One interesting part of life in Baghdad is the mix of people you randomly meet. Last night, for example, I met a German cameraman who is here for a few days. When he gets back to Germany, he will quickly turnaround to head off to Kazakhstan, where he will spend around eight weeks working on a documentary. He told me that conditions have much improved in Kazakhstan in the last two years, and that you can walk around safely in the cities, even in the middle of the night. It is a bit of an odd place, with some living a nomadic herding life, and others living in modern comfort. There is, of course, the Russian missile base as well, which is why most readers of this page would have followed activity in the country. There are also large "spiritualist" communities there, as some religions believe that the center of the earth is in Kazakhstan. (I have bad visions of new age hippies [Yes, it is another (different) sound file for South Park fans.])
Many of the civilians you meet here are contractors. They are, in a sense, the modern adventurers and prospecters. I had dinner a couple weeks ago with a two electric contractors. They were swapping tales of far off lands--Siberia, Kosovo, etc.--where they had been responsible for getting power systems running under adverse conditions. One of the guys boasted that he had been to every continent on earth--including Antartica, by the time he was 35.
Then there are the people who work at the Coalition Press Information Center and with the Coalition directly. I have bumped into a Harvard Law grad who speaks fluent Arabic, a former Press Aid to Laura Bush, a former censor for CBS (guess they could have used her during the Superbowl), and a former State Department press officer, among others.
As I pointed out in my first piece over here on the bus driver, there are a lot of interesting people over here doing the heavy lifting to get Iraq in business again, and not all of them are government employees. While some came just for the job, many appear to have chosen this life out of a sense of adventure, and to see places that they would not otherwise see.
Do let us know when you meet and actually have a conversation with Iraqis.