Monday, March 27, 2006

Baghdad Diary \ January 20th.

Another new day started in Baghdad. I’ve been busy during the previous days working on some papers for my scholarship program. I had to submit a writing sample and a copy of my CV, and I also had to update my application file as the office in Baghdad required them. Another thing I got busy with was preparing to talk online with a radio station in America about the higher education system in Iraq before and after the war. I had to postpone the meeting with the reporter till next week because I was having problems with my internet server. I’ve been also busy being a full time house keeper because my Mother is in Dubai now and I’m in full charge of everything in the house.

An email came from the Fulbright office in Baghdad lately saying that all grantees must take the GRE Exam. So, I had to go register my name for the exam in order to take it in March. The registration time was limited between 12-5 P.M. in Babel Hotel. Many streets were blocked to provide some security for Friday Prayers, and the streets were almost empty because all families spend Fridays at homes. It’s the weekend holiday here.

I went out of home with my Father before 12 o’clock in order to be there in time so that we finish early. I usually go out with my Father when I have some work to do. Not because I am a spoiled child, but because it’s so dangerous for a girl to go out alone in Baghdad now because she might be kidnapped easily is she was alone. Sometimes I wish if I have my own car to go out and do my work independently, but I’m scared of driving a car alone in the messy and dangerous streets of Baghdad.

When I was still at college last year, I used to get to and out of the university’s campus through the students’ park. The park was full of cars all the time, but those cars belonged to the guys rather than the girls because girls are afraid of driving.

Back to the registration at the hotel; I met some of the Fulbrighters there, and we all sat together and filled our registration forms. It was fun to meet them again. The first meeting at the Convention Center was not that good because it was very fast and the place was dangerous. But this second meeting was very much better although not all of the Fulbrighters were there.

So, I finished my registration form after 2 o’clock and went back home to take my sister and go to my grandparents’ home for lunch. I took some photos in my mobile’s camera because I forgot to take my digital camera with me! ( Unfortunately, somehow I lost those photos!! )

After lunch, we came back home and called my Mother to tell her about our news. She said that she passed by the American University in Dubai this morning and she wished that I would work in such place after getting my Master degree in the U.S.

My friends and I decided to go to college tomorrow, but we postponed it till Monday because there are some reports saying that the streets will be closed for 48 hours because of announcing the elections’ results.

It ends here! Those were a diary entries of a week in Baghdad, I hope you enjoyed reading it!


Friday, March 24, 2006

Baghdad Diary \ January, 19th.

A salutation from Baghdad. Since nothing important happened today, I decided to talk about some things that happen in Iraq. Many things have changed here since the war. People in other countries watch the news on T.V. but they can never know how is it to live in such circumstances. It’s not easy for a girl as well as a guy to live in a war zone. This war zone forced many things on me. As a young girl, I want to enjoy my life, have a good job and go out with my friends any time I like. But all of this can’t happen because of the unstable condition and chaos that is going on here.

I like movies a lot, but I haven’t been to any movie theatre before! There were no appropriate movie theatres in Baghdad before the war, and now they are all closed. I, as any other Iraqi young person, prevented from the smallest way of joy in life.

The limitations which I or any other girl has are made because of the so many wars that took place in Iraq throughout the history. Every war changed something and took the country backward until the last war which almost destroyed the country.

I've been using the internet since 2002. I was just browsing the websites by that time. Chat rooms, instant messengers were not allowed during Saddam's time. Even the access to the internet was very limited; E-mails were slow and also limited. When the war ended, the first thing I did is that I got an internet connection at home. It was a Dial-up connection which was slow, but I was so happy with it. I started to get to chat rooms and talk to people from around the world. I remember that my first time I ever chat with someone on the net was on with a guy named Jamal (that was his name or nickname). And I was like "Oh my God, there is someone talking with me here!!"

