So it looks like I was mistaken and my brother will be stationed in the City of Mosques for the time being. The time difference is only an hour ahead from where I am, so this works out quite nicely as his new work schedule will be the morning shift from 4am to 12pm, with the rest of the day left to himself. According to him, his job will consist of checking convoys leaving and returning to the base so as to prevent friendly fire (cause it’s so easy to start shooting at something that looks armed).
While sitting in my kitchen, we got a nice video tour of his new place: apart from the bunk-beds in military decor, it’s like his own hotel room, complete with mini-fridge, television, Wi-Fi (albeit for $75/mo), air conditioning, and a window with blinds overlooking we’re not sure what yet (the sun drenched the view to the webcam). The local currency among the marines on the base are pogs and apparently there’s no need for him to venture into the city for chocolate; he can get what he needs from the PX on base.
Still, if he ever did need to go amongst the Iraqis, the marines are given a card with important gestures to remember when communicating with the locals. Here are a few of them:
- Holding your hand up does not mean Stop, but Hello –– rather, you should hold your hand out straight, palm down, and wave it up and down if someone comes at you.
- Never shake hands with an Iraqi with your left hand. The left hand is considered unclean in most of these countries, because guess what you use in the absence of toilet paper.
- A Thumbs-Up is not a sign of support, but a foul insult roughly translating to ‘Up Yours!’
The most surprising news from him was that this entire base is supposed to be shut down completely within a few months, with everyone being transferred to other bases. Only 4 men killed within the past year (possibly only from accidents)… Okay, perhaps this is not surprising considering the various sieges since 2003 – what’s left to pose a threat? Well, let’s hope for successful reconstruction.