In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The weird stuff in Iraq

Somebody asked me today: What’s the strangest thing you saw in Iraq? At first, I thought he meant gruesome as in body parts, but he meant just flat-out weird. As I pondered on the weird things I observed, I realized how things, acts or customs would never be accepted in the United States. I also thought I’d share them with you…

Chained to the ground. We were in Tal Afar, going through the city from house to house searching for weapons, bad guys and bombs. We came across this one house where a guy was actually chained and shackled to the ground. Kept like a dog, there was a bowl of water within his reach. We asked the family why the guy was chained up and they simply said the man was weird and they were afraid he would do something to the children. I didn’t take his picture; I was too shocked to do anything.

Dead terrorist with his butt showing. I certainly saw my share of dead people, but most were fully clothed. I’m not sure how this particular fellow died, but I know he and his cohorts attacked us from a nearby mosque. After the threat was eliminated, soldiers and Iraqi guardsmen secured the holy site. I later arrived to document the area, and there was this guy whose pants were at his knees. He laid flat on his stomach with his head turned sideways, and his hands were around his waist. It’s as if the insurgent pulled his pants down as he died to say “you can kiss my bloody ass.”

Kicking camel. There aren’t many camels in Mosul, so when we came across a few chained up we wanted pictures with them. After receiving permission from the owners, guys posed with the animals. The camels didn’t like my flash. After a few photos, one of the camels kicked me in the groin area. I’ve been kicked by horses hundreds of times, and I promise you that Equine don’t hold a candle to camels.

Celebratory gunfire. I had guard duty the night the Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team played Costa Rica for the right to advance into the quarter finals. Soccer in Iraq is absolutely huge. So big that when Iraq wins, everybody with a gun (which is everybody) is outside shooting up in the air. I don’t know why they can’t just drink a beer instead of firing a weapon, but it’s their custom to celebrate something by shooting into the clouds. I kid you not, after Iraq beat Costa Rica, people were firing from their homes for an hour non stop. Tracers were flying everywhere. It was like the 4th of July with bullets. An hour after all the firing stopped, a man wearing a robe walked onto his rooftop. He had a pistol in his hand and was about 100 meters from me. He raised his arm and fired a single shot, and then walked back inside. At that moment, I wondered why he didn’t celebrate with everybody else.

Donkey pulling a car. No matter where you are in Iraq, you can always count on three things: lots and lots of broken down cars and tons of trash and to see something weird. But in all my adventures, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like this before…. a donkey pulling a broken-down car. I guess you could say this donkey was the king of donkeys. The car wasn’t large and the donkey didn’t look strong, but its owner sure looked mad. He was yelling at the donkey. If I could speak Arabic, I would have yelled… man, the donkey’s pulling your car. He’s pulling your car!

Everything else. To be honest, everything in Iraq seemed weird at first, but after awhile you got use to it. Other weird things worth noting…. Wires: there are wires everywhere. We’ve lost a few soldiers due to errant power lines. Man dresses: for some reason the enemy’s costume of choice are black man dresses (and they don’t wear underwear, so I’m told). Food: they pickle or fry everything and serve with flatbread, which at first tastes odd. But after awhile, it grows on you. (I’ve eaten a lot of pickles since I’ve been home.) Prayers: Muslims pray five times a day, and they listen to the loud speakers from their mosque. The music / prayer call reminded me of the movie Black Hawk Down. Car horns: I swear every Iraqi’s ambition was to have their favorite song programmed into their horn. Some honkers honked and you could hear the honk for five minutes. Obsession with Tina Turner: I saw more Tina Turner albums in Iraqi homes than I ever have in my life. And I have no idea why. It was just weird. I mean, who likes Tina Turner?

24 Comments:

At 4:21 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

Hey back in the day some of us 40 something girls liked Tina! The flat bread doesn't even look good, we have Indian fry bread out here and at least it LOOKS good!

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Sammy said...

I didn't mind call to prayer as long as that's all it was. When Samir was in the tower with us, before he came to work in the office, I'd have him interpret the call to prayer every so often--just to make sure. I'd have subsequent interpreters do the same.

Another thing I got a kick out of were the herds of sheep that would come out of nowhere. They weren't supposed to be there in the city itself but it isn't like the Iraqi police were going to do anything about it. You'd either be on convoy or up in the tower and there would be these herds of sheep from out of nowhere. I had to shoo more than one shepard and his herd away from the perimeter wall where our tower overlooked.

And the flat bread was absolutely fantastic--at least the bread the Kurds had. At times, they'd have some that was seasoned so that it tasted like it had cheese on it. It was really good. And to go up north to cities like Soran and watch it being made in the stone ovens in the market was great.

SSG J

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger membrain said...

Hey Sammy. Thanks again for sharing. I'm trying to picture a flock of sheep here in downtown Toronto, LOL. It sounds to me like you're on the road to a healthy future. I'm sure you've got enough material for a book. Kind regards, Jim

 
At 8:14 PM, Blogger Toni said...

All of the weird-ness is too funny. Tina Turner?? Whowuddathunkit! What a strange place.

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Amber Lynn said...

That's hillarious. Thanks for the laugh.

 
At 7:50 AM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

Smink where are you? You need to check in. Hope your doing alright.

 
At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Sammy said...

Have no fear, Fred A/K/A Smink, is definitely ok. As of Saturday night's phone conversation with him, anyway.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Always Question said...

Smink, I want to tell you that I really respect your getting in front of your PTSD and your openness in discussing it. You're going to help a lot of people.
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Hey folks,

Blogger hasn't let me post for more than a week now. Just so you know, I'm alive and still kicking and still trying to post. But, I guess, I pissed somebody off at blogger.

 
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At 8:31 AM, Blogger Carmina said...

well your first description about the body parts could be a weird thing, but if you live there, that's kind of common. The weirdest thing can be something that would be normal for us. Maybe if you run into a person that has just bought Sildenafil Citrate would be the weirdest thing

 
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