If you find yourself with over $90,000 in debt, working a shitty job you hate, living with a girlfriend that hates you and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, you might want to consider working in a war zone.
Accommodations were free, if spartan. We bunked in a single room at a Blackwater team house in the Green Zone. Those guys were scary enough that I didn’t leave our room except to the use the bathroom. (Even this was a mistake; during one trip to pee, I was intercepted by the “house leader” and literally dragged around the facility by the scruff of my neck to underscore how dangerous absolutely everything was.) Most of our meals were free as well, courtesy of the military dining facilities in the CPA palace headquarters and the Al Rashid Hotel, though, for the sake of variety, we would take the occasional meal at the “Back Chinese” restaurant or the Green Zone Café. Mostly, we just worked.
My job was ostensibly to plan the IT and communications infrastructure for the newly established Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI). Nationwide elections were scheduled for January 2005, only five months away. Given that no one had a firm grasp on how any of this was going to work, my job was initially little more than an intellectual exercise, but concepts had a disconcertingly rapid way of becoming reality in Baghdad. By the end of my second week, I was asked to stay on through February to build what I had planned.
I demurred, finished my contract, and returned to Kosovo. I was ambivalent about taking on the project, I was tired of being separated from D.D., and it was, of course, exceedingly dangerous. The Green Zone had been mortared frequently, and one had landed close enough to where we were having dinner that I could hear the shrapnel ricocheting in the street.
Still, I never actually said no.
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