I have these Iraqis figured out. Either they get their fashion sense from the ghost of my grandmother, or they ARE my grandmother. I have found some crazy coincidences with the stuff that my Grandmother used to have around the house, and the stuff that the Iraqis push on us.
First similarity - Sesame seed candy. My grandma (on my mother's side - I would tell you her last name, but then you guys could get into my bank accounts) used to have these sesame candies when I was a kid that I absolutely hated. Now that my palate is a little more sophisticated, I have grown to love them, but, of course I have not seen these things since my Grandma moved to Florida. I just figured that she took the entire factory with her down there. I was wrong...She must have given them to some Iraqi guy (who she undoubtedly shared here sense of flare with fashion). They LOVE that stuff here, and call it Sim-Sim.
Second similarity - Weird candy that is fruit filled. Ok, I loved these things when I would go to visit her. But, like the sesame candy, when she left for Florida, I thought that she took the factory with her, because I never saw that exact brand again. I think that she also gave all that candy to the Iraqi guy, since I saw that EXACT brand that I remember at the conference that I just attended.
Third Similarity - They both decorate with seemingly random floweriness. This is odd, since they are ALL guys, have no female influence at the office, and don't anticipate ANY females ever seeing it. I am not sure if she passed this on to the Iraqi guy, or maybe he gave this to her in exchange for all of the weird little goodies she bestowed upon him. I may be making this part up, because it makes the story fit, or, maybe she DID decorate with random floweriness, who knows?
Fourth Similarity - When you arrived at my Grandma's house (both, actually), you had to spend a half hour going around and hugging and kissing everyone. When you arrive at an Iraqi meeting...same thing! Only these are all guys, and it is a little bit weird. Haven't quite cracked the code on how many times you are supposed to kiss the cheek.
Fifth Similarity - When you left my Grandma's house, you had to start about an hour prior to when you really wanted to leave, just to give hugs and kisses and say your good-byes. Same thing at an Iraqi meeting, only, once again, it is ALL GUYS! I really can't figure out why they do this. My only explanation is that the Ghost of my Grandmother is coaching them on visitor etiquette.
Anyway, I have concluded that a trip to go to an Iraqi conference is actually just a trip to my Grandmother's house...the only difference is that there are all guys there. The conference consisted of less substance than you got in conversation with the relatives, and there were a lot less boobs to make hugging uncomfortable...but the fact that they were guys that you were hugging made up for that, and may have even made it MORE uncomfortable than trying to hug your big-boobed relatives. They serve you the same candies that you have NEVER seen before at the store, and probably never will again. And then all the hugging and kissing just to arrive and leave.
I do have some overhead shots from Baghdad to share, so I will post them here. Hope you all enjoy.