Baquba, Iraq Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Baquba, Iraq

Baquba, Iraq 09/27/07

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I lived all over Korea for about 18 years.

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2. How long have you lived here?

A little more than a month.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

FSO action officer duty at a Provincial Reconstruction Team.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Travel D.C. to Jordan was painless, but MILAIR flight to Baghdad has a lot of variables. I spent 2.5 days in Amman due to delays. Helo flight from Baghdad to here took about 4 hours (70km).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

If you live on the FOB, you will live in a containerized housing unit (CHU).It is a trailer.your communal bathroom is never further than 300 feet away +/-.Same with the showers, which are not co-located with the bathroom. On the FOB you can and will get everywhere on foot, but the dust is severe, esp with all the military vehicles moving around, Bonus the roads are unpaved. Farthest you could conceivably walk is about 15 minutes. If you live in the governance center, you share a room, in a building, with a bathroom and shower down the hall. No dust. Running water close by and generally you will have a window.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

PX on the FOB is very lightly stocked, virtually no civilian clothing, very little in consumer electronics, mostly soap, shampoo, feminine products and a large inexplicable supply of early pregnancy tests.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Through the APO you can get most everything delivered.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

On the FOB pizza, and green bean coffee. Mess Hall (dining facility of DFAC) has the monopoly. At the governance center, DFAC is the only source of food.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Don't even think it.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

On the FOB you can use the Debit or credit card plus 20 dollars over.outside, nothing. If you live at the governance center (downtown) there is no retail anything available, except for online shopping.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Military chaplains come to the governance center sometimes for services. FOB has a chapel

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Stars and Stripes is provided free, like good propaganda should be. Everything else is online.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to speak Arabic or have a linguist support for almost all business issues.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

People who get physical difficulties here medically evacuated as soon as they are stabilized. People with pre-existing issues are not sent here. Locals appear to be homebound.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

We drive in the middle of the road at high speed with sirens and lights and everybody yields.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Nope and nope.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I would bring something armored, with a gun turret. Terrain is bad, explosives are bad, small arms fire is bad, local driving is bad.stick to convoy travel or take a ehlo.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Free, with sporadic outages, it is DSLish in speed.no local govt censoring or access noted.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

On the FOB Iraqna cells won't function, downtown at the governance it works 50-60% of the time.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Phone cards purchased here at the PX.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Nope.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really although they say Al Quaeda in Iraq is hiring foreign fighters.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Cargo pants or khakis are it for men. Dickies, Polo, or work shirts will do for shirts. Have a suit/tie on standby. Women bow to the pressure of this society and dress conservatively in contact with Iraqis.boots are recommended for all since the rocky surface eats up all other footwear.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

I'd have to say unhealthy. Moondust-like dust everywhere, all the time.generator smoke and noise all the time, trash burning all the time. Bottled wter only. Alos, bonus, recent cholera outbreak.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Mortars, rockets, Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED), Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) , sniper fire, stray rounds from celebratory fire, and people wearing explosive vests (suicide bombers).Street crime is said to be severe and bank robberies are way up. Other than that, I sleep with my door unlocked

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

US military covers your health care needs.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, hot, hot in the summer, over 100 daily. Fall cools off a little but still in the high 80s most days. When it rains (DEC-MAR) the rain combines with the moondust to become almost oil-like in it's slipperiness. Governance center is a good place to avoid that. FOB is a mudbowl. Winter is reportedly close to freezing at night but warmer in the daytime.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge but almost entirely military

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2. Morale among expats:

Hard to gauge. Most folks seem to be preoccupied with their next R&R or their departure date. Many seem genuinely concerned about having to return to Iraq, some are on their 3rd tour already.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Nope.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good for nobody here. Locals are fleeing to Syria, Jordan and anywhere else they can. We hve no families. There is no dating potential for anybody, and there are no couples that i have spotted.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably within the confines of the FOB. We really have little/no social contact with locals, but the military community has always had and active G/L presence and there is no reason to suspect the military here is any different.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Except for a few State Department people this is entirely a military living experience. These folks are in a quasi-combat environment, all the time. They are a big family of all different races, creeds, colors, and sexual orientations. If you can get along with them, you'll do fine, no matter your race, creed, color, ororientation. If you harbor negative feelings deep down inside about military folks, then you will self select yourself out of everything and be on the outside of the only groud around (except Al Quaeda).

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

I read a lot. I websurf. Did I mention I read a lot? Go to the gym. Repeat.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing really,even the hookahs sold on the base by concessionaires are imported from Egypt and sell for more than they run on eBay.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't spend it online, absolutely. There is virtually nothing here to buy locally.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would, but I am a glutton for punishment and former military, so this is not so alien or difficult.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Squeamishness at gunfire or explosions.

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3. But don't forget your:

Pajamas, good shower shoes, and sense of adventure.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Iraq presents challenges on many levels. PRT duty, whether at the FOB or a governance center is radically different from Baghdad Embassy duty. Be prepared to rough it a little.

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