Bed, Bath & Baghdad

Sunday, April 11, 2010 | Washington, DC, USA (map)

Bed, Bath & Beyond is where I spend my days.
Since returning in late February from our latest travels, Jacqueline and I have gotten busy reintegrating ourselves into normal American life. Craigslisting, job hunting, traipsing through the rain to visit apartments, purchasing cell phone plans, and shopping for home goods felt like familiar processes, albeit a bit surreal.

We decided to resettle in Washington, DC—the city we had left 18 months earlier to move to Morocco. Throughout our time in North Africa, we had reminisced with other former Washingtonians about the city. Parroting the unmistakable voice of the city's Metro system was a favorite pastime. ("Ding-dong. Doors closing. Ding-dong. Please step back to allow the doors to close.")

Today DC remains mostly familiar, despite the major events that took place in our absence: the
Great Recession, a historic election, the subsequent political transition (and with it a citywide upheaval), and the storm of the century. But the snows have long since melted, and the cherry blossoms returned.

Three weeks ago we moved into a cozy English basement apartment halfway between the vibrant Dupont Circle and Logan Circle neighborhoods. I have since spent a significant percentage of my waking hours trudging through the IKEA warehouse, and wallowing amid the fluorescent aisles of plasticware in stores like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. Sometimes I stare at the rows of toaster ovens until my eyes glaze over. In such moments, I try to remind myself that outfitting a home in America is so much easier than it was last year in Morocco.

* * *

Many people—myself included—questioned my decision a year and a half ago to abandon my job and life in DC to accompany Jacqueline to Morocco, where I had no guaranteed professional opportunities, and few leads.

In hindsight, that leap may have been the best professional decision I have ever made. The challenging job I stumbled upon in Rabat, working to organize a major national literacy project, apparently left me well positioned upon my return to DC.

Although the current economic climate in the US didn't make the job search any easier, after a few dozen applications and a few weeks beating the pavement, I managed to find an exciting opportunity. For the next two months, I'll be working on an evaluation of a major US-funded development program in Iraq. While much of the work will take place here in DC, I am also scheduled to spend three weeks on the ground in Baghdad, beginning in just over a week.

My decision to accept was not immediate. I wasn't looking to leave the country again so soon after our return, and truthfully Iraq is a country that has never particularly attracted me. Plus, the security situation is sure to keep my mother awake at night. However, I am cautiously excited about this trip, in large part because I want to see with my own eyes the country which has been so central to the public debate in the US for the last seven years.

For reasons of professional discretion (and workload), blogging from Iraq will be limited, though I expect to have a few general impressions to share at some point.

1 comment:

Mounir Bamma said...

Good to hear that your adapting to DC's busy metro life (Starbucks is just around the corner now...). Good luck on your trip to Iraq.

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