Living the life I lead has many privileges. Being the daughter of a diplomat, I have many privileges an average child may not have. I have the privilege to travel to all the posts my mom is assigned to. I have diplomatic immunity. I meet dignitaries and members of the foreign press corps. I have the best the world has to offer.
But the best part of being a diplomat’s daughter is the unlimited access to social functions with no less than U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as guest of honor.
Today is the first year anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Iraq. Some 22 people died in that blast including Sergio de Mello, UN Representative in Iraq. A peace concert was held at the Victoria Hall in Geneva to commemorate the many lives lost in the senseless bombing. Gilberto Gil, a Brasilian singer-composer, and Capuera dancers performed for peace and to honor the memories of the “heroes” of Canal who worked for peace.
Canal Hotel housed the defunct UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI) that oversaw the Oil-for-Food Programme to alleviate the suffering that the UN-imposed sanctions had wrought in Iraq. The Canal Hotel later became the UN headquarters after the US-led war in Iraq.
UNOHCI has a place in my heart as I was once part of it. I was an intern Information Officer with a Jordanian Information Officer, Adnan Jarrar. From him, I learned the craft of information dissemination. Right out of the university, I was welcomed into the UNOHCI information team. As part of my responsibilities, I prepared daily press clippings distributed to all diplomatic missions in Baghdad as well as international agencies present in Iraq. It was a good training indeed and something I will carry in my heart forever.
But perhaps with the perks of such an exposure and at the UN no less is meeting people – real people who make a difference in your life.
Today, not only did I see my former boss, Kofi Annan, but I saw a real friend, Saad Al-Asali (translated from Arabic – Happy, the Honey) who was one of the many survivors of the Canal Hotel bombing.
He came, with his pillars of support – his wife and three boys, to Geneva as part of the commemoration of the bombing. He is currently in London for medical treatment. In a month’s time, he’ll go back to Amman, Jordan to resume his duties as part of the UN there.
He was (and still is) a friend in UNOHCI and an important chain the Communications Division. I saw him everyday after office hours when we’d play ping pong at the mess. There, we exchanged philosophical discussions, linguistic theories in computers, and anything and everything about life – both in Iraq and abroad. We talked about our families and he thought me some Iraqi.
Of all the people I expected to see today, he was the least I thought I’d meet. I was content with the thought that Annan would be at the peace concert. In my excitement, I forgot to take a picture of him and his family. Usually, my eyes are the extensions of my camera lenses.
I wrote earlier in my entries that I always left friends behind because of my travel-ridden life. But there is nothing sweeter than to see an old friend and to be reminded how good life really is – to be among friends and loved ones.
Each person counts and each person makes a mark in your heart.
To Saad and the many friends I’ve left behind, thank you and I hope that someday our paths will cross again and we may reminisce in sweet nostalgia of days of yore.