Morning River Walk

The sun coming up over a mosque from our vantage on the river walk.

The sun coming up over a mosque from our vantage on the river walk.

Every day on the way to work, we go over a bridge with a river – mostly dry riverbed – below.  It looks sort of intriguing, partly because it’s a moving body of water and anything moving somewhere intrigues me and partly because it looks as though some sort of domestication of its banks have been attempted.  So, a few mornings ago, Heidi and I went down to investigate.  Heidi, who has likened herself to a hamster in a wheel, was on a mission to find and collect river rocks for her latest project (a welcome mat with varnished river rocks).  This was actually the only thing that was motivating enough to get her up and out of the apartment by 6am.

We didn’t really know how to get there but we knew the direction so we just set off and meandered until we saw a road that seemed to be – and was – going down to the river.  When we got there we saw that the municipality had, at some point, gone to quite a lot of trouble to try to make it a pleasant green space for walking and picnicking.   Bit of a sad state of affairs it’s in now though, everything all crumbly, overgrown, falling apart and vandalized.  Below is a picture of the riverbed, with scrubby bushes and grasses growing.  Above that, is the walkway on the opposite side of the river; I didn’t actually take photos of the decay as it seemed too sad.

The walkway on the opposite side of the river.

The walkway on the opposite side of the river.

Some bits were actually very pretty where the new growth had enough water to produce some lush greenery and here the water is actually moving; in some parts it was pretty stagnant and…stinky.

The greenery, looking lush and happy

The greenery, looking quite luxuriant!

Doesn't it look as though river nymphs might be hiding in the foliage?

Doesn’t it look as though river nymphs might be hiding in the foliage?

You can see here how tiny the trickle really is, in comparison to the width of the river bed.  At this point, we didn’t know why the river had dried up to this degree.

River bed and water trickleSo we walked along, maybe a couple of kilometres, crossing over footbridges as they appeared, with Heidi scoping out the river bed for suitable stones and bemoaning the fact that they all seemed to be square rather than round as river rocks usually are, when…hello!…I saw a cow standing in the vegetation.   I’ve become used to chickens everywhere but, we are technically still in the middle of the city… a cow?


A Jersey cow, no less.

And as we’re staring at this unexpected riverside encounter, we notice that there are actually several more cows, along with an old man herding them as they graze in what must be the best cow chow in the country.

Black cow just emerging from a bushy area in the foreground and old man kind of under the bridge

Black cow just emerging from a bushy area in the foreground and old man kind of under the bridge

He looked just about as taken aback at the sight of two clearly Western women up at dawn in this unexpected location as we were to see him.  But when I called out “Salam” to him, he waved cheerily back and “Salamed” us in return, along with a good 5 or 6 very friendly sounding sentences in Kurdish, waving his hand merrily around at the river, the riverbank and the cows.  NO idea what he said.  I have a very meager, albeit growing, Kurdish vocabulary but he said nothing I could recognize.  Clearly very friendly though so we waved and smiled and carried on.

Other than a lone runner, we saw no one else down there.  We did, however, see somebody’s very humble home:

Somebody's homeWhen we got to the last footbridge, we saw the reason for the river having turned into a trickle; they had dammed (I first wrote ‘damned’ …Freudian slip?) it and numerous trucks came down to fill up and cart it off to I don’t know where.  Grey water for the many green parks and beautification sites?  For construction purposes?  Certainly not for drinking.

Dammed River with trucks

Dammed River with trucks

We were quite fascinated with this whole process and stood and watched for a good 20 minutes or so.


They back up to these stations where they can connect a hose coming from the river into the backs of their trucks and fill it to the brim, until it begins splashing over.

They back up to these stations where they can connect a hose coming from the river into the backs of their trucks and fill it to the brim, until it begins splashing over.


One the the truckers making his way back to his truck.

One the the truckers making his way back to his truck.

IMG_1754 IMG_1756And that was our morning river walk.  By then Heidi (with my help) had collected a pretty hefty bag of smooth, round(ish) river rocks and, although it wasn’t 7:30 yet, it was getting too hot to be outside and we still had to walk back.

