Part of the preparation for visiting a place like this is to have a “Run Away Quick” bag. More colloquially known as the F^%* off Quick Bag in another organisation I once worked for. Or perhaps simply a “Grab Bag”. Its not a bad habit to have when you are travelling. Have all the survival essentials in one little bag along with your passport and tickets in case you have to make a run for it. Leave the suitcase and souvineers behind for the new ruling junta and keep the essential stuff.
I thought I would share some of the essentials to surviving in Iraq – which is actually a very civilised place in which to survive. For me at least. A snapshot of the workdesk reveals some critical items – and tells some of the story of my stay.
Green Numerals First.
1. Diary. What was I doing here again? Good to have a note here to remind yourself. Actually a boiled down version of the RAQB – every contact, meeting, appointment, timetable, itinerary all in one document. Sachet of cash as well. If worst comes to worse the diary, passport, tickets and wallet are all I need. Clothes probably help too.
2. Lamp. Made in China. Chinese instructions still pasted across it. Careful of the lead, one of the lads gave himself an electric shock on one. Room is dim and cool, to combat that 43 degrees out there. So a light becomes important.
3. Indonesian betatine – past its use by date but still stings like crazy. Useful if a limb is lost.
4. Pepsi. Sits side by side with that other cola drink in the fridge. Important part of the Dubai Tea Formula. See “8” below.
5. Movie. Black market version but keeps Hussein in his little store in food and water. I have not seen a reproduction as bad as this in twenty years – filmed in a theatre, so the audience contributed to this version as well. It’s taken me four sittings so far and I have not yet finished it – which indicates how bad it is. Good therapy though.
6. Dental Floss. My new South African friend hands out biltong which he has made himself. Its actually very good. But you need floss for three days after to dig the last of it out from your teeth. This is a multicultural environment in more than one way.
7. Would hate to leave it but would if I had to. But new RAQB designed to include this. I no longer travel with a separate laptop case.
8. My Saudi friends introduced me to this stuff as Dubai Tea. Regardless of brand, age, malt, it is all Dubai Tea. As in, “I think I will nick over the border this weekend for some Dubai Tea.”
9. Pocket New Testament. Food for the soul and balm for the heart.
10. Pear Soap. And something for the body!! Advantage – cake dries very quickly (almost instantly) after use and can be thrown into bag without leaving soapy slime everywhere. Sorry, nothing here about whether it is good for your skin or not. I still have a baby soft bum after 45 years anyway so don’t need any special soap.
1. Multivitamins –Executive Stress formula. Need that around here? Am convinced the stress stuff is good marketing baloney but the multivitamins are not a bad idea when you are on the road. Sometimes (most times) local menus need supplementing.
2. AA Batteries. Longest life ones you can find. Nothing worse than the lens retracting into the camera as a battery dies just as the shot of a life time pulls into view. Be careful of AA’s loose with coins in pocket – nearly started a fire once. They were Beijing back lane AA’s which lasted for 3 photos but had enough zap to start cooking me. I think they were radioactive. My theory and I am sticking to it.
3. Listerine. Helps with process at 6 above.
4. It is a civilised place after all, so mixing Green 8 with Green 4 in the can is not the done thing. Use the mug. Never wash it out of course, we are not THAT civilised.
5. There is a tray of 24 of these at my feet, all being fed into the fridge where they have a very short time to cool – I am going through 4-6 of these a day.
6. Passport with wallet (out of sight) – with exit visa stamped and signed. Part of the RAQB but out on the desk since I need it on a daily basis to get around this place.
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