince myself to go out and buy a new phone and bread. Those were my two simple errands, but I didn't want to do either one. I laid on my bed instead and thought of ways to procrastinate, but then I remembered that I had given Mr. H (our Kurdish teacher from CA) my phone number and, if my number didn't have a phone attached, we'd never see Mr. H. I bucked up and headed out.

I took a taxi to the bazaar and on the way Todd called to tell me he had found a house for me, so I took the taxi to him instead. The taxi driver wanted 3000 dinar for the trip to the bazaar and, although Todd was only half way, he charged the full amount. I never argue when the price is well under $3, but I always feel the offense of being ripped off jut because I am foreign.

It turns out that what Todd had found was a replacement for the office, not a house for me. The house was in the same neighborhood as the current office and it was very nice. It was also about $300 cheaper than the current place. The landlord took us there in a car with a driver, like a taxi and, when we got out, he told Todd that it would be 5000 dinar for the trip. Todd asked me, if I had it and I did, so I paid. We all went back to the guy's office and sat down and we noticed that the taxi driver came along.

Todd said 'He is not a taxi driver. Why did we have to pay him 5000 dinar?' To me he said 'They tricked us.' I told him that we wouldn't rent his house now because he took 5000 dinar and we both laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation.

I laughed because who in their right mind takes a prospective buyer to a house and then charges them for the ride? A ride taken in a private car, nonetheless. I think Todd laughed because he was embarrassed that they would do that. When we left he said 'It is like stealing. It's not right.'"

OK, that's all for now. I will post more as I have time, but I don't want to overwhelm you with all my exciting, exciting stories.