Some lovely rose hips

Some lovely rose hips


Posted in cows by the river, cows in the river bed, dammed river, discovery, Kurdistan, middle east, Morning River Walk, old man speaking Kurdish, river rocks, rosehips, Sulimanayah, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Musings, Reflections and Random Moments in Sulimanayah

1.  Heat.

It’s hot now.  Every day is really, really hot.  The actual, reported, official temperature during the summer here, like in the UAE, is not accurate; it’s always underreported.  The reported temperature at the moment (10:30 am) in Suli is 39, with a forecast of 45 which, in what they call “realfeel”, is 47.  Expected for tomorrow is a temperature of 47 with a “realfeel” of 47.  How they determine the “realfeel”, I don’t have any idea but it can’t be the humidity because – ask my poor skin – there isn’t any!

In the Gulf countries, when it reaches 50, all the outside workers have to be released from duty and sent home because it’s dangerous working in that kind of heat.  This is pretty inconvenient, however, for the captains of industry as it affects productivity (in construction in particular) so, when the temperatures start getting into the 40’s,  reported temperatures are always a few degrees lower than actual temperatures (I know this is true because I had my own thermometer there) Or, maybe they even start in the high 30’s.  That way, when it does reach 50, they can say it’s only 45, 46 or 47.

Here, I’m not sure about whether the outside labourers have to be sent home – I would assume it’s the same – but I have been told that government workers are sent home when the temperature reaches 50 so, at least for that reason, they do exactly the same thing.

And the mercury’s still rising…I see 47 and 48 forecast for next week.  “Realfeel” is not even given.

2.  Language

Walking back from the small, local market the other day, I went past the guards as I entered our complex and smiled hello at the young boy/man sitting on his chair.  He positively chirped at me,

“Hello my dear how are you?”    (rising intonation)                                                                     “I’m good, how are you?”                                                                                                          “How are you.”     {a definite falling intonation with a decisive period (as in, we’re done here).}

This is a common interaction to have amongst the locals… well, with children and men anyway (women are simply not out and about much).  Children run up to you, grinning, and excitedly say “Hello how are you…how are you?” a couple of  times in rapid succession and then laugh.  ‘How are you’ is something pretty much everyone knows but then they tend not to recognize the answer or know how to give it so it usually goes no further.  It’s pretty adorable.   And I’m about the same in Kurdish, I freely admit!

What I find fascinating is, how much communication can happen with very, very little verbal language on either side of a conversation.  This doesn’t work for even slightly  complex topics, mind.  But for broad, general ideas, or simply getting across to shop owners what you want,  just a handful of words in another language, supplemented with varying amounts of gesturing and miming, can suffice to do the job and, this is especially the case when the other person also has a smattering of your language.  Quite satisfying.

3.  Security

Security here is very important to everyone, for obvious reasons.  Those of us working for (AUIS) The American University of Iraq-Sulimaini are not allowed to leave the Kurdistan region, for our own safety.  A shame, when you’re living in the cradle of civilization and there is so much to see but, that’s the deal.  Here in Kurdistan, we are very well-protected by both the Asayesh (intelligence organization) and the Peshmerga (originally guerilla freedom fighters).   I’ve heard the Peshmerga number over 300,000; in fact, one source reports almost 400,000.  In any case, as I think I’ve said before, they are everywhere, guarding everything and manning numerous checkpoints outside the Kuridish cities, as well as, sometimes, checkpoints set inside the city.

But it was only very recently I – finally – noticed that, in our walled and guarded apartment complex, consisting of maybe 15 or 20 buildings, that only our building has kalishnakov-armed Peshmerga guards 24/7, both front and back of the building.  I know…a stunning lack observation on my part but, there we go.  No point in apologizing; I’m either exceptionally astute or utterly oblivious…nothing by halves.  What’s even more embarrassing, and, I’ll admit, a titch discomfiting, is that I didn’t connect that fact with its reason until a friend pointed it out to me; namely, we are the only building actually needing that degree of protection.  Right.

