My family fled the capital days before the Americans arrived and went to stay with relatives in Diyala province. We did not have exact directions to my cousin's house. But he was a tribal sheik, so I thought he would be easy to find.
The road was clogged with fancy cars and people fleeing on foot. Our convoy of four vehicles raced along the road and reached my cousin's district.
People showed us the way to his riverfront home. My cousin was outside waving. It was the first time I had met him or visited his house. Now I depended on him for survival.
His family gave us their bedrooms and provided us with the best food. During the afternoons we swam in the river.
One day not long after we had arrived, we gathered to listen to a Sony shortwave radio.
We were shocked to learn that the war was over. All of us were happy and started playing poker. I bet like crazy, thinking my Iraqi dinars would soon be worthless.
The next morning, I woke up and said,"Let's go."
My cousin warned us that it was too early, but I wanted to return home.
When we reached the outskirts of Baghdad, we saw our first American tank. As I approached, I spotted a soldier talking to kids. He looked about 22 years old, had blue eyes and appeared a bit jumpy. He kept saying: "We are not here to occupy you. George Bush wants to bring democracy to your country."
When we reached home, our property was safe, but we had no electricity.
I told my mother: "Don't worry, just give them a few days. The Americans will fix everything."
-- Caesar Ahmed, Times staff writer