Thursday, September 23, 2010


Normally, if we go out for lunch, we grab sandwiches, or we send a driver to buy us sandwiches. Sometimes we stay in the office and the drivers cook for us. Other times we pack our lunches. Today we went to a sit-down joint. It was huge and florescent, like two university cafeterias stacked one on top of the other, with chandeliers. It was a mass of contradictions. Both floors were so huge that bottles were delivered to tables in shopping carts to accommodate all the water for all the thirsty people. The bottom floor was reserved for the men and we had barely stepped toe over the threshold when we were ushered away, whisked upstairs to the dining area where women, children, and families could sit. Most women upstairs were covered head-to-toe, often in bright colors, and were as likely to be engaged in conversation with the men at their tables as they were to be chasing down their children. I felt naked in my black tee-shirt and khaki cargo pants (I’d forgotten my scarf to offer at least a bit more shoulder-coverage), but there were a handful of Iraqi women also with their hair showing, also showing their elbows and lower-arms. None of the waiters spoke English but they tried their best to understand our points and gestures and we tried our best not to be too annoying. We (my Kenyan colleague, my American colleague, and I) seemed to be the only foreigners in the place and they were patient with us. The restaurant had wheelchair ramps and an elevator.

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