Thursday, May 25, 2006
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
I decided to take a walk this morning with my ten-month old daughter to buy some groceries. With the lack of parks/gardens here, that's about the only source of outdoors entertainment I can provide my little one with. But that's another topic for another time.
Anyways, as we stepped out the door into the bright sun, I looked to my right to see if I should go to a store that way. But I changed my mind, and my route, and decided to walk the other way to a different store. There was a black pickup truck standing at the head of our road, with a National Guardsman in full uniform, holding his rifle across his chest. Not an everyday sight on our little road, and kind of freaky. I had my camera with me, but I couldn't risk taking a picture of the guardsmen. You don't know how crazily they'll react, and you fear that you'll stick out in their mind, and have them decide to pick a fight with you. Their uniforms seem to give them a license to do as they wish. I can't say that this is the case with all Iraqi security forces, but many of them do abuse their office, and thus manage to keep us in fear of them.
So I continued the other way, and stopped by to chat with my husband's aunt. She was telling me that her 20 year old son, B, was standing in line for gasoline this morning, and saw some cars pull up and shoot some poor guy in front of his house. His body was left out in the burning sun for a couple of hours before anyone picked him up. Horrible, but sadly becoming a daily recurrence here. May God have mercy on the poor man and his family.
My aunt-in-law asked me if I wanted her younger son to come with me on my trip, but I declined. 'Aren't you afraid?' she asked. 'La, I'll be okay.' I've learned to bury my fears here and to move on. If I dwell on each little fear, life will become even more difficult.
I moved on up the street with my little one, and took some quick pics of one of my favorite scenes in Baghdad- the palm trees that cover the landscape (top). I had to take the pictures very quickly and without really focusing before anyone drove or walked by. As I've mentioned before, it's not normal for a person to walk around taking pictures in Baghdad with their digital camera. You fear that you will look out of place-and be marked as a foreigner (kidnappings!), and you fear that you might be robbed.
As I continued walking, I saw some guys hanging out near a house. I walked very quickly and purposefully. People here don't take walks for pleasure, or exercise, or just to enjoy God's creation. So I have learned to walk quickly and without looking around when I see people in the street. It's tough, because many times I want to just stop and show my daughter a leaf on a tree, a bird/helicopter flying by or a cat running under a gate. But again, I have to be careful of appearing strange and foreign in this country where everyone is game for kidnappings and murder.
We got to the store, bought what we wanted (except for cheese; this store stores it outside the fridge) and headed back home. I took a picture (not very clear, I apologize for that) of some of the roadblocks which our neighbors have set up as a security measure. Throughout our neighborhood and many others in Baghdad, residents have taken certain measures against kidnappings and assassinations, by criminals and Iraqi security forces alike. Anyways, off of our street, they have used old water tanks, palm trees and cement blocks to block off half the road so that any possible criminals can't speed away after a crime, or speed into a neighborhood before one. So here's a picture of a road half blocked on my way home.
Right before I entered our house, I took another quick picture of a neighbor's gate, which is covered with barbed wire- a reminder of the prevalence of robberies and lootings here. This particular neighbor had their oven gas canisters stolen on two different occasions from their doorstep. Since then, they have covered their gate with barbed wire, and put a spiky metal piece on top of their gate door. They had to take security matters into their own hand, because no matter how many times these thieves come to our neighborhood, more than likely, no policeman has the time, dedication nor ability to catch them. And so, chaos reigns.
Here ended my daughter and I's quick excursion outside the house. Notably, we did not hear any guns firing or bombs exploding on our way. Alhamdulillah, we made it safely home.