On the same website, I once got a private message from someone asking if I could speak or understand English in order to have some chat. I replied with "yes". It was the first time I ever talk with an American person. This person was an American mom who had a son in Iraq at that time, October 2003. We kept emailing each other for some time, and she asked me about so many things about life and people in Iraq. Her son was here, so she was concerned. But, one day she said something that I really didn't like at all. She said that the American army was going to bring us food and education to Iraq!!! She didn't know that Iraq, and especially Baghdad was the land of knowledge and educators of the world! I tried to explain that to her. But then we reached to a dead end and she didn't email me anymore. I was mad at her at that time, but then I came to realize that it wasn't her fault when she said such thing and other things. She really doesn't know anything about my country, and this is not her fault. I guess it's somewhat the media's fault that only shows the bad things in my country.

Then on June 2004, I got to for the first time. I went directly to the message boards and wrote a short post introducing myself and asking if I was welcomed in that place. The women there were very nice and kind, and as I expected, they asked me so many questions about how is it to live in Iraq. One question was "why women are forced to cover their faces when they go out in Iraq?"... Well, I didn't know how to answer that question. THEY REALLY DON'T KNOW! So, I explained everything to them in details, and told them that this was never true. They saw Afghanistan, and they think that Iraq is exactly the same as Afghanistan where women are not allowed to show their faces in public or go to work or even is educated. The situation in Iraq is totally different from that in Afghanistan. Women can go to work, go out, go to universities and have education. They don't cover their faces here.

Other questions were like "Do you guys have cars in Iraq?", "How do you go to your jobs?", "Do you have cameras? Can you take some photos and send them?"… Yes sure!!!

But it was really fun to answer those questions.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Baghdad Diary \ January 18th.

I was feeling so bad when I wrote this for the Diary Project

This is a new day and I thank God I’m still breathing and alive. In Iraq, especially Baghdad, people thank God every moment for being alive because we don’t know what we might face in the next moment which can cause our death. You could be walking down the street and get a bullet in your head out of a sudden. This bullet can be either directed to you or it’s just one of those so many gunshots we hear everyday.

Or maybe you could be standing in a long line waiting to sign up your name in the military or police to serve your country and help building it, and somebody comes out of nowhere to blow up himself and cause the death of all who are waiting inline, including you. This kind of explosion will tear your corpse into pieces and nobody will be able to gather them because they are mixed with the other corpses’ pieces! Dark, ha?! The truth is even darker than this, and living in such circumstances is a real hell on earth.

I am a young girl in my twenties, and I have the future in front of me, and life is calling for me to enjoy and live every single moment of it. But how am I going to do this when I’m living no life? How can I enjoy when I see young people dying every day in my country? I can only think that I could be the next!

I woke up early at seven o’clock this morning because Mom was leaving to Dubai on a vacation for two weeks. This is her second time she travels for some country on a vacation. The first time was also to Dubai last summer.

She had to get to the airport early even though her flight was at 11 A.M. the road leading to the airport is very dangerous and filled with Iraqi and American checkpoints. No one can get to the airport by his car or taxicab, there are certain taxicabs assigned to get the travelers from anywhere in Baghdad right to the airport. The cost of hiring one of those taxis is quite expensive because there are limited drivers who are assigned to do this job and allowed to drive in the airport’s street which is dangerous. But there is no other way to get there except for this street.

It was supposed that the plane take off at 11 o’clock, but as everything here can be changed at anytime, the flight was delayed until 3 P.M., she reached Dubai after about three to four hours and she called us from Dubai Airport to say that she landed safely.

I spent the night listening to the radio as usual, and I discovered that there is a new Iraqi radio station starting to broadcast every day.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Radio Girl ![UPDATED]

I was just talking on the phone with the U.S.A., and this time was with Talk of The Nation on NPR Radio! The show was live this time. I was accompanied with other Iraqi people from Iraq. There is no audio for the show yet, but it will be available soon. Check it out!



Hello everyone, and welcome new readers :)

I didn't have enough time last night to post the full story behind the radio show, so I just posted a link to the story without a link to the audio. Now the audio is available in the same story link here...

