Since I have moved to Iraq to work with Doctors without borders, I have had to adapt to a whole new setting, a new culture, new teammates, new security rules and more importantly to new food (6 months after my stomach still bears a grudge against me).
Curfew is at 10pm and don’t dare to show up late or MSF will send you back home in 20/24 like they say here (20 kilos, 24 hours). Walking in the street is forbidden, we have to take an MSF car for any movement. Forget going out on Fridays, demonstrations make it unsafe and we are prohibited from it. We have dozens of electricity cuts every day, and when you are on the treadmill at 13kms/h when that happens, it’s like getting a giant slap in your face that makes you jump over the treadmill and fall on the floor in a massive “flop”. You could be brushing your teeth at night and the electricity would cut, leaving you standing in the dark like a magnificient jackass with the toothpaste all over your mouth.
Living in the holiest place of Iraq isn’t much fun either. First there is no alcool. Second, there is no music allowed. People are very conservativ and music is a sin. Forget speaking about religion with them. They don’t want to hear of anything that is not in the Quran. There is no actual freedom of mind. Their thinking, their traditions and their culture is so deeply conditioned by their holy book. And whenever someone is thinking a little bit out of the box, the family will take care of bringing that someone on the “right” path again.
One of the MSF local emloyee told me a story. He was once surprised by his father while texting in english. Not being able to read it, his father brought back the Quran and asked him to swear on it. Then he asked him: “Who are you texting?” “Friends of mine father” “A man ?” “No father” “What this MSF is doing to you is not good. You are changing. You can’t deal with these people anymore!”
A couple days after, in the evening, the local MSF staff returned back home after work only to be informed that his family had chosen a wife for him. He would marry within a week. He would marry his first degree cousin.
It is 11 pm and 42°C outside. My AC just broke again. The Logistician is coming to fix it tomorrow but I will have to spend the whole night under a fan hoping I won’t drown in my sweat. It’s been 8 weeks I haven’t left the project for some rest now and I am becoming less eager to discuss anything. The constant frustrations are working their way into me. I need a week end out of Iraq.