MONDAY, 7 JULY 2008
Nowadays email, mobile phones, text messages and online chatting with or without cameras mean maintaining contact with people back home is a totally different experience compared to how it used to be, faster, easier and maybe more personal, but call me old fashioned, Ithink there is still a place for letters.
I received my very first email from home in 2003, all communication before then was via phone calls or snail mail (and with the average transit time of several weeks the term was very apt).
I have been packing boxes of letters unopened for several years, and for the past week or so instead of just filing them away I have spent hours re-reading them, letters from friends, from parents and from siblings.
Over a decade worth of letters with everything from problems at school, to problems at collage to those at work, from girly gossip to broken hearts, from hopes and dreams to exam results, but as well as all that within the lines and in the covers of my letters is the story a of a decade in our lives.
Some arrived by hand, in plain envelopes, others arrived with stamps
Most start with the Bismilla, reliably ornate and beautifully written
The content often drifted to the shopping bills
1992“…Tomato puree has gone up to 19-20 ID, eggs now cost 40ID for a tray! Imagine and I used to complain when they were 22 ID, and I still remember all the fuss when they became 2ID! Those were the days weren’t they?…. “
“… I have been to the souk, I am trying to get rid of all the 50 ID, the 100 ID has been pulled out of circulation, and the 50 ID will be discontinued at the end of this month….”
“…Your father and K were weighed today, lots of dieting, and diuretics for the past few weeks, worked wonders, 6kg underweight…we will never hear the end of it now…”
“…I read your letter to Baba…he is right, your Arabic is terrible…you are forgetting already…”
1993 “…Even the shops in Mansur are empty, Iraqi shoes cost 250 ID, wrapping paper costs 2 ID a sheet, and a bottle of Pepsi is for 5 ID and tastes like urine with sweetener…”
“… I went to see Dr K last night, he had my leg X-rayed, he has recommended some medication that I cannot get here, I am taking the alternative but could you send me some V please….”
“…. We are in a mess, Baba sold the car, thinking he could get a less expensive one instead, but he is no expert and everyone says they paid him too little for it, and now all the cars are 40,000 ID more expensive, and we are stuck….”
1994“…I am knitting like mad, and hoping to be able to sell everything so I will have some cash for the winter….”
“… Thanks you for the offer to buy the dress, but you know once you add the cost of actually getting it in it is not such a great idea, the suitcase is till in Amman, no-one is travelling, and no-one is willing to pay the extra $200 tax to bring it in, so it may not even get here in time for the wedding….”
1995“…. Do you remember L, she got married two weeks a go, you thought my wedding was متخلف you should have seen hers, they had the hall divided into two with a curtain between the male and female guests, she did not even sit next to her husband, she sat behind the curtain…ah well each to their own…”
“… I remembered you the other day in كمب we saw a bar of the yellow chocolate, can you imagine it costs 3500 ID now…we did not buy it….”
1997 “…We are busy getting everything ready, imagine baby powder is 3500 ID, baby lotion is 3250 ID, and I am asking friends to get me nappies instead of presents at least for the first few days, 48 nappies cost 15000 ID, the same nappies in Jordan cost 7-8000 ID… Can you send me some sterilising tablets for the bottles please…? ”
1998“…We have electricity timetables now, so from the 1st to the 21st of November we will get 2-4 hours in the morning, from the 2nd to the 22nd December it will be from 3-6 O’clock in the afternoon and so on, every ten days it changes… but I think they forgot the timetable this week, we have had no electricity at all today….”
“…We cannot travel, A طالبين مواليده and anyway there is no way we can afford it, the cooker is not working, the fridge is not working, the toilet is not working, but I think we will spend our money on a small generator this year, for lights and a fan during the summer, we have become used to the heat without electricity, but for the baby it will not be possible…”
“…We have had no water today, and the electricity situation is worse, in addition to hours without any electricity, when it does come it is cut for ten minutes in each hour…the situation in the heat is unbearable, every time I need to wash the clothes I need to carry eight buckets of water from the garden tap…having no water and no electricity is driving people mad, the man next door beats his wife up when she turns the tap on downstairs whilst he is in the bath and we can hear them…. the neighbours on the other side are the same, he came home from work, there was no water and no his son broke the door handle, he started hitting him repeatedly and shouting that will cost me 5000 ID where will I get that from?…….”