Still, I feel safe here; the city absolutely teems with these very well-reputed soldiers and there have been no incidents of terrorist attacks in Kurdistan (I’ve been told) since 1991.  The exception – and it’s a very different kettle of fish – is in Kirkuk, a city  only an hour’s drive west from Suli.  There, car bombs, suicide bombers and shootings are alarmingly common and, since I now know ex students from both my time in Tikrit in 2011 and my recent graduates from the scholarship program here in Suli who live there, I cringe every time I hear there has been yet more violence there.  And it seems so random; you can’t even tell who’s being targeted.

Things are getting bad in Iraq again; reports say there have been more terrorist attacks, more deaths and more injuries due to terrorism than in 5 years.  Baghdad is always the worst hit but Kirkuk gets a lot too.

4.  Work

Still don’t much like working 6 days a week but since it’s only 3 hours a day, and now that Ramadan is over we teach 5:00 – 8:00 in the evening, it’s bearable.  It’s also much less intense than the KRG program was and I only teach one class a day, rather than four so I’ll quit my gripin’.  And a major bonus and cheap thrill every single time it happens is that the new coffee lady offers all of us her lovely Turkish coffee, nescafe or tea!

5.  Time Off

Just had 4 days in a row off which was great, thanks to Eid Al Fitr.  Mind you there wasn’t much to do since absolutely everything – like Christmas for us – was closed down Thursday – Saturday.  Still, lots of time to relax, watch movies and TV, catch up on my cooking and receive a visitor or two.  Very pleasant, the visiting.

6.  Fitness

I now walk every day and am up to 5.47 km.  I have to get up very early to accomplish this because of the intense heat; after 8am, it’s just too hot already but it’s been great – am discovering all sorts of new areas I didn’t know existed and it’s getting easier and easier to go further, despite numerous hills.  Cats and chickens are still my main company at that hour but that’s ok; I’m loving all the discovery.  Today I found a really good looking Lebanese restaurant that Jodie and I will try soon.  After I get home, I do my Lotte Berk exercises, have breakfast, putter about the apartment a bit and then sit down with my beloved MacBook.

Life is good.

Some sort of civic centre where they hold concerts.  Shakira is coming!

Some sort of civic centre where they hold concerts. Shakira is coming!

Pak City (our apt. complex) from a distance

Pak City (our apt. complex) from a distance

Somebody's house

Somebody’s house

Somebody else's house

Somebody else’s house

Eid Morning and I discovered a Timbit look alike.  Didn't seem too alarmed so maybe be can be friends?

Eid Morning and I discovered a Timbit look alike. Didn’t seem too alarmed so maybe be can be friends?

Guess not.  Rejected again :(

Guess not. Rejected again 😦

I loved this little trumpet of a flower

I loved this little trumpet of a flower

Bread, which is always disposed of separately from all other garbage.

Bread, which is always disposed of separately from all other garbage.

Exercise equipment in a public park.  This is very common - they're all over the place.  (The blue bits)

Exercise equipment in a public park. This is very common – they’re all over the place. (The blue bits)

Someone sleeping in the park so I move down a ways so as to not disturb him.

Someone sleeping in the park so I move down a ways so as to not disturb him.

And do a spot of exercise on this one...

And do a spot of exercise on this one…

This one...

This one…

this one,

this one,

and this one - and now my legs are really sore.

and this one – and now my legs are really sore.

This guy was featured in the park (across from the Civic Centre - if anyone local is reading this, do you know who he is?

This guy was featured in the park (across from the Civic Centre – if anyone local is reading this, do you know who he is?

This is to be the new City Centre Mall with all the shops listed.  It's right around the corner from us and would make a nice respite in this heat...maybe next year?

This is to be the new City Centre Mall with all the shops listed. It’s right around the corner from us and would make a nice respite in this heat…maybe next year?

