Springtime Picnic in the Mountains!

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

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.

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, Omer and bus gang

Fun!

Fun!

Zherou, a one-man energy system 🙂

Our MC extraordinaire:)

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

“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!

Dancing in the mountains! (left to right:  Shilan, me, Zherou, Omer, Halo, Haval, Diyar, Sarbast.

....and continues

…and continues

Aaaaand, Zherou breaks out….

Breakout!

Breakout!

we all look happy...we are!  The Kurds have had a really rough go but they're experts on being happy anyway.

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:)

Not like any kind of fun I’ve ever had as an adult…. better:)

Sarbast showed us some classic Kurdish photo poses 🙂

I think of this as 'the teapot", from the childhood song of the same name.

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.

Horse riding

Horse riding

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.

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!

Zherou – making a salad all by himself!

Lunch was delicious!

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...

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

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

The blood red flower

Not quite sure what's happening here but it amuses me...

Not quite sure what’s happening here but it amuses me…

Inside one of the bigger caves.

Inside one of the bigger caves.

Zana and Hozan

Zana and Karzan

We all got photographed emerging from the big cave… here’s Haval

Haval coming out of the cave

Haval coming out of the cave

Inside the cave

Inside the cave

Diyar and Halo

Halo and Diyar

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.

inside cave

Inside Cave

Omer and I do little round of duelling cameras.  He won.

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.

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

A cave window looks out

Back outside…

Left to right: Zherou, Haval behind, me in front, Bestoon and Gwen.

Left to right: Zherou, Haval behind, me in front, Bestoon and Gwen.

Then, it’s back down the mountain…

Back down the mountain

Back down the mountain

To more dancing and food…

Zherou and Diyar

Zherou and Diyar…and sort of Halo

Diyar in something of a prance step

Diyar in something of a prance step

New interesting looking drum comes out to join the  merry-making.

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

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.

Zherou interviewing Shawnm.

And then he breaks into song, a rendition of Enrique’s song “Hero”.  Much gusto!

Zherou sings "Hero"

Zherou sings “Hero”

And we eat again, with “King” Sarbast in the red shirt in the background, manning the barbeque.

endless food....

endless food….

IMG_1357

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

And they’re definitely friendly!

Here’s what they’re shooting at:

IMG_1360

The watcher becomes the watched

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!

One happy Omer!

About maurdian

I am a nomadic ESL teacher who, not surprisingly, travels and teaches English, largely at the same time.
This entry was posted in discovery, Iraq Diary, Iraq. Teaching abroad bazaar shopping, Kurdistan, picnic, tea, travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Springtime Picnic in the Mountains!

  1. ourmerrybee says:

    Looks like a wholesome, happy, healthy time! Lovely!
    I think that red flower is a kind of anemone…

  2. maurdian says:

    Yes, it is!
    Anemone…yes, maybe!

  3. Susan Carter says:

    Nice to see that! Keep it coming!

  4. maurdian says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Susan; I know I’ve been a real slacker about posting lately.

  5. love seeing the colors, the smiles and the happy faces surrounding you…

  6. Melanie Mehrer says:

    And the post goes on and on and on, lol. It;s like a really happy kidnapping. Happened to me in Taiwan quite a bit! 🙂 looks like fun and you are enjoying yourself. 😉

  7. wworthington says:

    Ah, Maureen …. Such a wonderful post. You are such a gem in a life full of coal. You never cease to inspire me and get the dreams a-pumping… I often wonder why I have abandoned the open road and “stayed put” in Korea for such a long time. Don’t get me wrong. I love my work. And Koreans love their picnics. too. Still, I always feel it is all part of the demonstrated national psyche, not the soul. Every one of your pictures demonstrates the difference, more than words can possibly say.
    There is no one in this life who inspires me – and inspires me to keep the dream alive – more than you. I miss you, dear friend

    • maurdian says:

      Lovely you to say such things my dear, so-much-missed friend… You know I’ll be here until at least July 2014 and you are always, always more than welcome. Think about it… xoxoxo

  8. Ken says:

    What a ton of fun that must have been. The landscape looked lovely.

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