Unpictured is a British fellow named Alex, who's away on vacation, but who has struggled mightily to get something growing back here. When he gets back we'll probably plant the back 40. Back during the summer the murderous mid-east sun and heat killed everything we planted. In Baghdad, everything must be watered EVERY morning - and we just weren't getting the help. With these guys looking after things, and the weather about 20 degrees cooler - there's hope.
From left: Abbas, me, Ali, and I think - Ali. Both Shiites. (Ali is a Shiite name, for the uninitiated) And from Sadr City, like most of the guys that work here. They're probably spies for Jeish Al Meidi, which is Moqtada Al Sadr's militia. We had some guys from our IT help-desk - (IT HELP DESK!!) test positive for explosive residue during a routine check a few months ago, and they were quietly dispensed with. In Arabia, the outsider soon learns that nothing is as it seems. Notice these guys aren't smiling in either photo . . .
Ah, there's that smile! (Once the American is removed!)
One of the problems we had growing stuff here, (one of the complications) is that these guys would dump their mop buckets right here into the soil. They had already succeeded in clogging the street-drain nearby via this method. I bring this up because its so emblematic of Iraqis and their approach to problems, (which is itself emblematic of yet larger problems). They're hired to clean this building, and some of them are only responsible for keeping the plants alive. The gardeners care nothing if a cleaner dumps his poisonous buckets on the plants, and the cleaners think nothing of dumping their trash somewhere else. (We've had instances where Baghdadis who weren't getting their trash picked up (usually because trash-collectors were getting shot) dumping their trash in other neighborhoods where the trash was still being collected, by some miracle. To drive around Baghdad is to marvel that any trash has ever been picked up.
SUBTEXT - if you want democracy to work in Iraq - you're going to have to move in Mormons . . . by the boatload.