And now, gotta go to work and don’t have time to edit so feel free to let me know if I made any mistakes.  Love your comments and feedback, keep them coming:)


Posted in discovery, Iraq Diary, Iraq. Teaching abroad bazaar shopping, Iraqi hospital, Kurdistan, Peshmerga, Safetu, safety, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Fairy Ring and Early Morning Encounters

This morning on my just-after-dawn walk, as I was taking a photo of an interesting house to add to my collection of Kurdish house photos, the gate to the house I had in my sights suddenly opened and out stepped a rather large Peshmerga who frowned suspiciously at me.  I smiled at him to show him that I meant no harm but he wasn’t having it and just continued to stare at me.  Not quite sure what he thought I might be up to but I decided to cross the street, put my camera away and mosey along.

As I walked down the other side of the street, I noticed through some trees something that looked like a fairy ring.

ImageIntrigued, I went over to investigate and found that, sure enough, it was!  Only, instead of a circle of mushrooms, this was a circle of lovely flowers, including some gorgeous wild roses.

ImageFrom this angle you can better see the circle…

ImageNo fairies themselves to be seen (I looked) but I wondered if they, too, might be avoiding the wary Peshmerga.

I went on my way up to the end of that street and, when I looked back, the Peshmerga was still standing in front of the same house, watching me.  Interesting.  I so wonder who  lives in that house now.

Other than the Peshmerga, the only other beings I came across were an old man and his chicken sitting in a park, an old woman tending her grapes and a lone, and rare in these parts, kitty who, like all the kitties here, was too nervous of people to come to me when I called and mrrowed to it… beg though I might (and I am shameless in this).

ImageI don’t have a shot of the old lady but, here are her tempting grapes!


Nor do I have a shot of the old man, just this one of his chicken who had decided to leave the park and go home? for a walk?  Not sure, but like the cat, it wasn’t going to visit with the likes of me.

ImageOh my, doesn’t its body language just speak volumes?  “Look weirdo, are you going to follow me all day making those ridiculous noises? Some of us have business to attend to”  Reluctantly, I left the poor thing alone.

I had better luck being received in a friendly fashion today with the local flora; at least I think so.  Hard to tell I suppose since they can’t actually run away from me.  Anyway, here are some pretty specimens:

Image ImageImageImageImageUntil next time… thanks for checking in!

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Forgot to say I’m staying…

And I only realized this from confusing comments from friends back home and students here.  Sorry, I have a tendency to forget to inform people when I’ve actually made a decision that I’ve been prevaricating over; once I’ve made the decision, my mind is then done with that and on to the next thing and the next thing and…..

So, for those of you who don’t know, I have signed a one-year contract with my current employer and will be right here in Sulimanayah for the next year.  Part of it is I just didn’t want the upheaval of moving again when I’ve just kind of settled in a bit.  I love my apartment and my view brings me endless pleasure: from my bedroom window one day last week:


But, more than than, and most of all, it’s the people here.  I feel like I’ve barely begun to know them and know their culture and I want to.  My small encounters in public with the locals (the bazaar, taxi drivers, random strangers who do kind acts and, of course, my recent positive experience with the medical system) have been just taste-testers and teasers and I want more.  I feel like I only just barely began to know some of my students and would love to know some of them more.

It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been and, despite a number of restrictions that I could find difficult (I’ve decided not to), there are so many lovely things to appreciate about the people and the culture – including a delightful sort of ‘innocence’ – that I just want to be here and allow the discovery and serendipity to continue.

Unfortunately, I don’t get much of a break.  Although the KRG program is over, I still have a couple of IELTS classes to teach Sunday and Monday.  Then a break until the following Sunday, July 14th when the new ESL classes begin.  Hopefully I’ll just have one class which will mean just 3 days a week; fingers crossed for that because I’m tired and need a bit of a rest.

And now…some random photos!

Favourite fresh juice stand.

Favourite fresh juice stand in the bazaar.

The super moon

The super moon – I know there have been many better captures but, this is mine from up Azmir Mountain.


