And the long-awaited punchline on page eight. Obviously, if you’re building something in the US*, you call a central office and they not only know what is where, but they’ll come out with a metal detector and find it and mark it for you. In Iraq, if there ever was such a registry, it’s long sense been buried under smouldering rubble. We had some success at using a metal detector to find pipes, but with PVC, unless it’s been marked with metal tape, it’s not going to indicate; even with a metal pipe the false positive rate is very high.
One less obvious lesson here: if you ask an Iraqi, point blank, does he know such-and-such, the answer is frequently yes whether he does or not, because to admit ignorance would be to lose face and status in front of the powerful American. Unfortunately for everyone here, that level of subtlety is tough to maintain when you’re going on four hours of sleep a night for the past 11 months. It’s also counter-intuitive for Americans.
*Would-be employers take note: I will not make this same mistake if you hire me.
And, of course, it would be unjust of me if I didn’t link to the best Iraqi interpreter comic ever.