Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas in Kurdistan

The holiday and festive season has come in Kurdistan!!

It was Eid and we had a break for 8 days, soon we begin the christmas and new year break for another three weeks. After that comes Newroz break, then the other historical Kurdish occasions, following that is Easter and the list goes on...

The 'Jazhn' or 'Eid' season is big here. There are many celebrations and the tradition is deeply rooted. One that I have realized I can not agree with is the killing of animals such as sheep to give to poor and so on... but it appears to be a well known custom. Of course there is the family gathering and the early morning cooking.

The spirit of the festive season is everywhere; the Christmas tree has gone up in our university cafeteria and the area around the citadel has already been decorated with some lights at dark..

Ainkawa- where it is dominated by the Christian community is absolutely beautiful during this time of year as people prepare for their religious celebrations. The atmosphere and is vibrant and lively... (I just wish it would rain more and maybe even some snow...)

To conclude, it makes me so cheerful and happy that people in the region take the time to celebrate this time of year. Whether it is shopping, going for holiday, cooking or just spending time with family and relatives… I wish no matter what people do they make the best of it, and we must never take this opportunity for granted- I doubt people in other parts of Iraq can celebrate like this.

Sazan Mandalawi


A few snap shots of my beautiful city...
Special thanks to Khanzad!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Two years on, and the story continues...

Back to my land- Kurdistan
Sazan Mandalawi

It seems like yesterday when I first landed in the Erbil International Airport, the mixed emotions and feelings of those moments are still with me today. The many times when I had doubted the decision of my permanent return and it took time to adjust back ‘home’. Two years and a half later and I do not regret one second of that decision, it has been a time of my life that can not be compared to any past experiences.

Growing up as a teenager in Perth, Western Australia, was a life resembling a dream for many people, including myself. It was a trouble and carefree lifestyle. Teenage years are always a tricky and a delicate time to individuals, however feeling like you can not fit into the society and group really affected me.

I was always bubbly and made friends easily, but I can recall there was always something inside me that had not settled, I could not fit in. I grew up in a small family that always taught me what it was to be a Kurd- the culture, religion and traditions played a major role in my life even abroad.

These aspects of my life inside the house influenced my life in the outside world. For a young child this became an internal struggle in my younger years.

After our decision of permanent return to Kurdistan, I recollect times of tears, sleepless nights and sadness that my future had been shattered. I look back today and laugh, despite the fact that I have left behind all the luxuries of a developed country, inside I am more content then I ever was in the many years I spent abroad. Why? I ask myself the same question. It maybe because I feel I am one of these people, everything I do I feel it is for the ‘greater good’ I study and I feel I am doing something for this nation, this is a feeling that I never had or thought about before.

I have learned to realize the many things one takes for granted and have come to appreciate the many things life offers. I have left behind the idea of comparing ‘here’ and ‘there’ instead, I put side by side the idea of ‘here today’ and ‘here yesterday’. Everyday there is progress in the region, a new park, a new organization, a new project, a new building and the of course the endless new malls in Erbil. This is all development and progress that we do not realize as it is gradually happening in front of our eyes everyday.

I can sit with a group of friends and debate or argue certain issues recognizing the fact they understand the background I am coming from. I have learned how it feels to say something that you truly believe in and for people to understand and relate to you. For me, it is the small things that have dramatically triggered a happier lifestyle. I can go out with the girls and know we have to return early and the place needs to be appropriate because there is something that we all share in common and agree that they are ‘morally right’.

No matter how long I lived abroad and the large extent to which my family was open minded and understanding, at the end of the day I was a Kurdish girl. To be back in Kurdistan has made me proud of this, true, one can not deny the many issues and dilemmas our society is confronted with, nonetheless, from experience nothing is comparable to living in your own society within your own people.

It is a little peculiar and comical for me to write this, but at times with the many Kurdish people I meet I sense a feeling of belonging, a strange perception that they are relatives or part of an extended family for me. This I could never have experienced abroad. The lonely feeling of walking in the local bizarre and hearing people speak Kurdish still evokes an ecstatic sensation.

When I sit and think, I myself, find it remarkable that I find so much contentment in the simple aspects of life here in Kurdistan to the indulgence of a western developed country. At the same time I feel privileged to have lived a life far from Kurdistan, as it makes me find and realize this happiness.

(A recent article of mine.. By Sazan M. Mandalawi)