Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Kurdistani Day

To my dear blog follower… no matter where you are in the world*
It is now past midnight in my small and cozy room very far from home. There is a lot of reading to do before tomorrow's seminar, but something inside me said to leave the highlighter and pages photocopy papers and make my way to the laptop.
To the voice of Karim Kaban I began looking though pictures of my last weeks in Erbil. Not surprisingly it was hard going back to readings on the Italian system of diplomacy at he time compared to that of ancient Greece. Hence, I decided to share with you Kurdistani Times, in the hope that it gives you—my dear reader— an insight to life in Kurdistan.

The last outdoor Dolma I had with family friends
My love for Dolma is beyond what words can describe. Hence, it is only natural that I begin with this picture.  You see, in Kurdistan we don't enjoy eating alone. When Dolma (otherwise might be known as yapragh) is cooked at home it has to be shared with others- the uncle, the aunt, the cousins and if all else fails then you just invite the next door neighbour. You know what is most interesting? Usually the man of the house is usually called to flip the large pot of dolma into what ever it is that it will be served on. Special touch maybe.
And then the Kurdish chay - tea
Before you even have time to fully digest the dolma, and before you have enough time to indulge in the juicy tastes moving every single taste bud there is, everyone is making if the chay is being prepared. This picture reminded me of dad, a picnic was not complete with tea that made my mum's tea pot as black as coal. I really can't tell the difference between a tea bag dipped in hot water and tea that takes one hour to make, but let me tell you this: A KURDISH MAN knows his chay.

Step 1: Buy Mr. Shooti- watermelon
So… you had the chay? It is time for the shooti. Usually the shooti is bought on the way to where ever it is you are going. Once you arrive, you put it in the cold water that flows nonstop and it is ready to have right after the chay!
Step two: Allow for Mr. Shooti to cool down, the natural way
Step 3: Kill Mr. Shooti
Step 4: Let my little cousin M. S. Mandalawi show you just how to eat a cold, sweet shooti

 You think by the time you eat the shooti then you're done. But that is just the start of the joy. Usually in most places there is the local food that you can have**. However, after the food big picnics usually end up seperating into small groups. One group will play some games, another will go for a walk, the little ones will get themselves wet and the good girls (like me) wash the dishes... not on a sink with warm water, but with running, cold kani water.
Still can't play it, but the men and the younger guys can go on for hours

Aaaah.. I recall this game very well. I lost every single round!
Usually there are many conversations going on in the picnics. I seem to enjoy the part where they all sit and begin telling the latest jokes that they've heard. Then it will slowly move into politics issues and that's when the talk never ends. (Meanwhile, someone has to do the dishes!)
Sometimes it's just best to stick to what you can do well, in my case, believe it or not it is washing dishes.
This picture was taken moments before my camera went out of charge. Minutes after this all those kids (who all seem to be daring each other to have that tempting swim in the water) were all in the pool. I must point out this pool in Akre, fills up every single day with natural water. There is a man there who blocks it during the day for the kids, and lets it all go in the evening.

notice the rockmelons floating in the pool
My dear reader, you see, in places like these you don't book online a week or even better a month before. You just turn up earlier than other people and take a place. Usually in summer months when it gets a little more crowded areas are sectioned off and each family takes there own little area. A small payment for the entire day, and most of the time it is free of charge anyway. There are many who bring lights and blankets and sleep the night as well. That's an idea for you!
Just be the first and you have a variety of choices 
In Kurdish picnics you often see or encounter certain things that maybe very simple, but the meaning that they carry is spectacular. For example, in this last picnic we went to, the mother of a close family friend was really quiet the entire time, she would eat, pray, and sleep by the little waterfall, far from everyone but from her very strategic place she could see everything that was going on. Here daya gawra is pictured using her phone. Sadly I can't tell you if she was dialing a number, texting or miss-calling anyone. But it sure does tell you a lot about modern day Kurdistan.
Maybe she is Tweeting and I don't know
The nature back home is definately the ultimate way of releasing stress and really enjoying your time, mainly because it is enjoyed by close family, friends and relatives.
This water keeps flowing non-stop, it actually tastes and smells very pure!
And sometimes you come across some very special creatures:
My favourite animal
 But what I like most about the little picnics back home is that it makes you reailze the importance of the simple life. The beauty of the simple life. The life that isn't complicated. A life where you can be happy with the most minimum of things, a life where you live only by your needs. A life that I certainly yearn for... you go back to the time of the rocking cradle...
A local woman insisted that I visit.. during my visit I met baby Hama*.
I can talk about the hospitality of the people in outer city areas for every, but it will never reflect the reality. Dayki Hama (Hama's mother) 
Chay at the verandah of Hama's house
I miss that day, as its one of my last memories of back home. Though deep inside I am content, because I know there are somethings that won't change back home. I know that anytime I can go back and this will still be there. I can take a note pad and a pen and sit by the little waterfall, or maybe rest my head on daya gawra's lap. Meanwhile I will conclude this blog (by the way it is well past mid-night and I am certainly not going back to anything about Italy or Greece) by a photo that I took of my little angel M. S. M giving me a leaf. I put it in a little notebook after she gave it to me, and right now, it is here, with me!
Indeed Kurdistan has taught me that the greatest things in life are priceless

Shaw Bash!

