Iraq in my Shoe

By | June 7, 2013

Did I love this book? Did I hate it? In truth, I’m really not sure, but I finished it to make 22 books finished on the year. Progress!

I think I might have gotten more from this book if I’d read/seen Gone with the Wind since comparing herself to Scarlett O’Hara was Berg’s favorite past time in I Have Iraq in my Shoe by Gretchen Berg. I chose this book for the silliest of reasons: the title made me laugh. Within the first chapters I saw some of myself in Gretchen – teaching in Asia and a passion for travel. It was also the perfect book to read on a flight, one in which I luckily did not pay nearly $5K in overweight bag fees.
I’ve also been where she was professionally – didn’t lose my job but was miserable in my FT gig, quit it in 2004, temped and then went to Australia and back to Japan because, why not. That said, I have less than no interest in living in Iraq, The Iraq or otherwise. I admit, I needed to look up Hawler/Hewler/Erbil (Wikipedia, if you need a few more spelling options) on a map.***
He loves me and means well, but my dad and I have extremely opposing views on how to live life. My dad subscribes to the “work at the same job for sixty years, never spend your money, never take any risks life plan. That plan sucks. The longest I have ever worked at any one company was three and a half years, I never met a balance-transfer option I didn’t like, and I have indulged in behavior that could be considered risky, including bungee jumping, skydiving, and drinking tap water in Indonesia
I loved how she handled other people’s reactions to her job plans. that’s something only those who have traveled/lived somewhere “exotic” gets. Myself? I want to ask why people spend their honeymoon down the Shore. Indonesia, yeah, why not? Let me grab my passport. This is also very much a generational thing. While Asia is more exotic, the Middle East is infinitely more complicated due to the cultural and religious differences being polar opposites vs. just a little different.

Living, dressing, and driving were all very important things to me, a girl born in the era of Gloria Steinem. I was raised on Free to Be You and Me and Our Bodies, Ourselves and, as far as I know, neither of those has been translated into Arabic. But you know what has been translated into Arabic? Gone with the Wind

Oddly, Gone with the Wind provides me with one of my funniest Japan memories. We were working on a lesson on books/movies with students and they were asked to name their favorites. One older man’s choice? Gone Through the Wind-o

The national bird was a plastic bag. It was mountainous. Not desert-ous.

Ahh made up words and first impressions. In Japan it was futons on a balcony!

Since these were conversation classes, when some of the students would come into the classroom early, I would conversate with them (and teach them not to say “Cœconversate” since it wasn’t a real word.

It’s not? Could have fooled me — seems to have made it into every English language learner’s vocabulary. Then again, I live in a state where English is the native language and trains “platform” at stations…

I had finally, also, understood that I wasn’t really living in Iraq. Kurdistan was a completely different place. So different and so separate from the rest of Iraq, in fact, that Awat made an emphatic statement that put it into perspective for me: I HATE Iraq. I HATE it! When Iraq football [soccer] team play? I hope they FAIL! That was serious. Kurdistan versus Iraq. It was like the Yankees /Red Sox

*** back to what she alluded to above about location. If she was so uninterested in the region, why did she go? I realize it was about paying off the debt and the tax free salary, but in her time there she always traveled outside the Middle East with the exception of Oman. Why not live/work somewhere she was interested in, or curious to learn about. Also, The Iraq got old, quickly.

She seemed to realize that, if belatedly in her epilogue. Paying off north of $40K in debt in one year would be great but a place that’s only average, I don’t know that I could do a year there and be any happier than she was. Berg’s style of writing is fun to read and I look forward to reading more of her work.  Did I learn anything about Iraq? No. I’m not sure if she didn’t explore Suli/Erbil at all, or just chose not to focus on it — but the book was good for what it was.

PS: I could not live without Diet Coke

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