High School Reunion in Iraq

Well actually Jordan, but Iraq in the title makes it much more catchy. Ha, ha made ya look.

After the PWD Advocacy Training that took place in Iraq I had arranged to meet my friend Kim who is a reporter with Associated Press in Baghdad. Kim and I met sophomore year of high school through a mutual friend Leslie. Leslie was preoccupied with men and her dream in life was to grow up and get married. She did and now her husband doesn’t like her to have any contact with any of her old friends from her “wild days.” I can’t imagine having my life’s dream fulfilled in one day. Kim and I had bigger dreams.

We lost contact when I was about 22, she went to Russia for awhile and I pursuing my MA in Wheelchair Basketball/International Relations. Then in 2006, I received an e-mail from out of the blue. It was Kim, she had read my quote on the Starbucks cup and contacted me. At that time she was an AP reporter in Iraq and less than a year later I took a job with Mercy Corps, stationed in Kuwait, working in Iraq. It was weird to meet my best friend from High School in such a far away place.

Because she works in Iraq, Kim outs regularly for two week of R & R, because I’m stationed in Kuwait there is no R & R, but really the Kuwaiti government should have to pay non-Kuwaitis to live here. Unfortunately they don’t think so. We e-mailed back and forth for awhile, but I was in the Middle East for 8 months before we finally saw each other face to face.

I was supposed to have arrived in Amman, Jordan by noon, but Royal Jordanian is regularly late or sometimes they just cancel the flight all together. The flight was delayed at first until 1:00 p.m. and then until 6:00 p.m. So I didn’t get to Amman until 8:00 p.m. and didn’t get to the hotel where I was meeting Kim until almost 9:00. We had rooms right next to each other and going by her door I knocked. She opened the door, her ear glued to a cell phone smiled and gave me the one minute sign.

I went to my room and unpacked.

20 minutes later I yelled come in to a knock on my door. “Tippy,” she said, using my old high school nickname as she enfolded me in a hug. I used her old high school nickname too, but she informed me that she doesn’t go by that anymore and she doesn’t want anyone to hear it. So I won’t even tell you what it was.

I would have known her anywhere. She was still soft-spoken, but she no longer bites her nails, which she did consistently in HS and she has a calm self-assurance about her that wasn’t there back when we were 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. I was impressed with the person she had become and even more so after spending four days with her.

We went out to Indian food that night, met a group of her friends for drinks afterwards and made plans to sleep in the next morning, some things never change, Kim was always a late riser in HS, and we made plans to go to visit the Roman Ruins, Jeresh, right outside of Jordan the next day.

So not only had Kim gained a quiet self-assurance and confidence, but she had developed an insatiable addiction to coffee, Starbucks to be precise. She only drank diet Coke in High School. I drank coffee, but I had started drinking coffee with my cream and sugar in the social hour after church at age 12 to stunt my growth. I was 5’10 by the time I was 14, got to be 6’ in high school and gained my extra inch in college. So obviously the “caffine stunts your growth” thing that our parents always used to say is either an urban legend or I just didn’t start drinking in soon enough.

We had a pleasant drive out to Jeresh, stopping once for gas and diet Coke, which Kim still drinks and then we spent two hours wandering around Jeresh. Although Kim has spent a lot of time in Jordan she had never been to the Roman Ruins. I had seen them in 1999 when my mother was stationed with the State Department in Jordan. What I remember most was the ruts in the marble caused by the chariots.

After two hours wandering the ruins in the dead heat, we meandered through the gift stalls that I don’t remember being there in 1999. I found Iraq key chains in Jordan, there are none to be had in Iraq and promptly bought 12 of them. Kim bought a couple too and then we headed back to our hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool.

As the sun went behind a building shading the pool area, bad architectural planning on the part of the hotel, Kim got up and announced she needed to work out. I don’t remember Kim ever exercising in high school. She hadn’t played sports when we were kids, but she had also developed a love of working out. Which I have developed a loathing for, I think because I spent so much time in gyms after high school. I love the results of working out, but I resent the time commitment.

That night we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was the first time I’d had Italian food since I moved to the Middle East.

One of the most disturbing things that I discovered about Kim and me is that we both work too much, I wouldn’t call us work-alcoholics, but we definitely need work/life boundaries. We were leaving for the Dead Sea on Tuesday, but I had to be at the office at 1:00 p.m. to do an interview with “The Takeaway,” about the work that I’m doing in Iraq. It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. In addition to the interview they asked me to provide a blog, which I didn’t have a chance to do during the training. After my interview, Kim and I left for the Dead Sea, we were staying at the Marriott and then the next day we were doing a Spa Day at the Movenpick.