Jason, wandering in the bazaar

Jason, wandering in the bazaar

And, that’s it for today!

Posted in Iraq Diary | 2 Comments

Recovery and Update on …. whatever it was

So, just thought I’d better update people as a number of you became quite concerned after my last post, with its mention of appendicitis (something I’d previously known exactly nothing about).

It ended up being a tiring, challenging, stressful and scary week.  I could not really stay home and rest as it’s end of term and there was so much to do be done.  I continued sick, with the pain in my stomach having moved down to the right side of my belly, causing the appendicitis scare.  The whole purging thing didn’t let up and I couldn’t eat at all until last night (Tuesday) so i was not only losing weight but energy.  For a while I didn’t even want to drink and got a bit dehydrated.  I know that’s the critical thing – not to get dehydrated – but putting anything at all inside of me caused so much discomfort, I just didn’t want to, no matter how much people lectured me.

Anyway, life continued; exams were held, marking began, grades were documented, etc., etc. and I just dragged myself through it in a kind of dumb, numb fog.  Meanwhile, the kind and caring Dr. Dara continued to come to my office on a daily basis to ask how I was, even performing private examinations in my office, with the ever-efficient Heidi there, and sometimes Dr. Dara’s lovely wife, Dr. Noura.  On Sunday, the doctor believed (along with my research teams: a)  Heidi and her American doctor friends she skyped with daily and b) our friend Eric in Vancouver who was consulting with his father in Saskatchewan who’s a doctor) that I almost definitely had acute appendicitis and must be hospitalized and probably operated on – or at the very least – have intense anti-biotics injected into my insides (both of which appalled and, in the former case, scared me).

And,  no time to think it through it seemed; if the thing bursts, “horror story”, followed by “alternate horror story”.   So, I was in an uncharacteristically dreary, woe-is-me kind of state, I confess, and not a happy bunny at all.  It had been initially decided by the local team of Dr. Dara and Heidi, with me, nodding unhappily in the background, that the team would go to the hospital for further tests on Sunday after the Writing exam.  Then, upon further consultation, it was decided that since we’d waited this long and there was no fever or acute pain (just intermittent pain and general malaise – but that didn’t factor into the emergency aspect of things), we would go on Monday.

So, on Sunday evening, Heidi came down to check on me as Dr. Noura had called her instead of me: “we don’t want to disturb her” to find out how I was: was I eating anything? was I drinking juice and not just water? and… how was the pain?  has it worsened?  They were all talking about my needing nourishment, as was the facebook friend I was chatting with, but… I couldn’t eat yet…just couldn’t.  This degree of kindness and solicitude was very much appreciated, even comforting, as I was still feeling pretty upset, no – panicked – to be accurate, about going to the hospital to be admitted.

The next day was the grammar test and after the invigilating, I went back to my office to meet with Dr. Dara and, I thought, be accompanied to the hospital by him. And there, as Heidi cracked her gum and worked on her computer, as a student helped me with my excel spreadsheet formulas, Dr. D came in and started asking me his many questions, and when I answered him about where it was hurting now (and not as much) he realized that, whoa!, it seems to have moved over to the other side of the belly where…………………… drum roll…………………it can’t be appendicitis!  Maybe a paltry little inflamed bowel part or something but not the life-threatening bogey-man everyone had been talking about.

I actually started to breathe properly again.

The sense of relief I felt was like I’d been bound to the ground by some horribly heavy weight and now, all of a sudden, the weight was being lifted and I began to feel lighter and lighter.  Dr. D. talked on, lectured me a bit on eating properly and then told me that he was there for me; I only had to call and he would help me with anything.

I felt like I’d won the lottery.  No compulsory hospital visit, no forced antibiotics that would destroy my immune system and, best of all, no surgery plus immune-destroying antibiotics.  That evening when I got home. I started to feel a little better and had some rice cakes with peanut butter and chamomile tea with honey while I did my marking.

