“I need you to fly to Baghdad.”
I was in the shower when I got the phone call from my friend. I don’t usually get phone calls, most of my communication in Duhok is done over text, so a phone call means something serious is going down. My friend is also the person who lets me know if I need to take extra security precautions. I was eager to return the call.
“I need you to come to Baghdad to confirm that I am really who I say I am. That won’t give me a new passport without an international confirming my identity.”
She had her passport stolen over the summer while traveling in Italy with seniors from the Classical School of the Medes. Lost travel documents are a big headache that I have had to fight with in the past. She’s my friend and I had to help her. I was willing to do whatever she needed me to.
We started planning. I could get a taxi to take me on the three hour drive to the airport, catch a flight to Baghdad, get picked up at the airport (she said a black van would meet me there) and go directly to the embassy. I would never be out of the green zone. I wouldn’t even spend the night. It’s not the safest city for a single American female. It all sounded crazy and spontaneous and a little dangerous. I was game. More than that I was excited.
It all sounded crazy and spontaneous and a little dangerous. I was game. More than that I was excited.
I told her I needed to get cleared to travel by the leadership at SGI, but since I would be talking to them later that evening it shouldn’t be a problem. In my mind I was already planning my arguments for why I should go, making a packing list, cataloging the people I needed to call once I got approved, and swearing to myself that if I really got to do this I would never tell my parents about it. My living in Iraq was enough stress in their lives, without adding another dangerous trip onto the list.
Our team met for the weekly video call to the SGI leadership. We were running late and I hadn’t really had time to tell them about the bombshell question I was about to ask. We chatted for a bit with everyone going over what their week had looked like and when the conversation got around to me I diplomatically dropped the question. We discussed details. I reiterated that I trusted that my friend (who, I should mentioned, has worked closely with SGI for years) wouldn’t ask me to do anything that would put my life in danger unless it was absolutely necessary. So could I go?
Just as the question was about to be answered, we lost connection. What?!? Had I been about to get a yes? While we waited on the reestablishment of the link my teammates asked a few questions, but most of them were just as eager to hear the answer as I was. Finally we were back online.
“I don’t know if you heard the last thing I said, so let me repeat. Your friend called me about an hour ago and she wanted me to let you know… April Fools!”
I’d been suckered into the greatest April Fools prank of my life. In her defense my friend didn’t think there was any way that I would seriously consider flying to Baghdad. She’d even told me the Black Hand (not black van), a notorious group of assassins, was going to pick me up. She didn’t think it would get this far. She underestimated my sense of adventure and sanity. She did however promise me that someday we would go to Baghdad together, when it was safe. I look forward to that trip, and I hope it will be soon!
Read more adventures in Iraq here!