Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, February 14, 2004

I’ve been under the weather since Thursday night but I think I'm mostly recovered. I was wondering what it was that had caused my bout of food poisoning and my friend Mike said, "It's everything." There is no way around it ... I'm living in a very unhealthful environment. I have to be very careful what I eat and drink - no uncooked vegetables for me ... no matter how appetizing they look. And the air pollution is horrible ... there are times when I wish I could just stop breathing. I remember this from before the war but it seems much worse now. There are generators and more cars on the street. I hooked up with one of our old drivers, Mohammed. He proudly showed us his new car (a used Honda). We joked that we liked his old wreck of a car better ... it wouldn't look good for peaceniks to be seen driving around in his shiny new vehicle. There are loads of new (mostly used) cars on the street. Mohammed told us that he bought his car for $4,000 (I not sure of this ...his English on this point was a bit hard to understand) and that before the war the price would have been twice that.

As we drove into Iraq last week, we saw lots of cars driving into the country with no license plate ... they were used cars, we were told, coming into Iraq to be sold. As a result there are even more cars on the streets during the day and horrific traffic jams (I once saw 10 traffic cops at one intersection and they were barely keeping order). I have seen some pretty amazing stunts that get pulled as people try to bypass the worse snarls. Mohammed, driving us to visit his family on the outskirts of Baghdad, entered a crowded traffic circle going the wrong direction. You would expect all the other drivers to scream and shake their fists at him, but apparently they have seen it all before and slowly moved aside to accommodate him.

Now that I seem to be over the worse of my sickness (fingers firmly crossed), I can start to plan for new activities. A visit to Childhood Voices ... an appointment to see in Arabic instructor. A wedding on Monday (Lorna, my travel partner, will be the photographer for the wedding). And on Wednesday, we are heading with the Christian Peacemaker Team to a village just past Ar-Ramadi, to possibly help rebuild a home destroyed by the military.

Anyway, I'm happy just to be leaving my room today for the first time in over 24 hours!

Oh … and although I know you hear worse news about what is happening here in Iraq, I just wanted you to know that it has been relatively calm here in the Karrada district of central Baghdad. We see military patrols on occasion and hear helicopters now and then. We also hear sporadic bursts of gunfire (but it's hard to know if this just isn't another wedding) but I would say the biggest problem we have here is just crime and security. Everyone worries about that the most.


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