Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Iraq could be a Garden

I've often been asked by Iraqis what I think about Iraq. There is so much that could be said and not very much of it good. But what I always try to say is, "I think that Iraq could be a Garden." So in that spirit, I'll share with you just a few of the wonderful flowers and plants I've come across here in Baghdad (let me know if you can identify these plants)

1. Oleander or Rose Laurel as it's also known, Nerium oleander botanically. Its beauty hides a secret: it's deadly poisonous, even too bitter for goats to eat (which probably explains its success in North Africa and South-West Asia where it is native.) Legend has it that Lucretia Borgia used to have cups made from its wood which were than passed around from the taster , to herself, her favorites, then to her target. By the time he/she drank, the poison had had time to be infused from the wood and the victim died instantly.

2.Red Hibiscus, probably Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.Originally from the Indian Ocean area. Makes a nice tea.

3. Possibly a species of Jasmine?

4. Acacia

5. Bougainvillea spectabile, originally from Brazil. It takes its name from the French man whose name is also eurocentrically still given to an island in Papua New Guinea. The flower is the white part, the pink parts are bracts and of course responsible for its popularity as a cultivated plant.

6. This appears to be Weeping Bottlebrush : Callistemon viminalis, in which case it's from Australia though it's possible there is a relative nearer to Iraq.

7. Unknown

8. Pomegranate with Kurdish bee

Feeling a bit weak today ... I've got some kind of intestinal bug ... I'll zap it with my trusty antibiotics tomorrow if I'm still feeling low. I've been grading final exams. Very exasperating! My translator was kind enough to help me grade a few ... she was pretty disgusted herself. "They should have learned some of this before they even entered the University," she exclaimed. But I must always remind myself that for the past two years, these students have lived under the threat and disruption of war and occupation. It's amazing that they have been able to learn anything at all.

One odd note: After they took their exams, Dr. Maan, the chair of the English Department, wanted me to have an escort out to the road and wanted to make sure that I brought the tests back when my students would not be on campus. "For security reasons," he said. I learned later from a friend who knows Dr. Maan, that last year at this time (which was just after the end of the war), all the teachers faced threats from the students when they were giving the final grades. So this year there are extra precautions.


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