Letters from Iraq- dec.3
Dec. 3 – Iraq
We arrived at the Al Fanar Hotel at 3:15 AM and finally got to bed by 4. For the first time in 3 nights I got about 5-6 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep! I awoke about 3 minutes before the knock on the door just after 10 to see if we were up. After showering- with hot water!- Peter and I went upstairs to the VITW “office”- room 510, and meet Cliff Kindy and Cathy Breen before heading to breakfast. Fortunately Neville gave us a stack of Iraqi dinar to pay for breakfast since we arrived after the 11 AM deadline of when breakfast is no longer included in the cost of the room.
We got a plate of cheese, jelly, tomatoes, cucumbers, whipped butter/cream, what appeared to be an egg-white omelet, and olives – with bread on the side. After 2 attempts to get a sealed bottle of drinking water, Peter went back to the room to bring back bottled water for us. Kathy Kelly and Peggy Gish joined us and started our orientation. Peter broke the sanctions by paying for the meal. I broke it by having Ahmed shine my shoes. I gave him 4 bills, 1,000 dinar, worth 50 US cents. Before the sanctions in 1990, the Iraqi dinar was worth $3.30 USD. Now 2,000 dinar equals 1 USD. The packet of money given to us by Neville is worth $12 USD and is about 1 1/2 “ thick.
After the meal, we made our way back to the 5th floor for orientation and introductions- what an amazing group!
Our meal tonight, several blocks from our hotel, cost less than $1. for each of the 6 of us. Cliff told us the owner was a Christian and he has eaten here several times. We each got a plate of hummus and flat bread. Several got and eggplant stew with rice, others got chicken with rice. I got a split pea soup with rice. We used our own bottled water after two attempts to get a bottle we were convinced was fresh water. It really makes me feel like an imperialist to request purified water each time but we also know if we don’t get it, we’ll get very sick and lose several days here. The batteries on my laptop keep draining and I haven’t been able to purchase an electrical adapter yet to recharge it or to operate it directly off the 220 current here.