My new Iraqi friends in Istanbul departure lounge

Departure lounges always fascinate me. No where else on earth do you get to mingle and mix with the germs of so many polyglot passengers from such disparate parts of the world. You can sit down in a Cafe Nero and be surrounded by the guttural exchanges of Yemeni Arabs to your left and a bunch of Iraqi English teachers to your right. And it is only in such international mixing pots as airport departure lounges, especially the Istanbul departure lounge I am sitting in, where the Iraqi English teachers proceed to interrogate me on all things English.

It seems they are fascinated by England and even more fascinated by my accent. These Iraqi English teachers from Baghdad have spent so much time teaching English to Iraqi students, that when they are confronted by a real specimen, the ‘real deal’ as I am to them, they can’t help but ask me a million and one questions – simply so they can hear me talk!

One of them asks me if there is political tension between England and Scotland. It is a good question and I answer it by going into Scottish and English historical rivalry. The Catholic and Protestant divide and the Scottish parliament. I am able to answer the question in sweeping historical terms and manage to weave in a narrative that incorporates social, philosophical and psychological threads. They are left astounded by the breath and depth of my knowledge, and so frankly, am I. I didn’t know I had it in me!

They then continue to quiz me on English accents and the differences between say a Manchurian and a Londoner. I proceed to tell them that my London accent is fairly easy to understand – if I was speaking in an Irish accent they would be struggling.

They then ask me to comment on there accents and how good they are!

What a fascinating exchange it is and I haven’t even left for Kabul yet. However, I get a taste of Kabul fairly quickly when I turn my gaze towards the departure schedule and discover that my flight to Kabul has been delayed by three hours. Three whole hours! And it is the only flight on the entire departure board so delayed.

My mind wonders as to the possible reasons for this delay and my thoughts turn grim and morbid. Maybe the engines had a problem, or there was a threat of the plane being shot down? Who knows, but the floodgates are now open…

I haven’t even landed yet, in fact I haven’t even got on the flight to Kabul from Istanbul, and already I am asking myself that most obvious of questions:

“What the fuck am I doing here?!”

Never mind. Let’s hope Kabul customs don’t discover the two bottles of wine I have hidden away in my hand luggage.

If they do then I’ll definitely be wondering:

“What the fuck am I doing here?!”

Over and out. Dispatches from a crazy person on some crazy adventure.

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