Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Iraqi Translator at 30th Street Station

Today I got to the Philadelphia's 30th Street train station 40 minutes before my train home, so I sat on a bench and did some work. A young woman sat next to me for about ten minutes then got up. While she was putting her papers away she set a book down next to me on the bench. It was a book about the Iraq war. I looked at the cover. She started to walk away, turned back and said, "Have you been to the war." (She saw my ACU backpack. That and my haircut said soldier even in shorts and a t-shirt.) I told her I had not, but was going in February.

She said, "Iraq has many good people. My people are good people." She said she hoped I would respect her country when I was there, then she walked off. I got up a few minutes later to go to my train. I walked to the front car and there she was. I smiled and waved and walked to the far end of the car. I was thinking I would like to ask her more questions, but decided not to. I took out my computer and started to work, then she walked to my end of the car and said, "If you have questions about Iraq I will try to answer them." So we sat together for the next 20 minutes and she told me about her work in Iraq as a translator and how sad she is about the war. She also said that she and her family think of Saddam Hussein as having died bravely surrounded by men who were taunting him. Alyaa is working at the Science Center in Philadelphia as a translator for Arabic materials. She is also going to school and hopes to return home someday. She believes that the Surge has only moved the violence away from the big cities into the countryside and that when the Americans leave, "The Shi'a and Sunnis and Kurds will kill each other until they have had enough." She thinks the current government is a puppet of Iran and we will find that out when we leave.

When we talked about America she said, "Living here is hard. At home my family would take care of me until I was married. Here I need to pay for my education, pay for medical insurance, pay for everything." She also doesn't like, women marrying women and men kissing men on the street. (She made the gag motion at this point.)

But she is happy to be here for now and hopes she can live in a peaceful Iraq soemday in the future. She got off the train in Exton, so I had 40 minutes to Lancaster to write this post.

190 days and a wake up.