April 5, 2009

Welcome to America

This is excellent – an article in the New York Times by an Iraqi who worked for the U.S. military as an interpreter and then moved to America.

It is soooo quiet outside. When I ask about the reason, they say “It’s a residential area.” I quietly respond, “What’s your point?” A flashback from our residential area in Baghdad where 6 a.m. is not too early for the chaotic, loud, orchestra of people selling cooking gas tubes, petroleum, street vendors and not to mention Iraqi police convoys and their loudspeakers. But here it is so quiet you can almost hear yourself think. And, more surprisingly, you can finish that thought.

Also, everyone has a car in here. I have yet to see a single taxi. Oh, and the roads, not so good. I did not expect to find streets in bad shape here. But the traffic is amazing, and weird at the same time. They call it a traffic jam if there’s like 15 vehicles in the street. “Huh?” They obviously could use a trip to the entrance of Sadr City, where cars and vehicles stretch as far as the eye can see at all hours of the day.

It’s so weird, and weirder is that people wait for the light to go green even if there’s no one else in the street and no police officer in sight. I turn around to check if my aunt is all right. “Why is she not moving?” Ah, I’m not in Iraq any more.

Yesterday we took a long drive to get somewhere. My aunt is very cautious and alert while driving through a particular neighborhood. She turns to me and says: “Look!” I turn around and spot two empty cans of soda and, like, three empty bags of potato chips all in a polite pile. “This is a bad neighborhood,” she says. I laugh uncontrollably. I can’t help but recall the piles and piles of garbage that I used to see near schools, hospitals, churches, mosques and museums back in Baghdad.

(Thanks to Andrew Exum for the link.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 5, 2009 7:46 PM
Comments

Reminds me a bit of when I was working at a platn nursery in Germany in 1965. Most of the workers were foreign and two of my friends were cousins from the Ivory Coast. Well, at that time Time magazine had an article on Claude Brown who had just written Manchild in the Promised Land and in the article was a photo of Claude posing on a pile of rubble in the ghetto, showing how bad things were where he came from. The cousins were curious about black people in the US, so I showed them the article. They looked at the picture and... no big deal, "Looks just like home," they said.

Posted by: chuck Author Profile Page at April 5, 2009 8:44 PM

Perspective in context...I flashed back to when a Filipino friend became agitated and upset with me for counting $1. bills from my wallet "in public"---in the nearly empty terminal of sleepy Manchester, New Hampshire's peaceful airport.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at April 5, 2009 10:46 PM

That entire Baghdad bureau blog is filled with great stuff, something like twice as many Iraqis in their own voices as I can find on the rest of the internet put together (in english).

But because it's three clicks deep into the website, because I never memorized the URL, I rarely visit anymore Sure, I could bookmark, learn the URL, get an RSS feed, but... I don't.

Great reporting victimized by trivial added web navigation burden, welcome to the Internet.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at April 6, 2009 2:43 PM

Thanks for linking to this MJT.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at April 6, 2009 10:40 PM
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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