Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Art Appreciation Day

All of my complaining about never getting to leave the embassy finally paid off. A friend in the Cultural Affairs section invited me to an exhibit of female artists at the home of a member of parliment. It was my second excursion outside the International Zone and my first by car. I've never before arrived at an art show in armored vehicles with a full contingent of security agents (I think there were more of them than there were of us) while wearing body armor.

The parliamentarian who hosted the event greeted us warmly and guided us to the exhibit. Her yard had been transformed into an outdoor showcase of paintings, sculptures and ceramics. I was a bit surprised by the enthusiastic press coverage and kept futzing with my hair while studiously examing the artwork with approving nods.

There was one artist whose work I particularly admired. She said she had been painting since she was five years old and was currently studying art at school. I think she was pleased with my lavish praise of her work.

The organization that sponsored the event, the Women Artists Association, is only a few months old and this was their first exhibition. I was quite impressed with the quality and diversity of the art. It's nice to know that even in these tough times, art and creativity is encouraged and appreciated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mental Health, Baghdad Style

There is another female staff assistant in the front office named Mary. I am fortunate that we get along very well and we think alike in a lot of ways. In fact, we will often email or IM each other the identical message at the same time, our thoughts crossing each other in cyberspace. Even though we only sit a few feet away from each other, we keep an Instant Message window open on our desktops to maintain a running commentary on the day's events.

Another favorite mental health activity is to find a table outside at the end of the day and have a venting session. The range of topics varies widely. This activity usually involves wine.

There is no other person in the world who better understands what I'm experiencing because our situations and outlook are similar. We have gotten each through some low points. I can't recall a time when my mental health was so dependent on another person.

Mary is currently on R&R in the States.

My mental health is suffering.

My descent into madness is mitigated somewhat by email and Facebook. Yesterday we even managed to have a chat session. It was almost like Mary was sitting just a few feet away from me.