Since I arrived the United States, I was invited once for dinner and that was in NYC when Joel Simon and his wife invited me dinner a week ago. Today, R, my former bureau chief invited me for dinner in his house in Washington DC.
I woke up at 9 o’clock, had breakfast and read the newspapers while J who was sick today got ready for today’s shopping. I decided not to go to the newsroom today as I have many things to do before going to Illinois where I am going to celebrate Christmas with J’s family.
In the newspaper, I read an article about a transit strike in New York City, the city that never sleeps. The strike came after failing to reach a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority following days of bitter labor talks. Today, New York was thrown into chaos by the height of the morning rush hour.
This strike was supposed to take place on Friday. That is why I left New York City on Thursday. I did not want to be stuck there and miss my train to Philadelphia. If that happened, I would be very embarrassed as I was supposed to meet with the people at St. Joseph’s University.
After I dressed up, I turned on the TV set to watch the news. MSNBC was having a live broadcast of a session of Saddam’s trial. Saddam, as usual, was complaining. This time he said he was tortured! Ok, let’s suppose he was tortured. Now, did he forget what he did to the Iraqi people for 35 years? Did he forget how he made the people starving at the time he was giving Jordan electricity and oil for free? Did he forget how built his mansions on the Tigris while the government employee’s salary did not exceed a $1.5 per month? I just want to ask him stop COMPLAINING. At least leave some respect to the people for what is left in your life.
I was furious enough to the extent I turned off the TV and got ready to go out shopping. J and I dropped off S home and went shopping. It was almost midday. I suggested having breakfast. “You mean lunch,” said J. I laughed and said, “You are right.” We went to a Mexican restaurant. Since I arrived I had different kinds of food. The most favorite for me now is the Mexican.
After lunch and shopping, we returned back home. J’s house yard was full of leaves that have been falling since she was in Iraq. When she came back, she did not have time remove all of it. I offered help. She and I took the leave blower which I like a lot and swap the whole area surrounding the house. It took us about an hour and a half but if J did not have this blower, it would have taken us four hours at least.
J was invited to R’s dinner party as well but she couldn’t come as she had cold and she began to feel miserable specially after we swap the yard of the house. I had hot tea, checked emails, and took a shower. Then, J called for a taxi to take me to a barber shop near R’s house. when I arrived there, i tried to open the door but in vain it was locked. I saw people having their haircut inside. So I knocked. A Mexican man said, “sorry, we are closed.” I was shocked. I told him, “Listen, I am invited to a dinner party and I won’t to go there in this shape. You gotta help me. My hair doesn’t take that much of time.” one of his workers said she can do it. Finally, I had my haircut. After that, I walked to R’s house. it was freezing but while I was walking I found Starbucks coffee shop. Of course, I bought my regular coffee and walked to warm up.
At 7:25 p.m., I arrived to R’s house. I was the first of the guests. I found R cooking for the first time in my life. He was my boss in Baghdad and I never saw him cooking. “You can call me M now,” he said mentioning our former cook in Baghdad.
R, the friend is different than R the boss. I felt very comfortable with him this time. we are friends and colleagues. Although he has a high position in at the newspaper, Assistant Managing Editor, R looked very simple and friendly.
He gave me a glass of wine while we were chatting. I took a tour in house. it was the first time I see such a beautiful house after J’s house. I can say both of them have the same taste.
His house was decorated with Iraqi art and different art pieces from different countries. The house looked just like in the fancy magazines we always buy. A big painting by an Iraqi artist was hanged over the fireplace which looked so overwhelming. The dinning table was unbelievable furnished with a beautiful sheet, wine glasses, plates and a glass vase filled with a bouquet of beautiful white and red roses. The place was much amazing than I can describe.
Then four of R’s friends arrived. They were famous and brilliant journalists working in the same paper I am working in. one of those whom I really liked was D, who joined the paper since two years ago. She is considered one of the active and brilliant reporters of the paper. She was a reporter with the Associated Press for a long time and most of her reporting as a foreign correspondent was in Indonesia. She and I talked about a lot of stuff, including our office and our work in Baghdad.
