The Kurds, (like the Gulf Arabs) here in Kurdistan anyway, seem to be mad for picnicking, and as soon as the warmer spring weather arrives, people from the cities make for one of the many beautiful spots in the mountains to spend the day eating, dancing and sometimes a bit of hiking. And the hills are really “alive with the sound of music” as everyone plays their music and dances.
It’s always a whole day affair, involving 2 big meals, lunch and dinner and leaving early is most definitely frowned upon as my lovely, albeit stern on this issue, students have let me know. There’s a second picnic with my Section 4 Grammar class today and I’ve been told, several times now, “this time you will NOT leave early and we will stay the whole day!”. I realized I hadn’t even posted from the last picnic, except for a couple of shots on facebook so thought I’d better get on that.
Gwen (the writing teacher) and I were picked up at our apartment complex by Omer and Zherou in the morning by Omer and Zherou and ferried to the university parking lot where we were met by the rest of the class…almost all wearing jilly Kurdi (traditional Kurdish clothing). Remarkable outfits which, to my mind, resemble nothing so much as groups of medieval ladies and courtiers. Everyone wears these during Nawroz (the Kurdish New Year at the beginning of spring), including me since I was brought an outfit by a student. It’s quite fun wearing them but they’re certainly – for the women especially – not the most comfortable in general and would be impossible to hike in. Turns out, though, that everyone also brings a change of clothing and after lunch and MANY photo ops and some wildly enthusiastic dancing, the lovely, romantic garb is exchanged for more practical western-style clothes.
Here, then, is what we saw when we arrived in the AUIS parking lot:
Ladies in Waiting, from left to right: Snwr, Shawnm, Sozan and Shilan
And then the real photo-taking began in earnest, beginning with a group shot:
group shot in the AUIS parking lot before we leave. From the left, back row: Diyar, me, Zherou, Halo, Shilan, Gwen, Karzan, and Sarbast. From the left, bottom row, Bestoon, Snwr, Sozan, Shawnm, Haval, Hozan and Zana.
And then, right there on the bus, the party begins! There’s a megaphone, music and a sound system and with, mostly, Zherou as MC, there are songs, jokes, general goofing around, and overall good, clean hand-clappin’ fun all the way to Chamy Rizan.
Zherou, Omer and bus gang
Zherou, a one-man energy system 🙂
Our MC extraordinaire:)
“King” Sarbast tells a joke about “ahole” (sic), which means ‘the fool’ and everyone erupts in laughter. The whole joke is then kindly translated for Gwen and me.
“King” Sarbast, Bestoon on the left, Haval on the right.
And then we arrive at our destination, Chamy Rizan. Hope I’ve spelled that right. It’s beautiful, really, really beautiful and…let the dancing begin!
Dancing in the mountains! (left to right: Shilan, me, Zherou, Omer, Halo, Haval, Diyar, Sarbast.
Aaaaand, Zherou breaks out….
we all look happy…we are! The Kurds have had a really rough go but they’re experts on being happy anyway.
Not like any kind of fun I’ve ever had as an adult…. better:)
Sarbast showed us some classic Kurdish photo poses 🙂
Gwen and I trying some of the classic poses Sarbast says they all do. I think of this as ‘the teapot”, from the childhood song of the same name. Can’t remember what Gwen’s is called.
When I walked up to the top of the hill to ‘powder my nose’, I found I was overlooking a road down below where children were riding horses.
After the dancing, we all traipse over to the waterfall and take…more photos, (of each other, not so much of the waterfall, except me).
The waterfall, with the sun at the top. Tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the halo image.
and after a while lunch is served, with everyone, except Gwen and me as we were told NOT to try to help because we were guests, pitching in. Zherou was joking that because “we will miss you”, he would like to marry one of my daughters to keep me here. I told him he’d need to be able to cook and clean the house to marry any daughter of mine. Here, he proudly shows his ability to make a salad …. it’s a start 🙂
Zherou – making a salad all by himself!
Lunch was delicious!
After lunch, we all went for a walk up to the caves where the Peshmerga had held off Sadam’s soldiers while fighting for their independence. Some of the caves were huge, others small, but it was fascinating to be there and, especially to see the evidence of their stay there.
Starting up the mountain…
Aaaaaand, the teacher needs a break; I can walk far but I need breaks when I climb. In my defense…just sayin’ My body guard has decided he will wait with me and as Zana films, Zherou, hops neatly across the path and several rocks and picks a red flower and hands it to me. I don’t know the name of it, and neither do they, in English, but it represents the blood of the Peshmerga soldiers who were wounded or died defending their land and their freedom agains the tyrant Sadam. It’s a beautiful sentiment and typically poetic of the Kurds.
Zherou giving me a blood red flower as Zana films
Here’s a close-up of the flower, if anyone knows it…
The blood red flower
Not quite sure what’s happening here but it amuses me…
Inside one of the bigger caves.
Zana and Karzan
We all got photographed emerging from the big cave… here’s Haval
Haval coming out of the cave
Inside the cave
Diyar and Halo
Diyar and Halo
Here, you can see where the Peshmerga’s fires darkened the walls of the cave. Quite a powerful feeling when you’re in there and imagining it all. And not so long ago.
Omer and I do little round of duelling cameras. He won.
View from deep inside the cave of the opening. You can really see how the Peshmerga would have had the advantage.
A cave window looks out
Left to right: Zherou, Haval behind, me in front, Bestoon and Gwen.
Then, it’s back down the mountain…
Back down the mountain
To more dancing and food…
Zherou and Diyar…and sort of Halo
Diyar in something of a prance step
New interesting looking drum comes out to join the merry-making.
Karzan presides over the tea, salad and shishkabob being prepared for the next meal (which I thought was dinner but, no, just a snack!).
Karzan minding the tea and meat
Meanwhile, the recording of the day’s activities continues as Zherou interviews everyone: Shawnm at the moment.
Zherou interviewing Shawnm.
And then he breaks into song, a rendition of Enrique’s song “Hero”. Much gusto!
Zherou sings “Hero”
And we eat again, with “King” Sarbast in the red shirt in the background, manning the barbeque.
And after this meal, Gwen and I leave early, having requested that previously. Marking to do and a skype appointment for me and marking for Gwen. But just before I leave, I hear what sounds like shots and peek over the wall to the area down below. Yep… shots alright, from guns but nothing dangerous just some guys practice shooting. Seems pretty strange to my Canadian sensibilities but here, no-one thinks anything of it.
And they’re definitely friendly!
Here’s what they’re shooting at:
The watcher becomes the watched
And then Gwen and I, accompanied by Hozan who has to get back to his family, leave the happy eating, dancing group of students I normally teach grammar to. It was a gorgeous day; so good to get out into nature and experience a culture that is not like any I’ve yet seen and so nice to see the Kurds are finally enjoying their lives without violence. I loved the day and thank my students for all of it…Kurdish hospitality is all-inclusive and I bask in the memories.
One happy Omer!