Saturday, February 07, 2004

From Basrah

My Eid holiday is over and I'm back in Basrah again and blogging from the familiar by now internet cafe. It's very nice to see some people remember you over here. As soon as I walked in, the cafe owner and a couple of the regular internet addicts stood up to greet me for Eid. Of course I have to remember to switch to Basrah kiss-and-hug mode. In Baghdad when you usually greet someone at Eid, you kiss them on both cheeks 2 or 3 times starting from the right cheek. In the south you just kiss them once on the right cheek and then you sort of touch your right shoulder with theirs, and you repeat this procedure once or twice according to the level of affection.

The last two days were very hectic. Yesterdays bus trip was the worst I've ever experienced till now. The only empty seats we could find were in the back, and I sat in the middle which I hate. I had to fall asleep in an awkward position with my chin resting on my chest and my neck really hurt after a few hours. There were four women in front of us with a baby that cried during the whole ride.

We stopped for more than an hour at Kut because of a jam near the temporary bridge. It was a one side bridge so traffic from the other side had to wait until it was clear before crossing. Our bus driver turned out to be quite an obstinate and arrogant fellow and he just couldn't bother to wait for a couple of minutes so he stormed ahead to the bridge and the cars behind him followed and there we were stuck. Angry truck drivers from the other side crossed the bridge shaking their fists and our driver howled back at them. It almost progressed into exchanging blows but a young Mullah with horn rimmed glasses showed up and tried to mediate between the two parties. I got really bored at this point so I left the bus to watch the scene. Everyone was listening closely to the Mullah who took control and somehow managed to create a small space on our side through which the cars on the bridge could squeeze through.

We were really late at this point and we stopped very shortly for lunch at Ali Al-Gharbi. While I was in the middle of my barely edible lunch of tishrib the driver started to honk his horn urgently. This wasn't the end of it, just after we passed Qurna we had a flat tire and we were forced to stop again.

Overall, it took us more than 10 hours from Baghdad to Basrah, not to mention that we had to take a taxi to the village. And as if all that wasn't enough, I went inside the doctors' residence to find a double poster of Khomeini and Khamenei gracefully adorning one of our walls. But at this point I was totally speechless.