It all happened on Wednesday morning. It was about 10:45 in the morning, and I was still asleep! Yes, I know, I sleep till late hours :) That's cuz I have nothing to do in the morning, and all my family is out to work and college. So, I was asleep when my mobile rang. I was half awake and half asleep when I answered the call. There was a girl on the other end of the phone line, and I was asking myself if this girl was speaking English with me or it was just in my head!! Somehow I started to speak English as well.. She told me that she was calling from the U.S. and that she's a friend of a reporter from War News Radio and that she got my number from him. She said that they were doing a radio show about Iraq and wanted to interview some Iraqi people on the phone to talk on the show, and asked if I would like to join. I said "Yes" immediately. I am a Yes girl, I say yes and think later! And then she told me that they would call me on Thursday for the show. As soon as I finished the phone call I started to recall what just happened word by word. Did she just say NPR?!

I kept thinking about the whole thing all day long and said to myself "I'm going to be on NPR!!". The first time I heard about this radio station was from an Iraqi friend who lives in the U.S., and now they are calling me to be on one of their shows!

I first didn't know if the show was going to be live or recorded. Then I knew that it was live and that there were people calling to ask questions! It wasn't really hard, I enjoyed it so much. But, again, I was speaking too fast!! I was talking and I felt that my brain was like "Huh??" ...


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Baghdad-Diary \ January 17th.

Several days were skipped in the diary.

A new day has come on Baghdad; I spent half of the morning time sleeping and the other half thinking of what to write in a writing sample for my scholarship program. The weather is very cold in this time of the year. I used to spend the morning time of January at college with my friends attending lectures and enjoying our time. But this year is different; I am graduated and staying at home waiting to leave to America.

Today, I had my first call with an American person on the phone. I was asked to make a writing sample for the Fulbright as one of the universities in America which got my application file requires this writing sample. I had a short time to think of a topic and to write about it in about 250 words. I didn’t know what to write about and I was confused that I might write about something and they think that I might have got it from the internet. I thought that maybe it would be better to ask someone from America about the topics they are interested to read. I could have emailed any of the American friends I have online, but there was no electricity and I needed a response in a quick time.

So, I picked up the phone and called someone I know who has an American work-mate and asked him to ask his colleague about the topics the Americans could be interested in. I could have written about anything that came to my mind like the Iraqi civilization and history or anything of that type, but such topics contain information rather than discussions and analysis, and it would be easy to find that info on the net. So I wouldn’t be doing a good job by this. The university’s decision depends on this writing!

Few hours later, that person called me back and told me that his American colleague would talk to me! I was kinda shocked and refused to talk at first. I didn’t refuse because I didn’t want to talk to an American person. On the contrary, as I was waiting for such a chance to talk with American people and practice my English language for some time. I was afraid that I might not be able to understand what he would talk about. But, as soon as he came to the phone and said “Hi”, I felt comfortable and talked with him freely for some minutes.

I told him that I applied for a scholarship and that I got it and I’m about to leave the country, and that I needed some possible topics to write about that could impress the American readers. He gave me some topics which were easy and interested. I thanked him and ended the phone call.

That was the first time I talk with an American person on the phone. I was very excited for that. He told me that I speak English very well, and I said thank you! I have been studying English for a long time now, and I practiced it through writing only! I had very few experiences in speaking English. Most of the times were inside the class during a lecture when I wanted to answer a question or discuss something. The first time I spoke English out of the class was in an interview with the CNN at my college almost two years ago when I was in third grade. I was attending a lecture of translation when a professor in my department got into the class and told the lecturer that she needed three students to talk before the camera with a journalist from the CNN. The second time was in the Fulbright interview. The third time was today on the phone. And there is a fourth time which is coming soon as I’m going to speak online with a radio station in America!
I went out with my family in the afternoon to buy something for home and some stuff form Mom as she is leaving to UAE on a vacation for two week. I was supposed to go with her but I was denied the visa because I am an Iraqi student!

I spent the night time in bed listening to the radio because there was no electricity, and the home generator didn’t work because we haven’t used it for some time now, and also because of the freezing weather outside.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Baghdad-Diary \ January, 14th.


I feel bored today because I have nothing to do! I want to go out and meet my friends but I can’t because any place would be unsafe for girls to be alone, and we wouldn’t have fun if there were some elder people from our families with us! I am independent but I can’t practice my independence here. I sometimes see girls walking down the streets by themselves and I get surprised at this. Not because it’s unusual to see a girl going out alone, but it’s because I have missed this scene since the war started. I wish to go out alone but I’m afraid to do so.

