Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Bad bad weather, cloudy skies and having to turn the lights on the moment you wake up because the sun just forgot to rise or something. I am grumpy, having only Travis to listen to at the office is not helping my mood either. How these guys manages to make everything sound so depressing is amazing.
A quick run thru how things are in Baghdad the last couple of days.

- Electricity: two hours off every four hours, my cousin is calling this psychological training for harder times. He spends his two hours in total sensory deprivation, as in no radio, no light no, TV. Only candles and the sound of the rain. While I use my nifty “converter” which basically is a car battery I recharge every time we have electricity, good for light and a small TV (for half an hour, otherwise I drain the battery too fast) and I am re-reading [The ticket that exploded] for the third time.

- Internet: For some reason the ISP does not have uninterrupted power supply for the servers or something because they also go down with the blackouts. I don’t know, but something happens which knocks people off the server in certain areas at a time and does not allow them to log back on until after two hours, which is the scheduled time for a power cut these days. And three more governorates are going to get internet this week, Tamim, Anbar and Salah al-Deen. Happy porn surfing to all.

- The Dinar: It is still above the 2100 per US dollar, last night it was 2275 Iraqi Dinar. And demand is increasing because of the people who are going on Haj. The Iraqi National Bank did respond to the fall of the dinar in a wacky way, they started selling a limited amount of dollars per day per Rafidain Bank branch for 2000 ID. Every morning you would see lines of black-market dollar dealers line up to get the $1500 they are allowed to exchange per person and then go sell it for the inflated price on the market. Made the fat-cat-dollar-dealers richer and did not solve the problem.

- The Rations: the way the ministry of trade has been heaping rations on people is seriously hurting the price of the goods included in the rations. Many families depend on selling part of the rations to support their income. Wheat is dirt cheap now. You used to be able to exchange 1 kilo of wheat for 7 pieces of bread, but since wheat is so cheap now bakers give you only 3 breads. This also goes for the powdered milk. And we have been getting really nasty Egyptian soap. I am sure they wouldn’t wash their tiled floors with it for fear of corrosion, but I guess it is good enough for Iraqis. Another bad deal made in the name of food for oil, and another well connected trader bought an apartment in London.

- The Jordanian Border: there is now a special area in the Jordanian part of the border-point where they keep “unwanted Iraqis” until they find a ride back into the country.
Best way to go to Jordan from Iraq (if you are an Iraqi, that is):
Take a plane; don’t use the much more affordable bus. You have a better chance of getting thru the border if they think you have money.
Book a return ticket even if you plan on staying, see above.
If you plan on coming back use the bus on the trip back and cash in your return ticket.
Either have a visa to another country or give a believable reason that you can’t stay for longer than 10 days, a signed paper from your workplace stating that this is a business trip for so-and-so days is good.
Be prepared to wait for a couple of hours in a room with ten other people until the officer is ready to see you.
Good luck.
Alternatively, go to Syria. They still have their borders open to Iraqis, maybe not for long.

- The Inspections: nobody was paying much attention until they decided to go into those houses in al-Ghazalia district. That got people talking. Documents or no documents the whole thing is frowned upon. If they do this a couple more times the disapproval will not only be from “official sources”. And there also has been talk about the interviews abroad, the idea of taking your family with you if interviewed abroad does not work, define family for me please. Parents? Siblings? Wife and kids? Aunts, uncles? What? And the Iraqi government knows this, pressure can be applied always.

- The Weather: wet and cold, it has been raining a lot and we even had hail. Absolutely no sun.

-Raed [he is not in Baghdad but in case you were wondering why he isn’t posting in Arabic]: After being the only one who didn’t lose it during his aunt’s funeral, which true to our grief loving ways was 3 days for men and 7 for women, has come down with a bad flu and has a project final coming up soon too. But at least he started responding to my emails.

- Mememe: *sigh* whoever invented the term “between partners” is a desperate optimist. I might as well try here:
Obedient slave seeks Master, whip and users’ manual come attached. May need some assembly. If interested email addy above. I can cook and will wash the dishes too if “commanded” to do so.
Oh….and I have changed Beers, I now drink Sanabul instead of Farida. It is quite unsettling to find a cockroach floating in a bottle of beer you were just about to guzzle Down. This is as exciting as my life gets these days.