R made wonderful dinner for us. After we finished he presented the desserts. An hour later, 11:30 p.m., we left.
I returned back home and prepared my luggage while J was sleeping. Tomorrow, we are going to Illinois.
It’s time to go to Illinois. J and I woke up early, prepared our luggage and went to the airport. The first stop was Chicago.
We were on board of South West airlines. The airplane was very warm to the extent that I felt very hot. J felt the same.
When we arrived the airport in Chicago, we went to the baggage claim to get our luggage. I got my bag but unfortunately J’s bag was missing. She went to the office of the baggage claim. They checked and told her they did not find it yet. We were shocked because all her Christmas presents were in it. We were so sad but we couldn’t do anything except going to the train station to get the train.
At the train station, J and I had lunch. I had Pizza from Pizza Hut and J had vegetarian soup. It was very cold. This morning, the CNN said the temperature in Chicago is 27 degree F. our next stop was Decatur, a small city where J grew up. We went there to celebrate Christmas among her family.
At the train station, J’s mother and brother were waiting for us. That was the first time I see them in person. However, I knew them for along time ago. Then, the four of us went to have dinner as it was almost 7:30 in the afternoon. Then, we went to their house after a whole day trip from Washington DC to Decatur.
For the first time since I arrived the states, I had cold. But it wasn’t too bad. It was just cold. J, her mother, and I spent most of the day shopping for Christmas. We had fun a lot. J’s mother is just like my mother, a woman full of life and happiness. Maybe you will say how come your mother is full of happiness while she lives in Iraq? I will say, she is unlike the other women. She is just full of life. I found many things in J’s mother in my mother. Well, the first thing is that both of them are teachers.
J hadn’t seen her grandmother for along time. Today, she and I visited her. The grandmother is her mid 90s. We went to her house, had breakfast with her and then went to an electronic store to buy a new digital camera for me. The one I use is Chinese and I didn’t like it a lot. so, I decided to buy a new and better camera. The one I bought was Canon with 4 Mega pixel.
After that, we returned back home, had lunch and then J went to continue her shopping. I did not feel well because the cold was killing me. So, I preferred to stay at home, take some rest and take a shower to get ready for today’s dinner which was supposed to be in a Chinese restaurant in the city.
At 6 p.m., we went to pick up J’s grandmother and met with T, J’s brother, at the restaurant. The restaurant was great. To e frank, I was shocked from the idea of being in a Chinese restaurant first. I thought that all I am going to find there are dogs and cats cooked and hanged.
This restaurant gave me a different impression. At the buffet, I was able to find all what I wanted but in a Chinese flavor. While we were picking up different kinds of food, J told me, “Take this.” I asked her, “What is this?” She replied, “FROG LEG”. I was shocked. I said. “What?!! You want me to eat a frog leg. Yeeeekh”.
When we returned back to the table, J’s dish was full of sea food. “Try this,” she said. I tried it and I found it good. “what is this?” she said “Crab”. Then I told her, “you mean this little thing that moves like this?” and I moved my fingers like a crab walking on the sand. She said yes and I was shocked again. My problem is that we do not eat these kinds of food at all and we always consider them as disgusting, no offense of course.
Anyway, I had my own special dish. After we finished dinner, we took J’s grandmother to her house. Before she descended off the car, she turned her face to me and said, “I was glad to meet you. If you stay with us, I would teach the way of life.” I was surprised. But I think she was right. She is an old woman who is 94. she lives in the world since along time ago and I am sure her life was full of adventures and experiences.
Before we returned back home, we made a quick stop at Mall then returned back home. J and I put on the Christmas hats and J’s mother turned on the audio player and put some classic Christmas songs. J and her mother looked so beautiful. They sat next to each other singing and wrapping presents. I joined them and wrapped the Christmas presents I brought with me from Iraq.