I can spend my time reading books or watching T.V., but it would be boring after sometime. I thank God that at least I have a good access to books to read, otherwise I would die! I like novels, so I collect and read them. Last year, an American woman helped me to get some books that couldn’t be found in Iraq and mailed them to me all the way from the U.S.A. to Iraq.

I miss my friends and wish to meet them soon. We used to be six girls when we were at college; we met there when we were at our first grade. We all have the same specialization which is English literature, and we all like this domain so much. We used to go out for lunch when we became in second grade, we had a great friendship and we also used to spend some time in each others houses. It was so fun to do this.

The war took place when we were in second grade. We thought that college would be canceled for that year, but it was resumed in May, that is two months after the war. We had our final exams in July, the hottest month of the year in Iraq. The circumstances under which we had our exams were horrible; we couldn’t even breathe well inside our examination’s halls. Everything was messy and we were not used to the helicopters’ sounds over our heads all the time. It was very frustrating to so many of us. But now if you ask me I say to you that I don’t hear the planes sounds anymore because I got used to them very much that I don’t hear anything anymore!

One of my six friends had to leave the country six months after the war. She went to live in another country with her family. I felt very sad for her leave but I knew that it was for her better because things were not showing any good signs at that time, and it was true as everything started to get worse day after day.

The six girls at college became five. Our friendship grew stronger and we became all in one class after being split in two classes. We kept on our goings out for lunch even though it was dangerous. It was fun to do risky things sometimes! We reached the fourth and last year of college and we were filled with hope that we would graduate and get good jobs. We graduated, and some of us applied for the higher studies and the others started to search for a job in their field of study. The higher studies results came out but none of us were accepted! We were not sad for this because we knew it. My friends kept searching for jobs, and when they didn’t find one in their major, they started to search for other jobs that are not in their domains. Two of them succeeded in finding jobs, but they salary wasn’t good at all. They took the job because they didn’t want to stay at home. They left the job after some months because the region where their workplace located was dangerous. One of those two girls left Baghdad and moved to a City in north of Iraq with her family because they couldn’t stand it here anymore.

The five girls became four! Another one of my friends was searching for a job all summer time, and she was about to get one at the Green Zone but she changed her mind when two translators were killed there, and she preferred to work as a saleswoman with a poor salary. My last friend in the group is still searching for a job till this moment. And me, it’s obvious! I got the scholarship I was dreaming of.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Baghdad-Diary\ January 13th.

Education is about to vanish!!!

Good day, this is another day from Baghdad. The days are almost the same here; I have lost the sense of time. The hope I have is the reason I’m still sane in this insane world. My hope is my scholarship which I won to study in the United States. I don’t know what I would be doing if I haven’t won the scholarship. It’s hard to find a job here as I mentioned before, and applying for the Master or Ph.D. degree is something that needs a miracle to be done for the Iraqi students. You can apply but you won’t get it

Thousands of students apply for the higher studies every year, but only few students can be accepted. The reason behind this is the lack of supervising staffs in the Iraqi universities. Many university professors were either killed or they fled the country after the war for the sake of their own security.

There are these envious and vicious groups of terrorists who don’t want my country to stand back on its feet, and they are threatening and killing the educated people of Iraq. They want the country to go back to the Stone Age without education and knowledge.

I applied for the higher studies in my college after I graduated in 2005. I have a B.A. degree in English literature from University of Baghdad. There were about 200 students applying for the higher studies in my college at the same time when I applied. Some of the Iraqi universities and colleges closed the Master and doctoral studies in their departments’ because there are no enough professors to teach and supervise those students.

There is a staff of professors and supervisors in my department who are responsible for the Master and Doctoral studies, they had to interview all of the students who applied to decide whom is eligible to pursue with the higher studies. I was interviewed in a miserable situation; it was very hot in July and there were no electricity in the department at that time. Besides, the place was filled with so many students waiting in line to be interviewed. And there was a competitive exam in August which me and the other students took in an atmosphere compared to hell! The temperature was over 50 degrees, and again, there was no electricity to cool the examination hall, the hall was messy and dirty and there were no good windows to let air come in from the outside. The situation is similar to any other classroom or hall at college!