1999“…. I sent you some photos of E… I hope you get them; otherwise that was 9,000 ID down the drains…. I had everyone over for Christmas, it was a sort of Christmas فطور and in the dark, with a rather dark Christmas tree, anyway candles made the room look nice… I don’t like the nursery he is at but what can I do, if I take one day of work they cut 1/8th of my salary…”
Some things just lose it in translation
As she wrote this little poem on the light of her kerosene lamp, she felt obliged to remind me what they looked like
ألله يا لالات
جنا نعثر بالظلمات
جيتي ضويت الممرات
حسبالهم بس هن بالكليبات
خو دخانج الي على البردات
ما يروحها ألا مسحوق التايد
فوك الثلاجه و التلفزيون تنحطين
طاح حظ الي يحجي عليج بالموزين
و خليتي الناس بكزازج مبتلين
مرة فتحة و مرة كصيفة
مرة تنفطرين و مرة تنكسرين
Other situations just go better with English nursery rhyme style
Its raining its pouring
Bombs from the skies are falling
We went to bed
To get some sleep
But at four in the morning
The sirens started roaring
E is crying
A is swearing
And me in the middle exploding
Jump out of bed
Tape the windows
Open the doors
Rockets over our heads are passing
We pray we will see each other in the morning
Somewhere around the new millennium “stamps” became just that
2001“… She is enjoying her new job, the pay is 20,000 ID, that is enough for a pair of shoes, or barely covers her transport fees but she is getting some experience, and maybe will be able to use it one day…”
By 2003 we started receiving emails
2003Sent: Monday, October 27, 2003 8:41 AM
Hi every body, we have just had the fright of our life, at 8.12 the college of technology was hit, at 8.30 the ICRC red cross was hit, at 9.20 about 100 m from the Care organization the police station was bombed, Care’s ambulance with the driver got killed, the whole office shook, all the International staff are going crazy. And now as i am writing another bomb went of in Al Ghazalia police station, it is all happening today, Yesterday about 11.15 at night 5 (MEDF"A HAWEN) were hit from Adamia, we were just saying that things have calmed down and then all hell let lose. I don’t know when all this will end, they are just not able to stop what is happening, I can hear the ambulance as they are going to the station, they say that more than 10 people are killed and lots of people injured.
We have just now been told that the Ministry of health has been hit and the main market in Al Shaab was hit more than 20 have died.
Hope you got the Ramadan greetings, if not well I wish you all a happy Ramadan and hope things workout for the best
Oh yes did you get the prayer rug that A sent you?
But not everyone could or wanted to use it
“…. I have a lot of spare time on my hands now, I have been spending some of it jotting down the family tree, I am sending you the scribbled results of conversations with several members of the family and have managed to piece together both sides of my family going back over two hundred years. I hope you find it entertaining…”
Intervening letters describe the changing situation in the street, the area and the country and my last letter is dated May 2004, just before our home was finally vacated
“…There is no water, the orange trees are dying, we have dug a 90 foot well and I hope we can save some of them…”
Throughout all of this, the letters would end. …Hope to see you one day…. and be sealed with a thank you note to the postman…
POSTED BY 3EERAQIMEDIC AT 00:20 3 COMMENTS
Thank you for sharing those snippets, 3eeraqiM. Thinking of all those years of struggle, love, longing, pain cuts to the heart. (a good thing.)
I hope all the writers and readers are well, and that happier, easier, more peaceful times soon will be theirs.
07 July 2008 08:35
Dear 3eeraqimedic I liked the photos and the post alot. It was the photos that attracted my attention first, then that poet in arabic which is wonderful and real, then I read the post. Thank you for letting us share this experience with you. Sami.
08 July 2008 13:45
Dear Psych team (he he he)
Thanks for visiting, sorry so long in responding (computer problems and busy at work)
I also hope that Iraq and Iraqi wherever they are can one day see better times.
I am pleased you liked the pictures, it was the stamps that actually started me thinking about posting, the "poet" is my sister and she laughed when I read it out to her!
09 July 2008 20:22