Later, I was going through some of my old e-mails I sent from Iraq. At many of the little camps and FOBs I was at, we had to stand in line for hours to use the computer for 20 minutes. And, often it would take half that time just to send a few messages. I learned to type fast and send one e-mail to all my friends and family at once. I did actually get a few e-mails back from a family member saying: "please take me off your e-mail list, I don't have time to read your e-mails." I not only took them off the list, but I totally deleated them from my address book.
Here's one e-mail I sent after just being in Iraq for a short time (spelling errors and all)
Baghdad update: OIF III (sent about Jan 2005)
We were talking today how a few of almost went Iraq with another National Guard unit just before the war started. Somebody said “you mean OIF I?”
And I responded with “No, they didn’t call it Operation Iraqi Freedom at first because they were not aware that the Iraqis needed to be free I guess…it was called something about looking for weapons of mass destruction.”
And that was today’s class on the history of Iraq.
We had another discussion the other night about some of the customs in Iraq. It is very common for a man to marry his cousin. As a matter of fact, before a woman can get married to anyone outside her family, all of her cousins have to turn her down. (she must be really bad)
This gets confusing when you ask someone about family. Is your father in-law your uncle or father in-law? And your wife’s brothers and sisters are now you in-laws. One thing that really does not work here is Mother in-law jokes. Because your mother in-law is often your aunt.
If a man is making enough money, he can have more than one wife…but he has to treat both equal. I talked to one guy who had 2 wives and 25 children and grand children. Now I never got around to asking if the wives were sisters, cousins, sheep or what…it was just too confusing. And…how does he remember all the names?
And they do really have camels here. I have talked to camel herders. I was not sure what they did with camels, but they still raise and herd them. I think they just have them for something to do. They sell and trade them and wonder around in the desert with them. They don’t really ride them anymore, but they do eat them sometimes. We suspect that is where they get some of the meat in the mess hall.
Life is so simple in California. We have small families and we can remember all their names, and mothers in law are not also an aunt.
Then there was the one Iraqi guy we were talking to one time. I asked the usual questions..."Are you married?" he said "no" so I continued with "do you have a girlfriend?" he responded with another "no".
So I asked if he was gay...and he said "no, I have sheep."
I gave up at that point.
Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Heartless and the Mindless
Perfume Palace, Camp Slayer, Baghdad, Iraq