IRAQ: Trip Considerations

I don’t want to alarm you, but, quite honestly, I’m more likely to get hit by a car than bombed by one – and anyone who has walked in a large city in the Middle East can relate! Sidewalks, when they exist, stop and start according to some ancient rhythm I haven’t mastered and are their own obstacle courses around trees, through outdoor mini-marts whose goods spill toward the street, around plastic tables at sidewalk pizza vendors’ ovens….It would almost be easier walking down the sidewalk sideways. So, like many Beirutis, I walk in the street dodging traffic and cellphone-texting motorbikers. Every taxi pulls close and beeps until I stop, meet his eye and wave him on. Sure is an exercise in “situational awareness”! Abdullah and I are still discussing my trip to Baghdad. It’s hard to get accurate news; I’m learning his news isn’t any more accurate than what I’m often able to find. We have to proceed “as if,” since it’s easier to cancel the details of this trip than to organize them at the last minute. Abdullah is scared – I don’t know if he’s scared for me, for him or for the taking the responsibility of telling me I should come. At issue seems to be the prison break at Abu Ghraib on July 22, where a reported 500 prisoners (reportedly al-Qaida terrorists) broke free. There was a coordinated attack on another jail, Camp Taji, but – again reportedly – no one escaped. I write “reportedly” because there is little independent corroboration; most news outlets quoted the same posting from a jihadist web site – which doesn’t mean it’s not true – we just don’t know whether it’s true or how much of it is true. The spike in car bombings and civilian deaths – especially in Baghdad’s Shia

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neighborhoods – is terrifying. Imagine the desperate families that live there with that ambient terror. Abdullah, Ali and I are taking that into account in determining where I’ll visit as we figure all this out. The current US embassy closings seem to stem from a threat emanating in Yemen. Germany and the UK closed their embassies there, as well. Although the US extended the closings of several embassies throughout the Middle East and Africa until the end of August, the offices in Baghdad and Basra were allowed to reopen. Messages and media reports are mixed. So, I have 2 plans of action for today: Head to the Iraqi embassy in Beirut to pick up my passport and visa and to connect later with my Arabic-speaking friend David who is calling Abdullah to discuss my trip. Our

hope is that David can convey some of the cultural subtleties from Abdullah and I can make more informed decisions. OTHER BITS: • Spent

an idyllic weekend up in the hills overlooking Beirut at a lovingly restored hotel originally built in 1930. David was born and raised in the

hotel built by his Armenian refugee father and mother. David’s Australian wife Judy and I originally connected a few years ago when she was looking for a housesitter. She joined my “list” and asked me to call her when I arrived in Beirut. Now declared “family,” I am deeply grateful for their generous hospitality and friendship….not to mention their breezy veranda with views of the Mediterranean punctuated by 80-year-old cedars! • Writing blogs and answering

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emails as fast as I can! Please forgive me if it takes me longer than I’d like to respond to your emails….I’m running about 2 weeks behind right now. Yikes! Love, Kelly

3 Responses to “IRAQ: Trip Considerations”

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  1. Suz says:

    Hope you got your visa from the embassy. Was it easy or … more complicated?
    I felt a momentary sense of peace thinking about the breeze on the veranda, the cedars of Lebanon, and the sea.
    Safe travels….

  2. Bev Kephart says:

    We are presently in Oceanside, CA spending a week with family members (total of 13) in one house. We will also be spending the evening with an extended family (my ex-husband and his two sisters) It is nice for my boys and their families to all get together in one place. thank goodness I still get along with my ex. Anyway, we are having a noisy good time.

    I look forward to your next blog and news about what is going on in Baghdad. Hope you get many interviews. Stay safe!! We are thinking about you and sending our best wishes.
    Love ya, Bev and Mel