Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fourth Blog Message

Fourth Blog. Carolyn writing, {Carl in brackets} October 11, 2009

We’ve been here almost a month, and we are beginning to feel as if we have the managed to master the daily activities of shopping, food preparation, travel back and forth from our villa to the university or town with a reasonable sense of normalcy. I did miss my ride one morning last week because my key would not unlock the front door so I was locked into the villa. After much jiggling, I managed to break the lock loose and picked up the next van one half hour later. It is a good thing I always plan to leave some extra time so I still managed to get to class on time. It still isn’t the easiest to accept that one cannot travel about without making sure you are meeting a transportation schedule rather than running to the garage and firing up the auto!

My good friends at the Falls School of Business will love this story. Last week, I was explaining to the students why we needed to set up a petty cash account for Anderson ATV, Inc., the business simulation I wrote for my classes at AU. They asked me why that was necessary when every company in Iraq keeps huge sums of cash in the company safe. I tried to explain to them that the United States companies do not consider that a secure way of handling their cash so they keep most of their money in the bank. Therefore, keeping a small amount of petty cash for incidentals is necessary. One very bright young man sat there for a moment and finally said, “Is that the reason why, in American movies, the robbers always rob banks instead of companies?” After I recovered from the humor of it all, I answered in the affirmative and then told the class I had learned something today as well as they had. Teaching in another culture helps you be more aware of the reasons for why we do things the way we do them.

Carl and I finally feel as if we have managed to negotiate the bazaar (multiple blocks of streets and alleyways, labyrinth-like, full of shops that are 6x8 feet in size). We actually went twice this week—the first time with persons who are familiar with this place, the second time on our own. And we were able to find places we had visited the previous time. It felt very good to know that we were able to return someplace a second time without assistance. {In spite of our intention not to do so, we still ended going through the section of the bazaar where they trade in live chickens, ducks, and turkeys ready for slaughter. See comments below, and photo on other website.} We purchased one beautiful silk rug that we intend to use here to keep our tile floors warm; we will give it to our son and daughter-in-law when we return in appreciation for all they are doing to keep our finances straight back home. I even managed to communicate with one shop keeper that I wanted to purchase some curry. The spices are very rich but it is hard to know what you are buying when they are all sitting out together and the smells blend together in this rich aroma. We will include on the other website some pictures we took at the bazaar.

{See some new photos at

Note name change in URL to Living in Iraq. It hardly feels like Adventure is the right term. Let's try Living. I struggle over what pictures to post, or what to say about them. We do not want to say anything or post any pictures that seem to make the people of this community appear to be odd or weird or insensitive. They are extraordinarily hard-working folks who have in the past 25 years lived through an effort on the part of Saddam Hussein to destroy them and their culture, through a civil war, and who live in a labor intensive economy that has not, like ours, totally separated the messy side of slaughtering meats from the purchasing of nice, neat sanitized packages. I just wish it were possible to get motion pictures of some of the laborers hard at work carrying huge boxes, pushing over-loaded carts up hilly streets, repairing shoes at curbside, selling phone cards, or artfully arranging a variety of olives in such a way as to attract customers into a shop. I’m no economist, but I suspect that if we were to try to import the big-box economy U.S. into this setting, the social and economic repercussions would be devastating.}

We probably are socializing more than we do at home because we feel the need of community. We went out to dinner one night with the EWPLI staff – that is the English Writing Program staff who are teaching basic English writing skills and who tend to be on the younger side, in their 20s and 30s -- and another evening with a couple of the degree faculty – that is people more our age who are teaching regular university classes. Both groups were very enjoyable and the dinners out make it nice for us since we don’t {Carolyn doesn’t} have to figure out what we are {she is} going to cook that night. One thing I have discovered here is dessert yoghurt which is amazing. It is much higher in fat content than I normally use, 8 to 10%, but with a little cherry or apricot preserves added, it is a special treat. One finds very little low-fat {or decaffeinated} anything!!!

The weather is still very comfortable. We are having days in the 80s and nights in the 60s. The biggest problem is the blowing dust which makes contact wearing and breathing less than comfortable at times. It also makes picture-taking of the mountains around us difficult. We hope to get some good pictures of the mountains soon. {We are missing the colors of fall here. There are no broad leaf trees like sugar maples and oaks that produce the colors in Indiana. The trees around here are more like olive trees: they are bush-like and have small, gray-green leaves that will likely just turn a bit more gray and drop off as we move to winter. We have been told that the really pretty season around here is in March, April, and May when the air is clear and the hills turn green from the winter rains.}

{Sorry, I have to leave this blog writing to go rescue Carolyn. She is sitting in pitch darkness because the engineers who control electricity for our housing complex took us off of one generator and put us on another. When they do this the power goes down. The power never stays off for long periods of time, like 10 to 15 minutes, but even a minute or two when it is dark is disconcerting. In addition, we lose all internet connectivity when the power is down. The power is back up. We can see. Light is good.}

An experience such as this is great, but we continue to cherish your love and support.

1 comment:

  1. Wait till the cherry season in May/june they are delicious. Nawroz in March is the best time in Suli - the weather is fantastic and everything is green.