You know how in group “get to know you functions” an ice-breaker is often sharing your most embarrassing moments. I never quite got the whole point of that, but that maybe because I was a careful child and rarely did anything remotely embarrassing. Being an ahzh-neby or foreigner puts you in a whole new category of embarrassment. Everyone is watching. Tonight’s events, although not terribly embarrassing in some ways, were certainly uncomfortable and funny enough to make a good enough ice breaker story!

At some point around 5 o’clock our neighborhood generator power went out. Fully expecting it to return once they put more benzene in, I did nothing. The rest of my housemates were napping so they didn’t notice. At that point we had 2 washing machines, 3 computers, and one inverter turned on. This was a lot, but should have been okay. I don’t think there was anything else besides lights and the refrigerator. But maybe there was. After a dinner of cooked frozen pizzas (merely because they boasted pepperoni! The first time in months!) we were musing about why we had no power yet. (It was 7:00.) So, one of my roommates and I wandered down our street to our breaker box carrying half of a broom handle. The weather is cooler in the evening and so all of our neighbors were out standing around. I don’t know what they were doing before we showed up, but after we stepped out on the street all eyes were on us.

Smile, wave, choni bashi… Oh, hello, how are you, I know a little Kurdish, kem Kurdi azanm. Before we made it down to the box I asked one lady if they had power, they did. Do we have a problem? Yes… That meant that yes it was our breaker that must have flipped. She says something else, I smile, te-negm…I don’t understand. Afoo…sorry. I want to be able to communicate with my neighbors! “Allo!” from a child sitting against a tan concrete wall. Some children on an upper balcony wave to us as they hang a beautiful deep red carpet off the wall. Others wave and smile. They know why we walk down the street. The broom handle is a dead giveaway.

Reaching the breaker box I reach the pole up and turn the switch on. We wait a moment or two to see if it just flips back off. Nope… ahh… walk back by all our gaping neighbors and into our house. The relief of being out of sight behind our very own wall. Entering into the house we smile at our housemates.

If that were the end of the story, it would be pretty much like any other evening. But instead, moments after entering the house and smiling at our housemates, the power flipped off AGAIN! This time the microwave was going too. So what do we have to do? Yes. Tammy and I grinned, chuckled, turned off half the lights and both washers and took another stroll.
This time they weren’t just staring… they were laughing. It was okay, I guess, because we were laughing too. Our next door neighbor lady asked us something about the problem and I just shrugged my shoulders… a great universal signal. We flipped the breaker switch again… a man explained that maybe we should call the office if we had problems. After flipping the switch a little wrinkled woman all in black with small black sparkles on her head scarf asked us if we would come sit by her. I wanted to, but there was work to be done, and we couldn’t really carry on a conversation anyway. So sorry… natwanim… I can’t. I should have.

Back past the neighbors… Due to previous success with me in the language department, our next door neighbor lady started rattling off at me at high speed. I looked like a deer in the headlights. So sorry… good bye… xwahafis!

As I have been typing, the power went off again. Someone turned it back on… maybe one of our neighbors took pity on us to save us from the shame of having to traipse back down the street.

I blush. But at the same time I like my neighbors, I like where I live, and I love the good medicine that laughter is. God blesses me with plenty of that here.

Enjoy laughing at yourself? Need a most embarrassing moment that is unlike any other?
Join us in Iraq!