One of my favorite places in Iraq was the Green Beans coffee shop on Tallil Ali Air Base. I was a regular so I knew most of the staff. Like us, they worked at least 12 hours per day, six days a week and when one of them was sick, the others would work 18 hours to keep the coffee brewing 24/7/365.
Most of the baristas were from India and Nepal. A few months before I left, they hired Frederick Lameki, a young man from Kenya. Like the other members of the staff, Fred was well educated, but could make more money serving coffee in Iraq than he could in his home country. Fred greeted me loudly every time I saw him at Green Beans.
"Goooosemon," he would say. "What's happening?" Sometimes in his enthusiasm he would attempt to greet me with the complicated handshake he used greeting his younger favorite customers--then he remembered I was way too old for that and smiled at my inability.
Fred will be visiting America this summer--most likely New York City, but maybe other North East cities. Fred has 419 Facebook friends which, in his case, may actually reflect his ability to make and keep friends. Fred and I have one mutual friend on Facebook--Jessie Ramos. Fred introduced me to Jessie. She is from Texas, but not really. In fact she is not really Jessie, but more on her in another post.
Green Beans is one of my best memories of Iraq: good coffee, good people who work there, reading good books with no video in the building, and talking about books with other people who read.