Hello all. I've arrived in Baghdad for my fifth working tour in Iraq. And what a trip! I entered the country through Dubai aboard Iraqi Airways. Two hours, $575 roundtrip (the same price I paid for the 6-hour flight from London to Dubai.
I get to Dubai airport and nobody has any record of my ticket. That smarts. That problem solved, I get to the airport and the plane is delayed. Big surprise. The plane is an old Boeing 737 that was literally being held together with duct tape (see Flickr photo blog). Fine flight until the landing. All planes coming into Baghdad land in a steep corkscrew so their entire landing takes place over the airport, making it harder to shoot down a plane.
We get to the airport and it's now pitch-black outside. So I go through customs, pay my $86 USD for an Iraqi visa, get a cool stamp in my passport, lose one of my bags when I accidentally put it down for a minute (I found it the next day), and retrieve my baggage, find a taxi to take me to the American checkpoint. My ride wasn't there. I'm alone. In the dark. In Iraq. Miles from Baghdad. And the Iraqi cell phone network was not working. I finally get through to my boss in Virginia. There was no way anybody was going to pick me up after dark, he says. So I had to sleep in the terminal. On the marble floor. While Iraqi night janitors went about their fruitless effort to clean the airport of its infinite dust. Welcome to Baghdad...suckers.
Meanwhile, the Pineapple Princess is going out tonight to the theatre on London's West End. While I sit in a gloomy Baghdad hotel room watching "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" for the 3rd time. In a month.