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Field Notes: Alexandra Boulat
Boulat
Photograph by Jerome Delay

Best

The Iraqi people were remarkable. Even as the war approached they remained friendly and open-minded toward foreigners. Rather than see us as representatives of a state, they treated us as if we were friends or brothers. They could have easily become aggressive or anxious because they were scared, but I saw no sign of that on the street. I still had the confidence of the people with whom I was working, so I was able to work quite freely.

Worst

It was very stressful dealing with the Press Center, which depends upon the Ministry of Information. They give out ten-day visas, so every ten days I'd have to go back to get an extension. Each time it took two whole days to get things sorted out and to explain my case and convince them to let me stay. They seemed to enjoy it.

I couldn't see the need for them to be so strict. I was by myself. I had no TV crew. I just couldn't understand what the problem was. Why didn't they want me to stay? I think it was just a power game for them. Each time I had to deal with them, I didn't know if they would allow me to stay or not.

Quirkiest

The Iraqi government wanted to maintain their pride, so they told the people there wouldn't be any war. As a result, the Iraqis didn't take steps to prepare. I was out one day with my driver in Baghdad when I saw deep trenches newly excavated in front of some houses. "Aha! They're digging trenches," I said, thinking the people were about to erect barriers. "No," my driver told me, "they're just repairing the public water pipes."

Right before the bombing began, Baghdad utility workers behaved as if everything was normal.