Home sweet home

I was tempted to get homesick today. Talking on the phone with my mom I got a little emotional, but managed to pull it together before putting a huge damper on her day (I hope). I’m sure it’s just all the dust….

Right as I hung up with my mom, Joel Osteen’s encouraging email of the day came through. The word was: For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

I got encouraged. I am back in Iraq for another pivotal time in world history. Are you seeing in the papers the notice of troop withdrawal the president had intended for the end of this year? It’s all in negotiation: the exact draw down date and what that will mean for the intense amount of support the US government and military have functioning here 24/7; it’s all happening here.

By the end of the evening, I was counting my blessings with T as we walked together. I am so grateful for all the support and encouragement I’m receiving from family, friends and former colleagues. Even leaving at a moments notice, my boss in LA wished me well. With love, support and prayer, what more could a girl ask for?

Still, there’s no place like home.

Though you may find it equally hysterical that my home away from home address is at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and Hollywood Blvd, like some paradoxical intersection of former seasons of my life.

Below are pictures of my humble abode.

The Simple Life

It was one week ago today I re-arrived to Baghdad. Feels like it’s been much longer, because it’s the same old, same old.

Crossing paths with a familiar face, there is a pause, gasp, reaction, “You’re back!” warm embrace, familiarities exchanged. And I’m walking away with this surreal neutrality that not much has changed.

I wake up, head straight to work.

The first 3 days I woke up early, showered, dusted on light makeup and instantly wondered why I’d spent so much time, when in my 8 minute walk I was melting, beginning to sweat and covered in a light layer of dust. So, by day 4, my routine is popping up out of bed in time to brush my teeth and walk to the bus stop.

From here I ride the shuttle to the entrance of the redzone and escort the Iraqis who have appointments to the US Embassy Consular waiting room as they begin their immigration visa or passport process. Later in the morning and early afternoon I escort them back off the Embassy grounds, and ride the shuttle back with them as they exit the green zone.

<< Ooooph >> as I type, the sinking sound of the earth swallowing itself echoes in the distance. I live in the “East End” apartments now, and the Duck & Cover alarm isn’t activated, so there is no annoying siren telling me to “duck & cover, move away from the windows, take cover and await further instruction.” In a way, it’s nice not to be alarmed.

But back to the simple life. The DFAC (dining facility) hours have not changed. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served like clockwork. Baghdaddy’s the Embassy bar is open for business on Thursdays and a more low-key Friday night. Saturdays the Embassy is lazy is a quiet, and Green Bean Coffee is open for a casual cup of joe. Sundays, the wine club meets. And intermixed of course, each outside entity has staked claim to various nights of the month for LaDiEs NiGHtS and themed parties.

Skool Disco is coming up at the UK Embassy, and I have the perfect outfit. Try as I might to avoid any social scene, there is not much going on besides the who’s who and what’s what at all the locations you have to know someone to get in to. And, yes, it feels nice to have my name on the list. So I participate :o)

Oh, by the way, we’ve gotten the “All clear. All clear. All clear” so not to worry. (I can hear the intercom vaguely from outside.) (Now, if I can hear a speaker through cement, do you think my living structure is securely hardened? Insha’Allah)

It’s a simple life. Minus the threat of loss of life, the routine is predictable. (And how ironic that in my early summation a rocket has landed somewhere nearby.) Amidst constant change, predictability really fosters a routine. And when you have a few thousand people on the same routine, it becomes a rather simple life.

Life is Good Today

Tonight, hanging low in the eastern sky, in the soft yellow glow I saw the man in the moon. Yes, it seems like there are men everywhere!

I had dinner tonight with a pretty amazing man though, my sorority sister, Melissa’s husband.

It was so nice to see a familiar face, and laugh about the monotony of DFAC food & how it all tastes the same. After we ate, we sat outside the promenade in front of the PX. There were a few groups enjoying BBQs around us, playing some great tunes from Sublime to Sweet Caroline.

When Toes filled the background of our conversation, I interrupted to say, “I like this song.” And Tom said, “I’m forgetting that I’m in Baghdad right now. It’s so normal.” All along the promenade are mist machines, drizzling a cool, refreshing fog amidst the 120° heat. Nothing looks normal, nothing tastes normal, nothing smells normal, but chatting with a familiar face, and good tunes blasting through the iPod carries the fa├žade of normalcy.

Speaking of smells, I started my first day of work today. I’m working at the Embassy in the Consular Affairs section escorting Iraqis through the visa application process at the Embassy. It’s much different from my last job here where I ran around, graciously, like a chicken with my head cut off throwing parties, receptions, and greeting the Government of Iraq (GOI). I am working with the people. And it’s not a desk job!

I love it! Yes, it’s hot, but the hours are good, and I will be speaking Arabic in no time, I am sure of it. (I practiced my numbers counting out loud and got all the way to 8 today…)

But, back to the smells.

When I touched down at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) on Sunday, the heat wasn’t the first thing I noticed; it was the smell. The dusty air carries tobacco from chain smoking and hooka mixed with the sweet smell of chai and body oder. Put all this on a shuttle bus, add 30 people, children, and the dousing of cheap cologne and perfume, and you’ve got the worst part of my job.

Tonight at the gym, I brainstormed that I would carry a sack of lavender with me, and tap into an anchor and calming scent…not sure if that will clash with all the other aromas or not, I was also thinking, maybe febreze and I could spray down the seats on the bus. I passed by the PX yesterday afternoon, and wanted a nice scent to spray around my room. Sometimes the array of choices in the scent department gets overwhelming, but my eyes fell on a spray bottle of “lavender, vanilla + comfort” and I was sold.

Do you know what comfort smells like?

I can’t describe the scent, but sitting in a familiar place with a familiar face tonight was comforting. Even on the other side of the world, it’s a priceless piece of normalcy that is strength.

So day 1 of my role in Operation New Hope is good today (thanks for singing it Zac Brown Band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWcr4Sa4LKk&NR=1

Yee Haw

I flew into Baghdad today and have arrived to the Embassy safe and sound.

I have stories from the trip that I will post soon, but until then, wanted to spread the word that AAaalll izzzz weeellllll (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q6wz_eTDBU&feature=fvst)