27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's to all of you and yours! Enjoy your dinners (I certainly enjoyed mine after I finished serving) and your families.

Although I miss my given family, I'm thankful for the soldiers I'm with this year. If it weren't for the quality of the people I get to work with, I wouldn't do this.

26 November 2008

Another day...

another Big Adventure.

I did something today that although I've never done before, just about every woman in Civil Affairs does at one point or another - I attended a Women's Council meeting. With another female NCO in tow, and an interpreter (male) who'd been cautioned that he was severely outnumbered and should behave accordingly, I made my way into a room full of the Women In Black.

It was something else. On one level, meeting with the women was great. Unlike those in attendance at a lot of our other meetings, the women had no sense of entitlement. They did not sit and explain why Coalition Forces should give them stuff and money. I don't think much of anyone has ever appeared like a Fairy Godmother and given rural Iraqi women (all of them mothers, most of them widows) a damn thing.

The things they asked us to look into were smart - can we get some sort of vocational training? How can we get a loan that complies with Islamic law that would allow us to open a beauty shop? Why can't we have better OB/GYN coverage in the district?

I have read, and it has been true in my (limited) experience, that engaging women and boosting their standard of living and productivity is a very good way to raise the quality of life for an entire community.

But, it is difficult, when we are in the phase of this conflict where we are turning control of funds and programs back to Iraqis, to belive that these women and their needs will become a priority. They make up more than half the country's population, they have paid their fair share of the country's debts in suffering and misery, but they are a too-easily-overlooked population.

Fortunately, "Women's Issues" were one of designated "priorities" from Higher. So perhaps, with some diligence, there's a slice of the pie out there for them.

My grandmother was in Columbia with the Peace Corps when I was born. She told me there was a little girl born there on the same day I was born in Michigan. Nearly every year on my birthday, she mentions that baby girl and reflects that, even then, she had considered the Columbian infant, thought of her new granddaughter, and realized how fortunate I was to have been born in the United States.

I realize that, too. Being born an American doesn't make me a better person than anyone else in the world. But I do realize that it makes me a very fortunate person. And as I see more people and places, I realize that being born in the US makes me an incredibly fortunate woman.

24 November 2008

The future of Iraq

is in excellent hands. Those would be, of course, my hands.

Yeah. That's Your Author, with a cigarette in one hand and an Iraqi child in the other. And, yes, if you look closely, that Iraqi child is carrying a gun. Yes, it's a real gun, a .25 of some sort. And no - it wasn't loaded.

I swear, sometimes this is the weirdest place on earth. I am certain that the fact they arm children for special occasions (this picture was taken at a grand opening for a training program) means something, but I can't figure out what it is.