Sunday, February 08, 2004
Keeping you updated, 26 Jan04

Dear friends,

I've been writing this message for about two weeks. I am too lazy to finish it, and each time I leave the message for few days, some of its news become obsolete, I delete them and the message shrinks in size, so I wait few more days to add more news and so on. Another reason for not writing is thinking to myself: Ok I'll write, then what? People will read this, feel sorry about us, then continue with their lives. If it has not been for some certain people who are insisting that I write something every once and a while, I will surely have stopped. At the beginning I used to write such messages because I felt a need to do so, now I write them only because I am asked to do so. I guess this greatly affected the style, and the type of news included. This one, will very likely be the last.

About 2 weeks ago, I decided to start my own blog. I thought that in the blog I can add short comments whenever appropriate before the subjects involved get obsolete. My first problem was with choosing the name. I thought that it was very impolite of the site to ask me to choose a name at about 3:30AM. How was I supposed to choose a good name that late. The site should have at least given me a chance till the morning to choose the name. I was barely awake and the best I could think of was "thougths04". You can visit it if you want at if you visit it now, you'll find one great line there, and that is:


Since then, I haven't put anything yet. But I'll keep wishing that I will add some stuff later.

The situation now is as follows:

- Electricity wise, same same. We get electricity from 8 (the general average) to 12 (The very best) hours a day at best. Though few days ago, we experienced something we've forgotten long long ago. Guess what? It was 7 consecutive hours of electricity, but unfortunately it was from 2Am till 9AM - The least useful time in the day. In return, for the last two days, the average hours of electricity a day became 6 :( As I said before, I've written this paragraph long time ago, now we are having about 12 hours a day :)

Let me give you some facts about fuel:

- Since in our country we moved from one party, one leader, one everything to many parties, many leaders, many everything, I don't see why the case with gasoline should be any different. Now we have the following types of gasoline:

* Reddish, which is considered as the best type.

* Yellow, A moderate poor quality.

* White, Very bad fuel. Barely keeps the engine running, but this is the most available type in gas stations.

* Some times we see greenish fuel. (not categorized yet!)

- Those who sell fuel, stand in the streets with almost transparent containers in front of them so you can see the color of the fuel, and decide. If the container is not transparent, I will not advice buying from that person.

* I used to use the reddish type, but it started to disappear gradually. And now unfortunately, I cannot find any. The interesting thing, is that if you take 20 Liter of the white type (the worst), and add just one drop of red hydraulic to it, the fuel will have exactly the same reddish color for the good quality fuel. This raised another problem. If I do find some reddish fuel on the street, will I buy it, or not? Risky business.

* Fuel sellers also used to mix gasoline with kerosene to increase the quantity, but luckily (regarding this specific problem only) the kerosene prices got as high as the gasoline, so it became impractical to use it as a mix. I hope they will not use water instead!

* The authorities (I don't know which, the CPA or the GC) forbade selling fuel in the black market on the streets, and forbade the gas stations to give fuel in containers. That was about two weeks ago, It was even said that those who do that, will face a maximum of three years in prison!. So if you wanted to buy fuel for your power generator, or if you are unwilling to stand up in long lines (like me), then this caused a real problem. Haven't they thought about that: if someone has a power generator and no car (as is the case with thousands of people), how will he get the fuel? We were forced to buy the fuel in secrete from homes, or from the dark streets at night (We were forced to make such a crime). Luckily, like every other law stated in Iraq, laws only hold for about a week or so, then they don't apply anymore!!! This has always been the case with law in Iraq.

We used to have things like the "Obey the traffic signs" week. The police would make sure that no one breaks the traffic lights during that week, and when the week ends, they will stop caring. The same for many other things, make a low, apply it for few days or weeks, make a fuss about it, then forget it. And that’s exactly what happened here (Thank God).

