I relaxed in chair in an outdoor cafe in 6th of October and tried to coherently and sensitively express my thoughts.
Well, it’s just that, this is great we’re all having fun and learning so much from each other. I feel so lucky to be here. But we shouldn’t be here. None of us would be here if the United States, my country, had not invaded Iraq.
It was around 2 a.m. and our night was winding down with sheesha and drinks (fruit and coffee only!). The day had been a marathon of welcomes from our Iraqi co-workers and friends in 6th of October–a city 40 minutes outside Cairo, known for high immigrant populations.
Iraqi food was the named theme of the day. For lunch they treated us to a feast of grilled meat, tabouli, tahina, potatoes, eggplant , lamb, rice, and goza beans. Stomachs already full, we visited three more houses, where we were serenaded with delicious food and drink.
The first apartment was spacious, with exquisite new curtains matching sofas and tables. It was clear this family was well-off in Iraq and in there three years here, they had done their best to replicate.
The father family, an engineer who works as a translator in our office, drew our attention to a souvenirs given by friends from around the world and a family portrait. Lovingly displayed in a glass cabinet, they were the only personal things visible in the apartment. It was clear this place was a transit point.
The walls were bare.
In the other houses we enjoyed tea, deserts and conversational mix of English and Iraqi (to my dismay, very different from Egyptian) Arabic.
We were welcomed without reservation. Our thanks were met with thanks for our work and friendship.
In my three weeks working in the office no one has criticized my nationality. No one has asked me to justify America’s actions in Iraq. When I’ve brought it up there hasn’t been resentment, just a sense of we’re in this together.
What should we do now?
I don’t know.
I don’t know either.
One Iraqi suggested Americans put down the weapons and get to work rebuilding.
Wouldn’t they be targets? Would peace stick? I asked.
I don’t know.
In the cafe we do not spend time talking about things that did and do go on wrong. We accept the reality of the moments. We are here now. From Australia, American, Quebec, and Iraq.
We play ping-pong, enjoy food and each others’ company.
Momentum is toward the future. We are friends and co-workers, we have a lot of work at the moment, that is our focus.
Safely in a microbus zooming back toward Cairo, Rami calls us.
Our you safe? Are you almost there? You should be there by now?
We’re fine, we’re fine. We’ll be there soon, we tell him.
It is our responsibility to get our guests home safely too, he says.
Yet I still can’t help but wonder….
What if America policy lived by the same responsibility as our friends?