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Jun 12, 2012
An Unforgettable Summer in Iraq
As a young girl, Rita traveled to another country to visit her grandparents, discovering a surprising world of exquisite beauty and deep community
One of my favorite summers was when I went to visit my grandparents in Iraq. I was 10. I'd heard all the stories about how rough it was to live there, how the Hussein regime made life difficult and that the things I took for granted (whatever foods I wanted, electricity, the ability to get around easily) were not consistent.
But when I got there, the first thing I noticed was how the air smelled of spices and the heat made all the flowers bloom with fragrance. The sun was so bright it made the golden buildings and statues shine like it was an ethereal place, fit for royalty. Yes, there was poverty, but there was also beauty, too.
One day, I went to the market with my grandmother and it was bustling with activity. I got swept up in the crowd and separated from my grandmother. I was so frightened. But then a market man took notice and he asked other people who worked and shopped in the market, and, like an amazing grapevine, they wove their way, one to the other, to find my grandmother for me.
To this day, I never saw a community so in touch with each other. And though I haven't been back since then, I hope that spirit has helped the Iraqi people rise from the ashes.