Tuesday was the Reading exam and the students’ final day; certificates were handed out, photos were taken and, after having tea with one of my classes, I began to feel much revived, happier and almost back to normal.  In the evening, as I finally felt like I had a bit of energy, I made myself a small pot of vegetable soup in chicken broth and ate a couple of small bowls of it.

Then, this morning, (Wednesday, a week after the chicken) I had an egg before going to work and at work I had a vegetable / meat stew thing with salad, all reasonably sensible choices.  Mid-afternoon, however, my new-found sense of well-being led me to a bit of  nutrition-foolishness and I ate some cake smothered in whipping cream (hello? aren’t you dairy and wheat intolerant?) that had been bought for us to celebrate the end of term.  And then, tonight, apparently not quite over my foolishness and feeling quite heady with being out in the world, I went out for dinner and had a “grilled cheese salad”.  Turns out to be a salad with a bunch of fried halloumi in it.   Probably not just what the doctor would have ordered but it was CRAZY good and I relished it.

So, all is well now; I’m almost entirely back to normal and if I don’t slow down on the eating, I’ll be getting fat.

Just so my home people know, I am in very good hands here and am so deeply  appreciative of my new doctor friends, Dara and Noura.   They came again today (with their adorable 6 month old baby) to check on me in my office.

And to my friends here who either helped me navigate the system, or who hugged me, or listened to me or brought me Ester-C and told me I could call anytime of  the day or night, thank you.  I love and appreciate you very much 🙂

And now, a photo of my Level 3, Section 6 Grammar class, with their certificates:

Section 6 Graduates

Section 6 Graduates.  Left to right, bottom row: Rangin, Ahmed Rashid, Harmn, Chia, Reading teacher Jodie, Ari, Khalid, Kamal, Khanda and Ahmed Karim.  Back row, left to right:  Shwan Othman, Azad, Writing teacher, Mike, Mhamad Ali, Shwan Rafiq, Sarbast, Me, (looking at the wrong camera?) and Hemn.

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In which fave chicken place leads me to VIP hospital treatment

….with a few not so fun bits in between, but hey! that’s life.

Friend Jason, who I worked with in COB Speicher (1 km. from Tikrit, in Iraq), came for a visit, really to see his former students from Erbil graduate, but stopped by to visit here in Suli on the way.  I, of course, took him to the bazaar, my favourite place here and we ate at my favourite greasy-spoon in the bazaar.  Their massive vat of eggplant stew is the main draw for me but the grilled chicken is usually pretty good too.  I ordered us both of these and then hightailed it to the upstairs, “mezzanine” section where women go to keep as out of sight as possible.  Being a person who doesn’t like a lot of attention, this mostly works for me anyway as I’d rather be the watcher than the watched.  ‘Course, also being a person who bristles at being told what to do – even if it’s also what I want to do – there’s always that brief moment of feeling marginalized and controlled, however insignificant the specificities.

But I digress….

Within an hour of the lunch, which was delicious, I was telling Jason we needed to get off the bus we were on, waiting for it to fill up so we could journey on down Salem Street in what I knew was the general direction of home (I never have any idea if I’m on the right bus – I just hope) and get a taxi.  {Does that sentence work or is it run-on?}  Aaand got home just in time for the beginning of my poor body’s attempt to get rid of whatever nastiness it had been subjected to.  That was lunch last Wednesday; this is Sunday morning and my body is still trying to handle whatever I put into it.

Clearly some kind of food poisoning, but what kind?  When I didn’t seem to be getting better after the 48 hours all the research I’d read said to wait out, and when the atypical sharp pain I’d had from the get-go in my stomach didn’t go away (just moved down a bit) and I started to feel dehydrated, I decided to go get myself checked out.  I’d waited 72 hours and, while I didn’t want to go at all – I stay away from doctors and, in particular, from hospitals as much as possible – I wanted to rule out some of the worst possibilities my research had graphically informed me of.  But I definitely didn’t want to go alone and have to try to figure out the Kurdish/Iraqi medical system on my own in my present state of disrepair and fogginess and I got lucky; my friend and colleague Heidi offered to go with me and, it turns out, she’s not only an incredibly organized and efficient advocate (which I’d known), but an avid, amateur health care buff who knows how to read blood test results and knows whether a doctor’s examination is meaningful or not (which I hadn’t).  And major bonus of fortuitousness: two of her students were the a) Director of the Hospital Lab and b) the senior E.R. doctor on call that day!

