Friday, April 27, 2007

The Interpreter

27 Apr 07
I had a bizarre visit in the middle of the night last night. Mustafa is our squadron interpreter. The contract agent for interpreters is Nathan at the Army's Camp Bucca. Nathan said he would be down last night to give me Mustafa’s contract renewal form and to give me Mustafa’s back wages. He was coming on a convoy which seemed to me to be an exceptionally dangerous way to conduct administrative duties. I expected him around dinner time. At 2200 I went to bed thinking he must have been delayed until morning. At 0130 I heard a beat at the door. The adrenaline spiked and I jumped out of bed. It was Nathan there to do 15 min of business before jumping on the convoy headed back to Bucca. I can do without late night visitors.

Mustafa has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and mechanical studies and is working on a masters in the same. To get accepted into the masters program he had to obtain an English certificate which is how he came to be our interpreter.

Most Iraqi marriages are arranged and the newly weds live in the groom’s parent’s home. Mustafa defies many of Iraqi societal rules in that he found his own wife and does not live with her in his parent’s home. He lives in an apartment next to his brother and his wife. I asked if the wives got along okay. He said, “Of course. They are sisters.” He explained that his brother was dating a girl and Mustafa met the girl’s sister, liked her, and the rest is interpreter history.

Mustafa has seemed sullen lately. The other day we were in the car headed to talk to a contractor. I asked him how he’s doing. He said several of his friends work for the same company he does and two of them have recently been abducted. One of them was killed. Mustafa said he believes it is only a matter of time before he is taken. We have made friends with many of these guys and it’s comparatively safe on the COB which makes it so bizarre to hear what’s happening to them when they leave the gates of the base.

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