The shock was that only five students among this huge mass would be accepted to study for their Master or Doctoral degrees! Only five among over 200 students!! The reason, again, is the lack of professors in the Iraqi universities. Those students came from different cities in Iraq to study in here because it is the only place whose departments still have Master and Doctoral studies.

The result came out after a month; I wasn’t accepted. But I didn’t care for it because I was already accepted in the Fulbright Scholarship Program to have my Master degree in the U.S.A.

Oh, have I told you that education is totally free in Iraq?

Peace from the land that was once peaceful…

Photos taken in College of Arts\University of Baghdad. The damaged building is the college's library. It was hit during the war, then burned after the war! It stayed the same for about a whole year. And when it was rebuilt, it stayed out of books and resources!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Be a Queen...

For all the women in the world (including me!), I wish you all a very happy Women's Day!!

Be a queen. Dare to be different. Be a pioneer. Be a leader. Be the kind of woman who in the face of diversity will continue to embrace life and walk fearlessly toward challenge. Take it on! Be a truth seeker and rule your domain, whatever it is—your home, your office, your family—with a loving heart.

Be a queen. Be tender. Continue to give birth to ideas and rejoice in your womanhood… my prayer is that we will stop wasting time being mundane and mediocre… we are daughters of God—here to teach the world how to love…

It doesn't matter what you've been through, where you come from, who your parents are—nor your social or economic status. None of that matters. What matters is how you choose to love, how you choose to express that love through your work, through your family, through what you have to give to the world…

Be a queen. Own your power and glory!

Oprah Winfrey. Chicken Soup for The Woman's Soul.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

To Another Year of Glory...

Attawie's birthday, and I feel that I should at least dedicate a full post for her in this occasion! Attawie and I have been friends since 2001 when we got to the same college. The first two years of our friendship was in the real world or a real land, the other three years continued through emails, chats, text messages and some phone calls after she left the country.

As a group made of six girls attending the same class, we started to make our Birthday parties in the college's cafeteria in first and second class. My birthday was the first, and hers was the second...I don't remember many details of that day, unfortunately, except for me and one of the girls running in the campus searching for the photographer to take us a photo with the cake and gifts! And I can't remember what my gift was either!! I think it was a music box or something like that.

My dearest friend, I am so happy for you that you could make some of your dreams come true during those 22 years of you life, and I am so much happier that you are my friend. It's true that we've always been six girls, but you were the closest to my heart!

A happy and blissful birthday to you, may this year and all the coming years of you life is glorious and filled with success. I wish you another year of glory :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

How About Another Break ??

Hey everyone,

I'm deadly busy with preparing for the GRE these days. My exam is on next Saturday! I have some ideas to write about but I can't organize anything now. The Baghdad-Diary will come out next week after the exam, and then the War-Diary after that.. So stay tuned! And take this break! :)

I got this by e-mail..

A local newspaper ran a competition asking for a rhyme with the mostromantic first line... BUT the least romantic second line. Here are some of the entries they received. (Those are great for SMS messages just in case you were thinking where you can use them

I thought that I could love no other
Until, that is, I met your brother.

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you.
But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar bowl's empty andso is your head.

Oh loving beauty you float with grace
If only you could hide your face

Kind, intelligent, loving and hot;
This describes everything you are not

I want to feel your sweet embrace
But don't take that paper bag off of your face

I love your smile, your face, and your eyes -
Damn, I'm good at telling lies!

My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife:
Marrying you screwed up my life

I see your face when I am dreaming.
That's why I always wake up screaming

My love, you take my breath away.
What have you stepped in to smell this way

My feelings for you no words can tell,
Except for maybe "go to hell"

(¨`·.·´¨) Always
`·.¸(¨`·.·´¨) Keep
(¨`·.·´¨)¸.·´ Smiling!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Take a Break!

Let's take a break from the deadly news...

The latest terrorists threat!

WANTED... cuz of Bird Flu!

Don't get near me, I have flu... Move and I'll sneeze!!