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My Life in Iraq 2

My Life in Iraq 2

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a series of reflections from people travelling or living in new places.

Brent Antonson is Canadian born, and has lived in Estonia and the United States as well as a year inside both Russia and China. He taught English in Zhengzhou in 2011. Antonson has travelled from his earliest days, collecting life-changing experiences in Europe, Mongolia, 49 American states, across Canada, and China.

His adventure is the source of his creative thinking and writing. He published a book about living and teaching in Russia entitled "Of Russia".

His most recent adventures hail from Iraq. Here he shares his thoughts on his life in Iraq so far and the journey will be continued. Stay tuned!


   I climbed the slick marble staircase. Imir carried the heavy suitcase wheezing Kurdish pejoratives. Carl, my new boss at ADIMEAST Language Training, took the light bag. I made like I was suffering with my knapsack. We made it to the third floor, and threw my luggage into what would reflect the standard prison room dimensions according to the Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention. It was small, it had bars on the windows and 200w bulbs you have to special order from the U.S. Good Cop/Bad Cop Interrogation Bureau.

   My room was made from pieces of furniture the previous owners didn't want to take down and dump somewhere. Hence I had an armoire, a desk that would soon disassemble itself in minutes, and a bed. I hate using other people's stuff. If there is a bed and a pillow in a 'furnished suite', someone died there. I'm convinced second hand retailers pull items from the bodies while they're still warm. I wouldn't rule out that they have police scanners, ambulance chasers, or have a large room with people reading obituaries. This equation leaves my bed the product of someone who died and wasn't found until they looked like beef jerky.

   'So, I trust you have everything you need?' Carl said in a statement that had the cadence of a semi-question. He wanted to leave and I wanted to say ‘Please leave me and my circadian rhythm alone...I'm in three time zones.’

   Carl and his right-hand man Imir took a last look at the room, flipped switches that did nothing, and opened empty drawers. I sensed Carl thinking I wouldn't ever learn of the carnage that room had seen in 1974 when the Massacre of the Innocents happened (this is the cost of imagination, sometimes you don't how far you've gone until you get there). He doesn't need to know that, Carl was thinking.

'Oh!' said Imir shaking his head in the disbelief he’d forgotten the most essential element, 'There is your prayer mat.' I turned my head wondering what small print requisites I had signed and committed myself to. Sitting on my prayer table was a 400-point thread count carpet. This was the holiest of holy personal effects. I wanted to say I didn't know which way was up let alone the direction of Mecca but I didn't want to further aimless conversation. There was no room left on my hard-drive. They said their goodbyes with welcoming pats on my shoulders, bienvenues, rushboshes, با تشکر از شما برای آینده and strong-grip handshakes... this posting was for the benefit of both of us. Amideast and I could now proceed. And as their mud-spattered taillights on the Opel blinked and moved out of site, I was no longer as tired as I was.  But it was but an hour until my first sunrise in Iraq.

   The first prayer call is at 5:15am and across the flat rooftops of my suburb of Ainkawa, an inspired man broke the morning's silence with Koranic chant. It was a time of silhouettes, escaping darkness, fading constellations, echoes, prayer repetition, and all of this solidified a stunning welcome to my first time to the Middle East. A few minutes on, a rooster notified Ainkawa that it was time to get up and realize you are still in Iraq and today just might be the last day of the rest of your life. On the Czech Consulate’s balcony, I sat on a worn old business chair beneath a sky of sweet air and a scattering of stars. I knew I wouldn't sleep so I made large mug full of coffee. I packed my pipe with a blend of tobaccos; Cavendish, Dutch Regiment, and Red Bull. Orion was bathed in a curtain of daylight he wouldn't walk across our sky for another 14 hours. And what will happen between now and then? \nothing could ruin the day.

   As I walked around the marble floors in my socks, the large stein of coffee I’d made fell. 32 ounces of coffee spread in all directions. I surrounded my doorway as I saw it rapidly heading towards the stairs. I looked around at my unpacked luggage and frantically searched for towels or....

      ...I am not sure how you make amends with Allah. I don't know if you sacrifice a goat, reduce your carbon footprint, or stop pirating movies. I've had no sign as of yet. But in an attempt to stop the coffee from spilling down three flights of stairs, I instinctively grabbed the prayer mat. It was soaked, wrung out, and soaked again before I realized what I had done. My defense strategy here is genuine; I think one should get turned into a pillar of salt (or whatever the consequences of these times are) on your third strike. I also think this is my first because I never got the memo I was at two strikes and if I am at two, I have an explanation. And I can make truces, barter, or submit. But make no mistake, this was a mistake.

A Pictorial Accompaniment


My balcony



Another view from CZECH SMOKING AREA #1






16 student classes, the way they were meant to work.

Not like last year's 50 crazed Chinese grade 7's doped up on Ginseng PopTarts.



"Hey...Excuse seem to have cut in line; I'm sure none of us wants latrine duty...for taking liberties


SHE'S ON DUTY IN AN HOUR!"   Storekeeper: "That was my brother."

"Of course it was. Karma or no karma, he would have to be your brother.

And he's waiting outside for a friendly-fire accident."





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