Saturday, July 31, 2004

Visiting with "Passion"

Yesterday I had the joy of spending from about 11AM until about 6PM hanging out at my friend Khulood's house. I hadn't seen her since sometime in March, so it was _really_ good to see her again. I'd met two of her sisters before, so it was fun seeing them again as well, and this time I also got to meet a cousin, a niece, her brother, and her mother. Khulood is one of the local staff for another NGO, so she and I met way back when I first got here because we went to several of the same meetings.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that in contrived social situations I'm less than confident. I'm not any good at small talk, I get really nervous, and I tend to do all of the things that make people think that I'm not at all interested in them or what they're saying...when it's really just that I'm racking my brain trying to come up with something else to say. As a result, I've been on the reticent side when it's come to visiting friends and neighbors, and was nervous about this visit as well.

Many people might think that seven hours is a long time to spend at someone's house...and if I'd known in advance that it was going to last that long, I would have been terrified...but I didn't, so I wasn't...and it turned out _really_ great!! Honestly, I couldn't believe how quickly the time just flew by! It was so easy to talk to Khulood and her family! Al hamdoo lillah!

First we just sat on the couch talking and she showed me some pictures from when she was in college...then her sister came in to hook up their VCD player so that we could watch "The Passion." They hadn't seen it yet themselves, but they decided to watch it since I was there. We continued to chat as the movie played. Occasionally we'd start really watching it and either she'd have a question, or I'd feel it necessary to explain what was happening by telling some backstory. That continued through the first disk, as her sisters, cousin, mother, and niece kept coming in and out, watching sometimes, talking sometimes, bringing in more Pepsi for me to drink (!!) or tasty things for me to eat.

After the first disk ended, we turned on her new computer for a while (we were on generator power at the time, so there's wasn't enough power for both to be on at once). We sent an email to our mutual friend LTC Koonce, I showed her some pictures that I have online, she checked up on the latest chat about Iraq on BBC Arabic, and then she chatted with some Egyptian guy for a little while. She definitely knows how to handle the boys. ;p

Then it was lunch time. One of LTC Koonce's favorite things to tease Khulood about is that she'll never catch a husband until she learns how to cook. Well, she took no part in preparing this meal either, but her sisters and mother provided an excellent selection of "salads" (hummos, babaganoush, tabouleh, and potato salad), in addition to homemade tourshee (non-dill pickles), masgouf with a special sauce (masgouf was originally described to me as "the fish that stands up" - meaning that it's cooked on its edge next to an open fire. This masgouf was probably cooked in their oven and had a tomato-based sauce over it which is not usually found with the common masgouf), dolma (grape leaves, onions, green peppers, and eggplant cooked and wrapped around a stuffing, usually rice, lamb, and some spices), and a selection of kouftah (meat, currents, greens, and other stuff in a thick breading and deep fried). All in all, it was a _very_ satisfying meal....and was followed, of course, by tea (in a "stikan" which is a special kind of tea glass - my mom has some now, so ask her to show them to you) and sweets - chocolate cakes in this case. _That_ was then followed by fruit - watermelon and grapes.

After that, we watched the second half of the movie. Her sisters and cousin spent more time watching this half with us and we spent more time actually _watching_ it rather than chatting.

I have to admit that I was a little leery of the movie before it came out...and even when I watched it on the really poor-quality VCD that we got here, I was less than smitten with it. It seemed to me that it was almost comic book-like in how it portrayed the beatings - especially in the way that the Roman guards flogged Him. Why would they take such pleasure in it, and what Roman officer would allow his men to be drunk on duty and so early in the day? It seems to me that He would just have been another prisoner for them to flog. But be that as it may...what I saw as having gone overboard in its horrificness kept these ladies spell-bound. There was, of course, the discussion surrounding whether or not Jesus actually _died_ (even the Qur'an says that he died, but commentators have explained that away in recent years to the point that very few of the rank and file realize the actual words used in the Qur'an)...but instead of seeing opportunity for Judas to be put in Jesus' place, or something else to happen allowing Jesus to be spared, instead they saw Him die a bloody, painful death. And I got to explain why. :)

After that, we decided to take pictures...which meant a freshening up of everyone else's make up...and the application of mine. I'll try to remember to put one of the pictures up so you can see "normal" make up for an Iraqi girl. I think that in all of my years since I first wore make up, cumulatively, I've not worn as much mascara as I wore yesterday. And even after many washings, I'm still noticeably wearing eye-liner. Then we took LOTS of pictures. Then we danced for a while and took some pictures (and video) of that. I taught them the "Twist" and they showed me how to dance like an Iraqi. I've tried this before and been laughed at...but I think that I'm slowly getting the hang of it. I still _feel_ like a goober, but I think I'm getting the general form much more close to what it's supposed to be.

Oh wait. You didn't hear me talking about dancing. SBs don't do that.


Then my driver called and said that he needed to come get me. The advantage of the make up was that, especially when I put my hejab (head scarf) back on, I looked completely Iraqi. In fact, on the way home, my driver and the guard he brought along with him decided that I was Kurdish since that would explain my light skin and my trouble with speaking Arabic. :)

I came home tired, but having had an excellent visit, which I'm sure will be repeated soon, possibly involving a sleep-over. :) Hope that our English school will be able to help Khulood in her search for scholarships to get her to the US. LTC Koonce spent many hours on the phone with her when he was here, talking her through the US Constitution. Now that he and I have both given her Books (his in English, mine in Arabic), they're going to start studying together, with me as the local support for questions. :) We're tag-teaming, so be thinking about her and her whole family!

It was also very nice for me to see that I've really made a life-long friend here. The other girls have several friends in the neighborhood and elsewhere that they go shopping with and such, but I hadn't had that, since most of my friends were in "my" part of town, and the other acquaintances I've made were military, CPA, or within the Iraqi ministries. It was good to know that I've made lasting friendships with local people too - and that we're comfortable enough to spend seven hours together without embarrassing silences!! :)

All in all, it was a really good day!

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