When we arrived at the Marriot, we ordered room service, a little snack, a bottle of wine and then we sat down to work. The deal was that we would work that evening and then not work the rest of the trip. She got on the internet and I started working on my blog, my one stipulation was that we had to walk down to the sea for the sunset, we barely made it. We worked until about 8:30 and then we took a golf cart over to the Movenpick for dinner, we had stirfry you pick all the stuff you want out and then they cook it up for you. After a leisurely dinner, we headed back to our room for more work, the plan was to get up at a reasonable hour, have breakfast at the buffet and then head over to the Movenpick to hang out at the pools and our Spa treatments, a salt rub, a dead sea body mask and massages would start at three p.m.

The next day we actually made it to the Movenpick by noon, but unfortunately I had left my memory card for my camera in my computer. We took up beach chairs by a pool that the first half was a sandy beach and the second half was actually a pool and the water flowed out over an infinity edge which made it look like it was part of the Dead Sea. Kim chose to be out in the sun, I chose a lawn chair underneath an umbrella, I came away with a tan, Kim came away white, probably because I kept going out to goof off in the pool. Around 2 p.m. we got hungry so I swam over to the bar area grabbed a menu, which was laminated, threw it in the pool and then swam it back to Kim. In the shallow part I put in on my head “Look I’m frog, under my lilypad.” Water seems to turn me into a child, well maybe its not just the water, but I have a tendency to go flips and handstands. As teenagers Kim and I were two members of the Frog Search and Rescue Committee, that we formed to help all the tree frogs that got into trouble in the pool at my house at the ranch. We often put the poor frogs on our inner tubes and give them tours around the pool. Poor frogs.

I had a Greek salad, we took one last tour in the pool, my Mom always made us wait for an hour after eating before we went in the pool, but she wasn’t there and I think like the coffee stunts your growth thing, swimming after eating might also be a bunch of bunk.
Sorry Mom.

At 3:00 p.m. we showed up for our spa treatments, they put you in a steam room and then give you a body rub with salt, after that they my treatment specialist covered me in Dead Sea mud and then wrapped me in plastic. Of course as soon as I was all wrapped up I had to itch my nose, I manage to free my right hand and then wiped mud all over my face, but at least my nose didn’t itch anymore. After our mud wraps we showered and then went to check out the spa pools one, with all sorts of whirlpools and then three all with different temperatures and mixtures of normal water with dead sea water. So one that was 50/50 one that was 100% Dead Sea water, I highly recommend not splashing in that pool because Dead Sea water in the eye – painful. The one that was 50/50 was like being in a bathtub. I love the outdoor pool because of the view. We couldn’t get our massages at the same time so Kim went first and I napped and then it was my turn. The massage was o.k. not great, but I was relaxed.

We headed back to the Marriott to relax and get dressed for dinner and then back to the Movenpick, both of us were craving steak so we ate at the steakhouse. You’re probably wondering why we didn’t stay there I guess it was high season and we couldn’t get a room.

The next day we were headed back to Jordan at 1:00 p.m. We headed down to the Dead Sea that morning and packed ourselves in mud and then floated in the Dead Sea. Dead Sea Mud is supposed to have healing properties, but although my skin felt better there was no miraculous cures for me. Kim had warned me that the Dead Sea would be rife with fat Russians, I thought she was joking – she wasn’t. I wasn’t a very good mud applier, but some of these people were experts, no spot missed. We didn’t stay long at the Sea about an hour and started making our way back up to our room. My goals was to swim in every pool – all three of them on the way back up, but we skipped the first one, because the second one had a slide. I wish I would I would have discovered it earlier, I only got to go down three times before we had to head back to the room and pack.

The drive back to Amman was uneventful, Kim was staying at the hotel we had stayed at in Jordan and I was headed back to the hotel that my company uses which is much less glamorous. We got settled in our respective hotels and then met for dinner. We had stopped at Starbucks on the way back into town. Kim had to bring back a supply to Iraq, but it was weird all the Starbucks were sold out of coffee. I told Kim I would check at the Starbucks near where I worked. Sure enough they had enough, she wanted like 10 bags, but what was funny is that when I saw a payment of $95 to Starbucks in my account I about freaked. Then I remembered that I had bought the coffee for Kim. Our last night together having dinner at Kim’s favorite Indian restaurant, it was great to see here and I can’t wait to do it again.

The blog I was working on is posted on this site, the story on Iraq’s internally displaced that Kim was working on can be viewed by clicking here.


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