Friday, May 23, 2003

Pool side at Hamra hotel. Where every journalist wishes he had a room reserved. If they sit long enough there they could just forget that there was a war going on outside the hotel fences. Jennifer Lopez squeaking out of the speakers and cool $5 beers with over priced burgers and salads. “Please put these ICG reports aside I would rather work on my tan”. Stuff like that. They come in carrying cameras, sound gear or big folders with a red cross on them. Minutes later they are sipping on a beer wearing as little as they can.
Read simply refused to get out of the water, he kept telling me that the moment I would walk out of the hotel doors I will be back in Baghdad: no electricity, lines at gas stations, prices as burning hot as the weather and a life that looks as if it will never return to normal. You couldn’t define normal now anyway. Have you seen how a fish flips on its sides when brought out of water? This is how it feels in Baghdad these days. You are not even sure if what you say is going to get you a black eye.
I don’t swim. I sat reading a borrowed copy of the New Yorker. An article about the new X-men movie. All systems on autopilot, I really did wish something would happen that will make it impossible for me to leave. But there are things to do, people to see, life rolls on.

I was marginally involved in something that had to do with 24 pizzas and twice as many American soldiers. I shouldn’t be telling you about this, you will most probably be hearing about it from someone else but it was great. The faces they made when the car would stop and they would be asked if they were the guys who ordered the pepperoni pizza.
It is difficult, a two sided coin. On one side they are the US Army, invader/liberator – choose what you like, big guns, strange sounds coming out of their mouths. The other side has a person on it that in many cases is younger than I am in a country he wouldn’t put on his choice of destinations. But he has this uniform on, the big gun and those darkdark sunglasses which make it impossible to see his eyes. Difficult.
Hamra swimming pool is easier.

The Iraqi Central Bank should open on the 31-5; banks should follow the day after. It was said that the first couple of days the banks will exchange the 10,000 dinar bill for dollars in a gesture that would show that the bills are OK hoping that the way they have been devalued would stop. Your 10,000 bill is still going for 7000 dinars if you find someone who would buy it from you.
There is another strange story I have been hearing relating to the Iraqi dinar. Mainly in gas stations because they are the places with the most income these days, after the day is over and they want to close down. A US army car would come and exchange the Iraqi Dinars for US Dollars at the day’s exchange rate and the Iraqi dinars would be burnt at the spot. I heard this story three different times.
It is not as surreal as it sounds. Saddam printed more Iraqi dinars than the system could support. Too many dinars on the market, the value goes down and the real value is distorted. If the burning is happening then they are decreasing the amount of paper (dinars) that is on the market creating a demand and pulling the value of the dinar up, so it is not a “bad thing”. I don’t see a reason to be as alarmed as the people who told me the stories were.
You know the expression “armchair psychologist”? Well, I am the best “armchair financial analyst” you’ll find this side of the net.
Talking about the net, I wonder when and who will be the first to use [.iq] in their URL. It was not used by the Iraqis during the days of saddam.