The latter piece of serendipity had already been gleaned when Heidi called for recommendations about where to go  She was directed by said doctor’s wife (also a doctor and also Heidi’s student) to go to a particular hospital where her husband, Dr. Dara, was on call that day.  She’d told Heidi he would take care of us…and he did (she’d actually called ahead and told him to watch for us).  The result of this was that what would probably have been hours of waiting and confusion and sitting in not-so-clean corridors with legions of very sick, hurt and bleeding people (some getting treated and stitched up right there in the open), wound up being a pretty quick – all things considered – hour and a half of VIP treatment.

On our way to find out where to get my blood and urine analyzed, Heidi ran into Dr. Dara who pretty much ushered me into the examining room right away.  As he asked me all the right questions, and palpated my abdomen and belly (does this hurt? YES!), I confess, he somewhat alarmed me with his very unexpected diagnosis of what he seemed quite sure was acute appendicitis and wanted to admit me immediately.



Heidi agreed and persuaded Dr. Dara to just send me for the ultra sound and blood tests and then….see.  He reluctantly agreed and told her that, clinically, he felt there was little doubt.  I was ushered off to get my blood pressure tested….bit high, which is probably high for me since mine is usually a bit low…and then we were sent to the ultrasound department where my insides were imaged.  Off to get the blood test done which is where we ran into our other connection, Heidi’s former TOEFL student, who it seems is the Director of the hospital lab.  The blood test guy tried to send me away to wait my turn (which, really, was only fair) but our newest friend wasn’t having any of that.  “Why? You must take care of her now!”  So, feeling appreciative because I just wanted to pass out and go home and the sooner the better, but guilty for ‘jumping the line’, I sat in the chair and had blood taken from me.  (Oddly, this never bothers me which was handy because it turns out Heidi can’t stand the sight of needles and it meant she could disappear for a moment from her constant vigilance and I’d be ok.)  After that, we went and sat in above-mentioned corridor and waited.

Within a fairly short period of time, Dr. Dara was in front of us with the blood analysis results, which Heidi helpfully and expertly explained in detail to me, and the ultra-sound results (which to be best of my inaccurate memory were inconclusive) telling us he still thought I should be admitted.


I could feel my eyes get big and started shaking my head.

But, once again to the rescue, Heidi persuaded him that she would monitor me and asked him what to watch for and so, with a little shake of his own, very, very kind face, he let us go, despite his obvious reservations.

Heidi, when we were having tea in a bazaar tea shop just after we first got here in January.  Typically, we were not allowed to pay.

Heidi, when we were having tea in a bazaar tea shop just after we first got here in January. Typically, we were not allowed to pay.

I have to say, I still feel none the wiser about exactly what’s processing through my body just now but…I do feel pretty sure that whatever it is, will pass soon and all will be well again in Maureenland.

The take-away? Nothing terribly profound…. I do feel that I am an extraordinarily fortunate person who is surrounded by caring and loving people, everywhere, including here.  And I guess, really, it’s that despite the obvious and superficial differences in health care style and quality between my country and this one, I’ve once again been shown the seemingly bottomless kindness of the Kurdish people and their default to courtesy, benevolence and hospitality.  Canada has it over almost anywhere I’ve ever been in providing a clean and antiseptic environment but there are times, O truly beloved Motherland of mine, when patience, genuine solicitude, a kindly pat and a consideration of people over policies is what’s needed more than anything.  And this latter point does not refer to our being fast-tracked yesterday because of our connections, but to a myriad of small moments I’ve observed over the last 6 months of being here, including yesterday in the hospital.  Compassion and generosity of spirit, (I’ve found that anger – even annoyance – here is rare and something that puzzles them when they see it in Westerners)  permeates the culture; it’s the water one swims in.

