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Also by MK Alexander:
My New World: A Teenager’s WWII Odyssey
Funny thing about embassies, you always feel like you’re being watched. Not that I’ve ever been in an embassy before. It just seemed like the thing to do: keep a close eye on everyone. In a foreign embassy that made perfect sense. When it’s your own embassy, your own countrymen watching you, it seems a little odd, but at least you felt safe. And now it was actually a great relief to be seated in this windowless office, watched or not. Relief from the heat, the bone-rattling scooter ride, the dust and grime of the desert, the shrieking women, and the general sense of despair that seemed to pervade everywhere outside these walls.
I was inside at last and Parveen was by my side. In short order, we were greeted by a fresh-faced woman in her mid-twenties named Kathy, an embassy employee. She gave us both identification cards, even hung them around our necks, and then led us through a maze of corridors. I expected her to say, “Welcome to Disney World,” but she didn’t.
The American Embassy in Baghdad was brand new, relatively, and super-sized to boot. It was a huge and complicated place, an easy place to get lost in. But the long walk through the inner sanctum, to some “guest apartments,” as Kathy called them, was also a relief. I saw American faces again: eager, intelligent, curious, friendly, even efficient faces. A few people nodded hello and some even smiled as we passed them hurriedly. The murmurs of my mother tongue also served to soothe me. Along with relief, I could feel exhaustion beginning to creep in. Kathy whisked us through an unobtrusive exit and we continued outside, behind some concrete barriers to a low block of apartments.