I ran into the Embassy of Iraq during our walk today (yesterday) - it's hidden well in an obscure neighborhood, squeezed between a number of medical and military institutions. It looks just like some of those African embassies in Moscow's center - a pre-revolutionary mansion, unkempt, with large metal containers dumped on what used to be the front lawn, etc.
Back in 2001, we lived on Pomerantsev Pereulok, across the street from the embassy of some African country - I can't remember which one - and I always felt sorry for the really beautiful building and for the trees trying to grow in between all the junk; last time we walked there, the embassy was gone - perhaps they couldn't afford it, and I'm really glad they moved out.
A Russian guy was trying to fix a rather elderly Volga in front of the Iraqi embassy building, and two amicable Arabs stood next to him, watching and giving advice.
It's a relatively quiet location, and I couldn't help thinking of how much quieter it is for them here than back home: Moscow may suck, but it's nowhere near as horrible as Baghdad entering the fifth year of war.
They don't allow to take pictures near embassies, so I never do. When I was pregnant, sometime in the summer of 2005, I was walking along Pomerantsev, for the first time in a few years, I guess, and I saw the dog that I used to feed when we lived there - a mutt that looked like a dirty mop, ugly but very clever, so clever that the cops guarding the African embassy kind of adopted it. And I was so excited to see it, after all those years, and I decided to take a picture - but a young cop emerged from his booth right away and asked me, politely, to move on. I complied, but took some time to explain my nostalgic feelings to him, and he must've been moved, because what he did next was really crazy, really hilarious: he grabbed the dog into his arms, with that totally serious look on his face, and started carrying it away from the embassy, so that I could photograph it. Just imagine it. It got me laughing, and I begged him to please put the poor creature down, and then walked off without the picture. I mean, a picture of the cop with the dog would've been a real masterpiece - but I don't think he would've agreed to be photographed like this, and the dog alone, well, I don't really need a picture to remember it.
Some of those police booths in front of the embassies have an unlikely village feel about them, by the way. Many have little white curtains on the windows, so carefree, and once I saw a cop pouring the remains of his tea into the puddle by the sidewalk, without stepping out of the booth.