* Anyway, the fuel problem (quantity wise) is almost solved, but quality wise, I still deeply miss the reddish fuel :(

- Security. Unfortunately, I've heard a lot of kidnapping events lately, but in almost all cases, there is always a catch. Either the father had some political problems, a long forgotten revenge case, or the family is extremely wealthy. Being very rich is a curse now. Many wealthy families left Iraq fearing from such events.

- I've heard of few cases where doctors were threatened to be killed or have one of their family get killed if they don't pay large amounts of money as a compensation for an old incidences where the patient had died or had his leg cut for example. Such a thing happened with a relative of mine who is a doctor and (only attended) an operation for cutting a patient's leg which was necessary to save his life. That was about ten years ago. Now his family came to him asking for 2,500,000ID (about $2000) or they will kill him or one of his family. Such things are more organized than you think, after paying the money, both parties sign papers to document the case. The police does not involve itself in such cases. Yes, unfortunately we are back to the dark ages.

- As for expositions. Well, we hear the sounds everyday. Some are louder than others, some are bigger than others, but we've learned to simply ignore them and go on with our lives. Otherwise, we'll end up locking ourselves in our homes. When we hear about an explosion in the news, hear about the number of casualties, we get a mixed emotion of sadness, anger, and helplessness. We curse those who do such crazy acts, but again we go on with our lives. We always had the feeling that this will always happen to someone else, someone we don't know, someone we don't relate to. We are untouchables. Well, It doesn't need a smart one to know that I am wrong, and I am just fooling myself. The last big explosion that happened near the "Jamhuriah bridge" (at about 8:00AM Sunday 11 January), killed the brother of a friend of mine. He, like many others was going to his work, but was unfortunate enough to be in the car next to the one that exploded. He is married with three children, the youngest being few months old. They spent two days without knowing anything about him, no one to ask, no one to turn to. I wonder, if they wanted to blame someone, who will that be: The man who did this, the people who tricked him in doing this, the Coalition for invading the country, or Saddam for giving the Coalition the excuse to invade our country? Good question, isn't it?

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is brought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?" - Gandhi -

- Another subject that worth mentioning, is the way the Americans (referring to the armed forces) drive in our streets. It is very common for them to drive on the wrong side and at high speeds. So at any moment, one might find himself facing a humvee or a tank, and if he is lucky enough, he'll be able to escape them. When one drives very carelessly in a street in Iraq, we say he is driving as if the street belongs to his father (il shari3 mal beet il khallifoo) Is that the case with the Americans? Do our streets belong to their ancestors? Only in the past two weeks, I've heard about three people whom I know who had car incidences with the US army's Vehicles. In one case, they stopped, gave the man a number to call, and in the other cases, they simply continued going in their (wrong) way. Three incidences with people that I KNOW, should give you an idea of how much this is happening in general. Drivers are doing their best now to avoid being anywhere near an army troop. No one knows what might happen at any moment. (There is an Arabic essay which says: Go far from danger, and sing for it - Ib3id 3an al shar wa ghanillu)

Our currency:

In the past month, the value of the Iraqi dinar varied from 2000ID for 1$ to 1000ID. This was caused partly because of the deadline for replacing the old currency which was 15 January 04. Now it is varying in the range of 1300 to 1500. Having such large changes in such a short period, caused a lot of problems and confusion to everyone. People either get paid in US dollars or in Iraqi dinar. So some had the value of their payments dropped to almost half while its doubled for others!! now it is almost settled in between.

There is one subject that I haven't talked about in this message and that's whether to have "elections or selections" as was expressed by one of the station. Well, this is a rather complicated subject and deserves an email of its own. I wonder if I will right that email?

PS: You know..After reading my message, and for a certain paragraph that was in it, I decided that I should either remove my name from the letter, or that I should delete the paragraph. Just having such thoughts got me scared, I thought to myself "Oh my God", this was the case in Saddam's days, we should be able to write freely now without being scared, Unfortunately this feeling started creeping back to us because of many different reasons.