From guest blogger Corinne Reilly, Merced Sun-Star:
After spending two months here last fall, I returned to Baghdad on Saturday for another six-week reporting tour. Overall, it feels good to be back.
Baghdad isn't the easiest place to live. It's still dangerous and, consequently, still sad and still fairly restrictive. Already I've written about several bombings. I can't really go out at night. Some neighborhoods are still too risky for westerners.
But there's lots I missed about Iraq, too. Foremost was McClatchy's terrific local staff of reporters and drivers. They are warm, tireless and endlessly helpful.
On my first day back, I mentioned to one of our reporters, Laith, that the phone in my room wasn't working. I figured he'd say it'd been that way for a while. Or maybe he'd suggest calling someone to look at it later.
I should have known better.
First he lifted the receiver. No dial tone. He walked down the hall, unplugged a phone in the newsroom and brought it to my room. That phone didn't work either. The problem must be with the phone cord, he decided.
So he followed it with his fingers to the other end and pulled it from the jack, revealing frayed wires. "Here is the problem," he said.
He fetched a few tools and a cigarette lighter. I watched him peel back the plastic that surrounded the wires, snip something off, cauterize something with the lighter and twist something else with his fingers. Then he plugged everything back in.
"Pick it up and try it, dear," he told me.
Dial tone. It worked.
Impressed, I though about what Laith's ingenuity said about his country. I would have never tried to fix the phone myself, nor would I have known how. Forced to live through years of sanctions and embargoes under Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqis know how to live with what they have, and how to make what they have last.
"Iraqis can fix anything," I told Laith.
"Except our country," he replied.