Jessica and Mitch came to visit. They came for Mitch's graduation, but Jessica's birthday was during their trip. We had a little birthday party for Jess at my apartment, and it was nice. Jess and I actually spent all Saturday being friends, though.
I had several things that I had accumulated to give Jess: a (thoughtful!) souvenir from the DC part of my trip. Shade shirts from Shade's Provo thing. Her toaster (since she hadn't ended up getting one for her wedding). Several CDs, which together made up a Classical Music Top 100 collection, which I think is fantastic. My ipod that I never use anymore, for Mitch to use on his commutes.
For a nice break on Thursday, when I was cleaning for my cleaning check, I wrapped everything in birthday paper. Even though it technically wasn't all for her birthday. Because who doesn't like unwrapping stuff? And for extra fun, she'd forgotten about a bunch of the stuff, so she was surprised by it.
(Wrapping random things actually reminded me of something my mom used to tell us about sometimes when we were growing up. When my mom was little, she and her older brother got such a kick out of Easter egg hunts that they would have their own. They would collect rocks, wrap them in foil, and hide them for each other to find. )
Jess brought some things from California for me.
She brought a couple butter cookies from her local grocery store (the store near our house used to give free samples to kids when we were younger, so we both remember them fondly although they're hard to find these days).
She brought some specific dark chocolate bars that I had requested (from her Trader Joe's). I wanted them because they were super healthy and tasted delicious. How often do you see chocolate bars (even dark ones) with only 50 calories and 3 grams of fat?! Amazing! I needed more. [Note: When I was going to show Jess how healthy they are, I noticed that there are 8 servings per bar. Sigh. So much for that.]
AND! Best of all, she brought me an Iraq Culture Smart Card, which is what military people are given before they go off to Iraq. She had gotten it when she went to an open house at her local base, and thought I would like it. I DO.
First, I learned about Iraqi Clothes/Gestures. You can tell a lot about a man by the kind of cloth he wears on his head. A guy wearing a white head covering "Has not made the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca." (Who knew?!) If instead, he's wearing a black and white head covering, he is "From a country with Presidential rule (ie Libya or Egypt) and has made the hajj. " If he's wearing a red checkered head covering, he is "From a country with a monarch (ie Saudi Arabia or Jordan) and has made the hajj." Fascinating. My favorite gesture is: "Quick upward head snap with tongue click means no."
Then I opened the guide to learn some phrases. I started reading some from the first section to Jess and Mitch.
stop / awgaf drop your weapons / Dhib is-la-Hak do not resist / la it-qa-wem stay where you are / ib-qa makanak
They seemed to have a particular theme, which we thought was kind of amusing since it's so basic, and usually language guides start with things like "hello" and "my name is". That first section was "Commands". There were also "Numbers", "Questions" (Who is in charge? / minu almas-'uul?), and "Helpful Words/Phrases" (hello / marrhaba; thank you / shukran; mines / algham).
There is also a "Do This" section, with suggestions like:
Respond to a woman's greeting only when she initiates the contact. Allow her to shake hands using only her fingertips. Try all food offered to you, even if in small portions. Feel free to ask about the cuisine or its preparation.
And a "Don't Do This" section, with suggestions like:
Don't point with a finger; it is a sign of contempt. Instead, point with your entire hand. Don't make the "OK" or "thumbs up" signs; they are considered obscene. Don't praise an Iraqi's possessions too much. He may give them to you and expect something of equal value in return. (AWESOME!)
The guide also has a section on religion that has information about Muslims, including a religious calendar, with color coded holidays. (If the name of the holiday is in blue, expect fasting and prayer. If it's green, expect celebration. If it's red, expect procession.) And a section on cultural customs, like "Admitting "I don't know" is shameful for an Iraqi." or "Family is the center of honor, loyalty, and reputation."
And it has a map.
Mine is on waterproof, tear-resistant synthetic paper, but you can (read the rest or) print your own HERE.