**Wait for future blog entries :)
*I actually forgot the baby's name, but there is a 80% chance that he was Hama anyway :) 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Under the rainbow

To my dearest and most loyal reader*,
Less than an hour ago, under the rainbow I said goodbye. My father had dropped me off and let me settle down, before going to Austria, and then back to here just to spend a day with me, before his return to Erbil.
For the first time, I saw a rainbow in such early hours of the morning, as I hugged him closely, I was observing how clear the colors of the rainbow looked in the sky. One of those moments where I felt that the arch colours in the sky had only come out to cheer me up, because I love it so much. A sign from the sky to tell me be strong. I decided a walk by the lake would be the ultimate thing to do, walking past the ducks. The rain began to sprinkle lightly. As usual, I picked up a leaf and carried it back inside.

This leaf... picked up a little while back- a cold, early morning walk, after the departure of my father
 Another leaf. Another memory. Another moment to remember. First time, after almost 22 years I am feeling far from baba (dad).
I could feel the way he felt. Leaving his eldest child and only daughter was tough. He didn't say it. I only felt it. I am still under the protection of his wings, even though he may be far from me. Still drowned in his love, even though I won't see it in his eyes every morning when I wake up. Still his baby child, though I am now fully independent.    
When you're a Kurdish girl, you don't leave home unless Mr. Prince Charming has found you and takes you on his white horse. It's a new emerging culture that was brought up and encouraged by the KRG's new plan to educate young people abroad then employ them back home, that has changed this recently.
Today, when it comes to Kurdish families, many are prepared to do the impossible to ensure their children are receiving the best possible education. It is inspired from our leaders, and from society, even the middle and lower classes. An educational opportunity is perceived to be a golden

feeling ashamed and embarrassed from the ducks that I didn't have anything to offer. I think they expected any guest at this time of the morning to have at least some bread
 As for baba, I will miss the times I returned home before sunset and saw him around the garden, planting something new almost every day, adding his little touches to the flowers, and the infinite other plants in the our yard. I remember, when we planted the first few trees, he'd do it on his own, saying: "I want your children to play under its shade". Now I know what he meant. Often I would put my bag down and we’d have a conversation, he'd start by showing me a new flower that has just blossomed, or allows me taste a new fruit, that is still bitter because it needs another few weeks to ripen. From there, I would begin: "today I….."
Kurdish fathers in general—but mine in particular—feel like they possess the universe when given that perfect tasting tea (which is definitely not a tea bag in hot water), their happiness often derives from the simplest things in life. I know baba was worried and to a degree upset that he was leaving me, I know it will take time to get used to Sazan's absence in the house. I know the first night he's in Erbil he will go and sit on my bed in my room (and if I know my dad well enough, he would take one of the notebooks on my bedside table and write me something), but I also know what it means for a Kurdish father to see his children succeed, they realize all their effort and sacrifice was worth it.
The girls here, about eight of them in my accommodation, are encountering the same feelings. When we sit around the dinner table in our pajamas and begin sharing our stories, it's all the same. We find the experience much more difficult than others because we are not used to this, though it is the support and encouragement of loved ones back home that is helping to finish this journey successfully.
I promise to blog about our days here later this week.   
* This blog has become such an important part of my life, that in the most difficult and happiest moments I write in it for you. Forgive me if I have changed direction recently. But it has become part of my life, and I promise to begin writing on life in Kurdistan and of Kurds, from now on. I have settled in. So no excuses!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Flying out from the nest

To my dearest reader, still the most loyal blog follower in the world…

Sorry for being disloyal* but what can I say life and its roller coaster ride has taken me away… today (correction: tonight!) I am not writing from a mountain top, I am not writing with little children pressing the laptop and playing with my hair, I am not writing surrounded by relatives discussing everything from Obama to the neighbour's baby; I am not writing by a waterfall in Bekhal, nor am I writing from the top of the citadel. No I am not in Khanaqin or Mandaly, and I haven’t passed Suli or Duhok. I am not in a village on a mountain top and no, I am not in the orphanage or the elderly people's home.

My dearest reader, after five years tonight I write to you from a distant land…. I have flown out of my nest. Tonight I am not writing from Kurdistan. No. I am not in Hawler.
A key in my hand to open a wide future...
I am writing from a small room, in a university accommodation all the way in the UK**.  I have made myself at home as much as possible; a Kurdish flag hung on the right, on the left (at the back of the door) a large poster of the Bekhal waterfall, a little more to the left on the bathroom door a poster of the Minaret,  and behind me a picture of the citadel. But in front of me, staring at me, is a picture of four people smiling (mu family!) and drawings illustrated by my dearest cousins Haval and Lava!

Exactly ten days have passed since I left home. What do I miss?

I miss

Listening to choni  (Kwi in Hawleri) and sarchaw

Relative gatherings and guests in the evenings

The fact that every day was a different day and barely anyone was running around catching up to their daily schedule
That 9 a.m. usually means 11:30 and half an hour means one-and-a-half hour

Going to a government office and being sent from room 6 to 8 then to 3 and then back to 6 before going to room 11 to collect stamps and signatures and realizing in the end I need to come back another three times before the job is done

Sitting on the couch flipping through Kurdish channels

Walking through Erbil Doctors' Road and complaining non-stop

The view of the citadel when driving

How cars don't always drive perfectly- let's face it, never drive perfectly!

Dolma, bryani, fasoolya and brnj and every other food that sparkles with unhealthy oil
I miss how everyone admits that they're on a diet when reaching out for another Baqlawa (a type of sweet you must have when dieting!)  

Home is not perfect, as you can well see it is drenched in its flaws… but home is home, with all its flaws, it remains the nest.

I promise this blog will uphold its pledge to bring you the best of Kurdistan… even though I may be far.

*Actually twice I wrote a blog entry, but decided not to publish it—too emotional for the context of this blog. But this time, I am going to click "publish" no matter what.
**where I am pursuing my postgraduate studies… trying to make a dream come true.