Three weeks isnít much time in most places. Just a couple weekends of meeting with friends, maybe having a beer or seeing a movie. Three weeks of working at a job that maybe you like, maybe you donít. In my case, Iíve been in Baghdad Since May 19, so letís call it three weeks. Itís a nice round number.
In that time, in no particular order I witnessed a car bombing next to my hotel, started work for TIME Magazine, watched an interim government unveiled, interviewed a vice president, been mortared more times than I can count, missed two other car bombs by a few minutes, pined for New York and tentatively fell in love with Baghdad.
Sheís a city that has seen better days, frankly. As mentioned, the electricity is bad. The gas lines are long ó up to 5 km in some places ó and U.S. soldiers still break up black market petrol rings even though thatís often the only way for Iraqis to get petrol.
Baghdad is also an incredibly stressful place to live and work, especially as a westerner, as Iíve mentioned. Weíre targets, and when you look very western, like I do, youíre constantly aware of eyes on you and the hostility. At restaurants, the waiters sullenly clear your table, sometimes being none too careful about keeping chai or food from spilling on you. The kindness I encountered last year is absent; a western face brings a sullen welcome, calibrated to the bare minimum.