She can have 90, 000 US $ per year working as a translator in Iraq. That can increase to 180, 000 US$. Zina left Iraq before 15 years with her family to the US when she was at the middle of her teenage years her Arabic is excellent since her Assyrian father had taught her to love Arabic poetry.
“I said farewell to my mother and Jason and travelled to Washington in a cloudy morning to join the Arabs who were about to work the same work of mine. From there i phoned my father who lives in Arizona and told him that i am heading to Baghdad. I didn’t hear an answer, then heard some murmuring from which i understood that he doesn’t like the idea, not because that he was afraid from the war on me, but because he was still deluded that the “death penalty” verdict he got form the Iraqi law is still valid, and that the security men would capture me instead of him”.
Her Chaldean mother loved her Assyrian father and married him against the Iraqi traditions. They immigrated to the US at the end of the 80s. Zina still remembers how her mother felt guilty while taking the American nationality and while everybody was uttering the US anthem and singing: “God bless America” her mother, Batool, started uttering “forgive me father, oh father forgive me”.
Her parents had separated. Her father started living in Arizona. Zina, Yazin who is now called Jason and is an addicit, and their mother who is now smoking cigarettes vigorously are living in Detroit 7 mile. After the 2003 was the US army needed translators to aid them in the war and in interrogating and dealing with Iraqis.
Zina reached Baghdad in 2003 in a dust storm. They got to sleep in the airport waiting for the other day to be taken to their new places. she slept and started dreaming:
“I saw myself knocking on the door of my grandfather’s Yousif house in Al Rabe’a Street (= Spring Street and is a well known avenue in Baghdad) while i was wearing a purple wedding dress. I don’t like purple but we are not left to choose in dreams. My grandfather opened the door and i didn’t fear from him in spite of the fact that I know in the dream that he had already died. And i asked him:
- When did you come from the voyage?
- I woke up before 2 days. I wanted to be there in your wedding Sana’a (Sana’a is a well know Iraq female name)
I didn’t correct my name for him. I didn’t say that I am Zina, or Zoueena as he used to call me, but my grandmother Rahma peered form behind his shoulder and said:
- This is Zunzun, didn’t you know her? Poor girl had married and you were not here and she is coming back to us after she had been widowed… oh my dear.
I crossed the door of the garden and approached my grandfather to kiss his hands. But he withdrew his hands, then his body started to withdrew itself from the scene, and at the same moment my wedding dress color turned into black and i froze in front of my grandmother, looking at each other with sorrow in the dream.”
As a translator working with the US army she was taken the next day to Tikrit. The US army station was a Saddam palace whose guardian kitchen became Zina’s private room.
From there she startedto contact her grandomother Rahma who still olives in Baghdad. Rahma was against Zina’s work with the US forces and when Zina offered Rahma to her with some money, Rahma answered with anger in her Mosuly accent: "والله وقمنا نضغط من جحغ كبيغي" which maybe translated to “what a time that we are starting to fart from a big ass!”
One day Rahma invited Zina to her house. Zina went to find Rahma cleaning a military costume. Zina knew that this costume was her grandfather’s. Few minutes later, and while contemplating her grandmother, she noticed that that day date was the 6th of January. Zina’s grandfather, Rahma’s husband, was a colonel in the Iraqi army. When he had to retire from the Iraqi army, he kept his military costume and started to take that costume and clean it every 6th of January, the Iraqi army day.
Rahma, after cleaning the costume jacket, put that jacket on the shoulders of Zina. Tawoos (a female name means peacock) approached and Rahma told Zina that Tawoos is Zina wet nurse. And that Zina got milk brothers. Zina started to remember Tawoos.
When her grandmother was taken to Jordan for therapy, Zina met Muhaiman, one of her milk brothers. She started to feel that she loves him. She started to look for more information about him and she knew that he was a communist, taken as a hostage in Iran in the Iraq-Iran war in the 80s, came back to Iraq as a religious man, and after the 2003 he joined the Mahdi militias. For all that period, Mahdi had changed but something about him didn’t change much as he said, and that is, his hate to America. She tried to seduce him but he refused. She kept thinking about him.
Before she was about to go back to the US after 5 years in Iraq, he grandmother died, and Malik, her colleague, died in an accident that seemed a suicide to Zina. Zina went back to the US with a different taste of the Iraq that she knew once, an Iraq that is left with a curse that she call: “the Bush curse” as compared to the Pharaohs curse.
I don't know why the novel reminded me of the film "The Hurt Locker". In spite of the fact that Inaam Kachachi, like Zina, is of Iraqi origins, still Iraq seems little unreal in their eyes than in mine. I had lived all my life in Iraq and it is little annoying to see a film like "The Hurt Locker" and hearing about the praise the film got, while when I saw it I didn't feel that it was Iraq, nor the people accent nor the reality of the story. Inaam Kachachi's novel is a clever one but that doesn't mean that it got the taste of reality and doesn't mean that it deserves that praise it had.
An interview with Inaam Kachachi the novelist in the following link:http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090316/ART/883654615/1223