Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And how do you find Baghdad?

Not too long after we first shake hands, Iraqis regularly ask me "and how do you find Baghdad?" The question is understandable, as most of our staff have spent their whole lives in Baghdad. I'm sure I would ask the same question of anyone born 6000 miles away residing in the middle of my hometown.

I'm about as well equipped to respond as, say, an ant in an ant farm that is queried "How do you like the windowsill?" Its similar to asking Abdullah Ocalan "How do you find life on the beach?" My frame of reference is so limited.

I can't think of an answer that sounds right. If I say "well, I'm comfortable here in this artificial environment, it's really not too bad," I present myself as elitist and overpriveledged, accentuating the differences between us. If I say "Baghdad's awful, the weather is horrible, there are all these bombings, and I'm penned in," I sound ungrateful and overcritical. Most of the time, I say "It's sad, but I have no idea what Baghdad is like" which now that I think about it is fairly defeatist. My new response is "I'm only beginning to get to know it, why don't you tell me how you find Baghdad?"

If I ever have the opportunity to explore Baghdad, I will first accept the many dinner invitations I have received but been forced to decline.


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