Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cross-Cultural Adventures in the Land of the Crooked.

Life working with Iraqis is by turns bizarre, hilarious and depressing. Witness my recent breakdown with a team member/friend on my project that has led me to resign from a project that I deeply loved and supported. It all started last May* .... but things began to deteriorate on my project during our summer work. There were some blow-outs (yes, American women can yell and that doesn't go over so well over here). Then I noticed subtle changes between myself and this person. I was constantly trying to get them to communicate and "be straight" with me. I'd heard many stories of woe and difficulties from this person (my boss calls them "film Hind" ... Indian movies) ... they started to sound more and more like excuses, then little white lies, then became deliberate attempts to mislead and put me off.

Finally I had had my fill and I confronted the person ... and they quit (except they didn't quit ... it was just another hostage attempt to mislead and put me off but I'd grown familiar with this behavior .... honestly, we in the West have gone through so much counseling and read so many self-help books, that we have labels for all the disfunctional, co-dependent behaviors in the book ... we make fun of such things now and it's difficult to see people who still take these behaviors so seriously).

So my boss tried to help and intervene, negotiate a truce. There was a meeting with all parties but it didn't resolve anything really and at this meeting, this team mate raised up old issues (issues I thought had been resolved long before) to throw against me and then he lied about me in front of my boss. Anyone who has experienced this type of thing will recognize the feeling of being slapped in the face or punched in the stomach. This guy was supposed to be a friend of mine, not just a disgrunted co-worker. It's a shocking feeling and a real nail in the coffin for any kind of friendship.

Clearly I'm out of my depth. My supervisor tried to explain the two faces of Iraqis; how they have been raised to show a smile while they prepare to stab you in the back. Small comfort this when you are talking about someone you cared about. And yet, I understand it. I can even sympathize to a certain extent. It comes out of insecurity and the blunt trauma of being raised in a war-torn country .... I might even be able to work with someone like that but I can't be friends with them.

And so, later and privately I told them this and then I asked them a question about something that had happened months before, something I'd been nervous to ask about because I knew it might be upsetting to them. Something you just, I come to find, don't ask someone in the M.E. ... atleast not lightly. Live and learn. All I got back was hatred and a venomous anger that was really quite stunning to behold. I'm sorry it happened. I'm sorry they couldn't handle it but oddly enough, I don't regret my words at all. I was just being honest. I was "being straight." But I don't live in the land of the Straight. I live in the land of the bent and the crooked.

*.... but I can't go into this (some folks from work may read my blog and I'd like to keep SOME things private) ... regardless there was some unexplained behavior that I was left simply to speculate about and this led me to ask a question that apparently you aren't allowed to ask in the @!#?'ing M.E.


  • The situation sounds really frustrating. I'm glad that I get to check in every once in a while and hear about your life.

    I still miss Caliope sometimes.

    By Blogger rainbow, at December 29, 2007 6:07 AM  

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