Happy New Year!*
Every year, since 2000, I spend New Year's Eve writing an entire list of resolutions. Unlike some people who have one or two aims for the forthcoming year, my list is normally long (very long). For me, on a personal basis, 2010 had some of the greatest and … well, not-so-great moments of my life. What is surprising is that unlike every year, this year I didn't have a list of New Year resolutions. Weird huh?
To finish off the year, we** visited the Nanakaly hospital twice. Our aim was to go and see the children with cancer- most of the ones we saw had Leukaemia. The four of us put on a great fundraiser (among family members and relatives mostly) where we were able to purchase a over packed trolley full of goods –board games, drawing & painting kits, chess, snakes and ladders, cards, puzzles, this is not to mention the chocolate and lollies – to take with us on our visit to the kids, (as for the picture on the right, spending is fun. Ask any girl. But it becomes a million times more meaningful and more enjoyable when it is done for others).
We knew it was nothing. But experience has taught us that for one second to make any child smile means the world. Unlike the orphans who are always so active and receptive, (see pictures) these kids (Around 12 of them) looked weaker; some couldn't even move parts of their bodies. Others could barely smile.
The doctors we met do their best to help the children and even more the parents. There is chemotherapy (but costly for the average family). From the few hours we spent in a lecture room of the conference, where all the patients and their parents met us. We tried to play a few games with the kids. Just looking at the parents made me feel guilty, I don't know for what, but I could feel the depth of their pain. That is, psychological pain. After our little get-together, activities as well as the hugs and handshakes for good bye I had to ask the doctor about the health condition of the children. The one who attracted my attention the most, the young girl with a talent for painting and drawing, is expecting an end to her life any day. As for the cute little girl who did not stop smiling, and the young boy who couldn't play with me because of his back ... the response I got was: 'they're both lucky to live for few years.'
Above: The Nanakaly hospital for blood diseases and oncology, in Erbil
That was Nanakaly.
Earlier, before Nanakaly the students (a group of about 15 boys and girls) of the University of Kurdistan- Hawler (who I am so proud of) took a trip to the orphanage in Erbil. Words cannot explain both the internal content and also the sadness at the same time as tried to make the orphans smile. The orphanage is always an experience. The beauty is that these children's eyes sparkle with hope, with optimism and at the same time you can feel there is something that is not right. Something that is missing, the greatest thing that money nor toys cannot buy – love – and that's what we do. From the visits and with time I have realized that the kids enjoy being hugged, carried around and they like to hold hands. The girls (you know who you are!) went back to their primary school years with games outside the residential areas of the orphanage while the guys put on what appeared to look like a concert with sold out tickets! It was a great day, with no doubt.
Above: Picture of the orphans gathering at our visit towards the end of 2010
That was the orphanage.
Two days before the orphanage I had visited the nursing home (opposite to the Ronaky park) with one of aunts. I probably enjoy going there the most because I feel the neglect of the feeling of loneliness among the elderlies. There are two nursing homes in Erbil, one for those who can look after themselves, and I must admit their rooms are probably neater and better looking than my own. The other nursing home (with about 50 to 60 elderly men and women) can improve in many ways, and I have heard that they're moving to a new building. But sit with anyone of them and you will realize that despite the care they are given life is difficult. I listen to the same stories over and over again. There are three women who I feel the closest to, they share a room and maybe around 75 years old. They are either always in pain, or they feel lonely, or they couldn't sleep the night before because their legs, stomach, back, neck and even hands was hurting them.
So this was the end of 2010 for me. On New Year eve I was not in party mode. I realized this year I just wished to be safe, healthy and prayed that my family will remain close to me. The others goals in life I will have to work hard at every day of my life. Every year. I realized more than ever that I possess the greatest things in life. I didn't need to write a checklist of what must be done this year, because what I want from life is embossed in my mind every second of everyday.
Above: Had the greatest time putting together the little sweet packs.
Sometimes we get carries away with our own life, that we forget others. Sometimes we want so much that we end up thinking that these are needs that we can't live without (hand bags, shoes, fancy restaurants, parties are just to name a few).
Of all the great lessons of 2010, I learned not take life for granted. The average people like the patients in the hospital, the orphans and the elderly men and women in the nursing home have taught me the greatest things in life are the simplest things. As the rest of the world (and so many people in Erbil too) reserved for party venues - as I am aware tickets were sold out early in some places - thousands spent the nights with music, dances and songs. I prefered a family gathering with some relatives. It was lovely. Welcome 2011.
*Four days late, I know.
**A.S, S.R, B.A and myself!
I haven't put pictures of the kids on purpose.