And to my friend Jason, who was also a little sick, my humble apologies and I’m just glad you at least got a milder version!

Posted in bad chicken, bazaar, Iraq Diary, Iraqi hospital, Kurdistan, tea, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Nawroz and Jli Kurdi (3 months ago)

My Reading Class, from left to right, starting at the bottom:  Dilshad,

My Reading Class, from left to right, starting at the bottom: Aram, Dilshad, Alan Pari, and Avan.  Middle row, starting left, Huda, Zana, Aras, Sonia, me, Nasrat, Avin and Tahir.  Back row:  Hemn, Abdullah, Mohammed.

Yep, another after-the-fact posting.  Life was busy…trying to catch up on recording some of my activities now:).

Nawroz is the Kurdish New Year and is held on the 1st day of spring; for anyone interested in learning a bit more about it, here’s a link, written by a Kurd (in Canada, I think, by the website address).

On this day, and on some of the days before and after, all the Kurds wear their “jli Kurdi”,  (Kurdish clothing).  For the women, especially, it means bright, usually shiny, drapy (apparently not an actual word but I like it) fabrics that remind me of medieval, King Arthur’s court kind of garb.  The girls in this class all got together and, after eyeing me carefully, decided that I was closest in size to Avan and so Avan brought me one of her outfits.  They’re reasonably comfortable actually; underneath all the shiny frou frou, you wear baggy – but still shiny – pantaloons for modesty and they’re pretty comfy too.  Most of the Kurdish women wear some sort of fancy high-heeled sandal but those are not for this one!  I wore my dumpy old brown shoes that I wore all winter but, really, who knew?  Just me and I’m certainly no fashionista who cares about such things.

Me with Kosar

Me with Kosar: (Scholarship student and Art teacher at the university).

Heidi, Mohammed and me

Heidi, Mohammed and me (Mohammed is from Harama and this is the traditional style for the men in his village).



Then, in the morning, I’d taught 3 sections of Level 3 Grammar.  First, Section 4…

Section 4 group shot:

Section 4 group shot – from left: Karzan, Omer, Sarbast, Havel, me, Bestoon, Zherou, Halo and Diyar.  Only 2 in jli Kurdi! 

Zherou and Haval with me...looking uncharacteristically serious.

Zherou and Haval with me…looking uncharacteristically serious.

And then, from Section 2, 4 people wore jli Kurdi…

Section 2 - left to right: Beri, Dalya, Salahadin, me and Soz

Section 2 – left to right: Beri, Dalya, Salahadin, me and Soz

From Section 6,  a pretty decent number wore jli Kurdi…

Section 6 - left to right

Section 6 – left to right:  Khanda, Hemn, Harmn, Abdulghafer, me Kamal, Khalid, Ahmed Karim and Rangin (sporting a good-sized baby bump)

And for the actual Nawroz celebrations, Jill (then my roommate) and I went down to Salem Street where the action all was.  The local Kurds get all dressed up in new jli Kurdi and parade themselves up and down Salem St.  There are spontaneous groups of dancers everywhere, there was one location at least that we saw where a program of some formal dancing was happening and I think there was some sort of official marking of the day but, if so, we missed it.  The whole street turns into a sort of midway with lots of street food available, various local sweets and just a general sense of celebration.


Salem Street at Nawroz

Salem Street at Nawroz

Jill holds up a sticky sweet on a stick that a vendor had given us to try.

Jill holds up a sticky sweet on a stick that a vendor had given us to try.


And, as we're wending our way down Salem St., we spy Ari (in the middle in white) who is a student of both of ours.

And, as we’re wending our way down Salem St., we spy Ari (in the middle in white) who is a student of both of ours.




The future of Kurdistan :)

Aaaaaand….the future of Kurdistan 🙂








Posted in Iraq Diary, Kurdistan, Nawroz, travel | Tagged , , | 5 Comments