It’s been a little over two months since we arrived in Baghdad and we are doing okay. We are safe on the compound with a nice one bedroom apartment to seek respite after long and busy days at work. We work six – sometimes seven – days a week which helps pass the time, but also doesn’t allow for much allowance to recharge.
David and I are very relieved to be together during this assignment since for many it is unaccompanied. Most agree that the assignment isn’t so hard when your significant other is here. We are able to live a relatively normal life just by having a warm body to come home to and meals to share as a family. That’s not to say that it isn’t a challenge, just easier to cope and manage stress when your spouse is along for the ride.
I work as a coordinator in the Community Liaison Office and it is quite a big job for a Post of 3,000 – especially since I am the only one! Shortly after I arrived, my coworker left unexpectedly and I have been holding down the fort by myself ever since. My job entails several very important responsibilities for maintaining the morale and welfare here. I give newcomer briefs, resource, manage, and distribute information, organize and support events and activities, and liaise with other sections and agencies to help ensure the different communities’ needs are being met. It’s easy to say that I am the face for most people when they are looking for diversions from work.
A little about where we are located in Baghdad. The U.S. Embassy is in the International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) and sits right next to the Tigris River. Of course we are surrounded by high concrete walls which means we don’t get to go near the water, but if I go up to a higher floor of my office building and look out the window, I can see it glistening in the sun. It’s quite a refreshing sight. Also, when I am walking to work, I can see the tips of the Crossed Swords (two of the three). Behind our embassy is an old Saddam regime palace (pictured below). A nearby mosque outside our compound walls gives the call to prayer – a welcome and familiar sound that reminds me of Saudi.
Pollution appears to be a real problem here. Because the land sits low where we are next to the river, there is sometimes fog in the morning and the air is thick with fumes from fires and burning fuel. For a country dealing with Isis and many political tensions, it is understandable that pollution is a small concern, but I have taken a new appreciation for air quality.
Sometimes when we are out walking at night, we will hear the occasional explosion – these are far from us, but still a testament to the violence that is possible in Baghdad.
The days are short, the weeks are quick, but the months feel long. Two months down and ten more to go. In a few weeks we will take our first R&R which will be a welcome relief!