Frightening Things in Iraq

“Cockroach in my house. I’m barricaded in my room – it was crawling towards my room! I have a phobia.” I received the e-mail at —- on Saturday morning.

“Dang if I had only gotten this last night I would have come to the rescue,” I replied.

“Um, I sent it this morning. Feel free to come. Barricaded in my room. Can you kill these things? I’m tot phobic.”

“I’ll come over and take care of it. On my way.” It was my next-door neighbor another humanitarian aid worker from the states. I threw on long pants, because you can’t go outside in shorts and headed over.

By the time I made it over the six-legged terrorist had abandoned his post and my neighbor was free of her room.

“Search the apartment, we have to find it,” she pleaded with me. I looked all over, but couldn’t find him. I even called his name, well at least the name I had given him. “Fred, come out, if you come out with at least two of your legs up I won’t stomp,” I warned him. Fred was not game.

“Here he is!” I heard my neighbor’s voice from the kitchen; she was at the door of the spare bedroom.

“I looked in there,” I informed her.

“How could you have missed him?” she asked. “He’s huge!” He was actually medium sized. He was lying on his back playing dead. I approached cautiously. My neighbor watched from the door. “Is he dead?” she asked.

“No, one of his antennae is twitching, get me a piece of paper,” I took charge of the situation. Placing the paper over the cockroach that was laying on his back I lifted up my Birkenstock clad foot and stomped. His guts squished all over the paper and I made a makeshift body bag out of the paper. After disposing of the body in the circular file, I wet a paper towel and cleaned up the aftermath.

I later received an e-mail that said, “You’re my hero.”

It appears that we may also have flying cockroaches also.

In July, I had brought three fly swatters to the guesthouse as a gift because the previous time I had been there, there were flies everywhere, but when I brought the flyswatters in July the flies had magically disappeared and everyone laughed at me because there were no flies. But I guess in October there are flies because I have killed at least 12 of them. I have earned the nickname “Tozer the Terminator.” But at least it is something else to do in Iraq. The flyswatter that I had purchased for Head of Office in Suli was high end. Purple with a dustbin and tweezers for body disposal. It’s a great instrument and I have enjoyed using it when I’m patrolling the fifth floor.

Today, I left for Erbil; it is the capital of Kurdistan. A city of about 800,000, about 2 ½ hours north of Suli. To get there we started out with a driver from Suli and then exchanged drivers about halfway. The exchange takes place wherever the two cars meet on the road. Prior to the exchange we maneuvered our way through a medium sized town. You could really only fit one car down the road because of the people, traffic and cars parked on the side of the road. The people were out shopping and socializing, it looked like a pleasant town. It had two sort-of roundabouts, but they weren’t really paved. It was a bustle of activity.

Our second driver was Turkmen and he had previously been a driver for the leader of the Turkmen party. He had been shot three times during an assassination attempt on his charge. Rather than thanking the driver for saving his life the head of the Turkmen party accused him of being a spy and after eight days in the hospital threw him in jail for three months.

You can see the scar on the side of his neck where the bullet entered.

The Iraqi Turkmen or Turkomen, originally came from central Asia, in a migration that took place over several hundred years, beginning in the 7th century AD. Today, slightly more than two million Turkomans are believed to live in Iraq and they have their own language with a Cyrillic alphabet.

We arrived in Erbil at dusk and spent the evening hanging out with the Head of Office in Erbil until the Deputy Country Director and I had to leave for the airport at 1:30 a.m. in the morning.

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