Let there be darkness

This anecdote is about the situation in my family in the end of 70s and beginning of 80s. My mother and one other woman from our neighborhood regularly checked gold prices in different countries. As soon as they discovered that prices dropped somewhere – for example, in Bulgaria – they would fly there, buy some gold and smuggle it back to Iraq where the value of gold was higher. This was the only way she could earn money to maintain her family with eight children.

Meanwhile, my father, a calligrapher, who was no stranger to leisure, would take a shuttle bus to Sofia with his friends, enjoy his holiday and spend most of the money he earned. When my siblings and I asked him cheekily, “Isn't it too long to sit in a shuttle bus for two days until you get there? Why don't you want to go by plane like our mum?” He replied, “It would be a shame to pass by such breathtaking nature on a speed, which wouldn´t allow me to see all its beauty”.

Each time my mum came back from overseas, she brought music cassettes for my siblings and me. This was our only access to Western music. One of these cassettes was Tina Charles' album 'Dance Little Lady, Dance'. In 90s, during the UN sanctions on Iraq, we used to have electricity for one hour a day only. To my sisters and me this hour meant 3600 seconds. It was the only time during which we could listen to music. We were eagerly waiting for those damn 7 PM, when the electricity would turn on. Meanwhile, we were rewinding the cassette tapes on our favorite songs with a pen, not to waste any time during those 3600 seconds. From his/her room, with his/her cassette player, smoking cigarettes on the sly, counting down the minutes, while our Anastasia was counting up. We used to do that every day and developed such a sense for length of the tapes, tangibility of songs, that most of the time we succeeded to rewind it precisely on the beginning of the songs we wanted.