Rahman’s trip to Baghdad, July 2012
Our friend Rahman went to visit his family in Baghdad this summer. Here is what he told us about his trip back home:
“After living for almost three years in California, I finally got the chance to go back to my home country Iraq.
The beginning of my trip wasn’t as hard as I expected. It was a very easy process at the Airport. I flew out from JFK Airport on Tuesday at 7:00 in the morning. The flight to Istanbul was 17 hours. As I was in the airport, I was getting excited to see my family soon. But, unfortunately, I had to wait eight more hours for my transit flight to Baghdad. At last, I landed at Baghdad International Airport 3:00 pm the next day.
While I was at the security checkpoint, I got concerned that the Iraqi security guards at the airport might give me a hard time because I am coming from the U.S. and that would cause an issue at the customs. But, thank God, none of this happened and, in fact, things went smoothly during the checkpoint. I didn’t even have to wait long in line.
The people who were working at the airport were very welcoming. I remember one of the officers who was standing by the front gate smiled at me and said “I like your shorts and shoes!” Soon after that I grabbed my luggage, hired a taxi and went home.
It was hard for me to remember the town I grew up in. I even forgot how to get there because everything looked different from when I was there last in 2007. Even the taxi driver got upset with me because I couldn’t find my way back home, so I explained to him that I have been out of the country for many years. He understood my story, laughed and helped me go to my home.
When I got to my parents house, I saw my whole family waiting with excitement outside the front door for me. My mother was inside waiting, crying tears of joy to see me for the first time after all these years. My sister Damiah had a camera recording the whole thing.
I stayed in my parents house for two weeks enjoying the food that my mother cooked. My sister Rawa, 20 years, and Shaffa, 23 years, did everything they can to make me feel comfortable and home again. They even washed and ironed my clothes!
My oldest sister Damiah lives with her husband and children about three blocks away from my parents house. She invited me a couple of times over to her place and made me delicious food . Damiah has two kids, Moutamen, 10 years old, and Zanoba, three years old who, dare I say, I love the most. Damiah is a very talented hairdresser and has her own hair salon. She had me over at the saloon and gave me a haircut and a tattoo!
My father was still doing the same business he did before which is car repair. He was happy that I came home to visit. He is very proud that I have achieved a lot in my life and have become an independent person.
My mother told me all about the things that happened with the family while I was gone. She told me that one time she saved the family from being homeless by not giving up the house that we rented. You see, my family used to live in a rented house and one day the landlord came and asked my family to leave the house without giving them reason.
My father was angry and he almost had a fight with the landlord, but my mother controlled the situation and calmed my father and the landlord down. She negotiated with the landlord and made a deal to buy half of the house from him and so he agreed. Since my family didn’t have enough money, my mother ended up borrowing from her relatives and friends so she could protect the family and buy half of the house.
My visit came to an end, and as much as I hoped that I could stay longer I made a decision to leave early because I was anticipating the opportunity to attend the Circus School in San Francisco.
The day before I left Baghdad I was walking down the street to the cafe to check my email and print out my flight ticket. As I was walking down the street heading to the nearby internet cafe, a huge flame rose up in the sky just three blocks down the street. I couldn’t remember exactly what happened at that time because I found myself thrown down to the sidewalk. The police started shooting aimlessly in the sky and people started driving their cars like crazy, running away. The car bomb was meant to target the police cars in the neighborhood.
My family was worried that I might get hurt, but luckily I got home safely, yet I was shaken.
It was a very hard to say goodbye to my family the next day. Tears started to fall as my family started crying because I was leaving. Deep down I knew my parents were fine with me leaving because they knew that I am better off to live here in the U.S. as I am pursuing my education. They are proud of me.
I left Iraq and tears were falling down my face, wondering will I ever see my family again?”