18th Blog, February 23, 2010
This past week was a week of celebrations. I turned 67 years old and Carl and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. Neither of us can believe we have been together so long, but we both agree that we really made a good choice and love our life together.
But the real story this week is for the past 24 hours, we have been experiencing a dust storm, our first since arriving in Iraq. As Carl and I came out of the faculty meeting yesterday at 4:30, the air was yellow—a little bit like what the weather looks like in Indiana when a tornado is blowing in. By the time we walked from the Administration Bldg. to the area where we pick up our nightly ride, my eyes were killing me with dirt caught under my contacts. We realized that at some point in the afternoon it actually rained blobs of mud. When we got to the car taking us home, we could see a massive collection of dirt on its surface and the driver had to turn on the washer fluid and wipers before he could see out the front window to drive us to our apartment. I have placed two pictures here to compare our view from our apartment on a nice crisp winter day vs. yesterday afternoon when we arrived home. You may not be able to see this, but the view is the very same soccer field and mountains.
We chose to stay in last night to avoid breathing any more dirt than necessary but awoke this morning to the same condition. (It will take a major rain to wash the skies clear again.) As we arrived at the University, I noticed many students and staff wearing masks and those of us who had not done this were practically breathing and swallowing dirt. Even indoors, one cannot really avoid breathing the stuff because it filters through the cracks around the windows and doors. Everything in our offices and our apartment is covered with a layer of fine dirt and will require a major cleaning when this condition clears. It really is dreadful!
I have included a few pictures of items to show how the dirt has collected on what are hopefully recognizable surfaces. Any place you see yellow indicates a collection of dirt rather than indicating the actual color of the item: white/gray sidewalk by buildings, blue trash container, black automobile.
When something strange, like this, happens we ask about it: how often does this occur. Some have said that this happens a lot in the spring and it is dirt/fine sand blowing up from southern Iraq; others have indicated that this rarely happens. Take your pick. Should it happen often, we can imagine that eventually the measurement of feet above sea level will actually increase in Kurdistan while the measurement of feet above sea level in Baghdad will decrease.
Do not worry. We are fine. This, too, will pass.