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:)

xo

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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, Iraqi hospital, Kurdistan, Peshmerga, Safetu, safety, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Musings, Reflections and Random Moments in Sulimanayah

  1. donna says:

    great photos Maureen we have those exercise thingies in Victoria cheers Donna

  2. Susan Carter says:

    And yet you seem to be safe enough to wander about in the mornings? I’m glad of that.

  3. maurdian says:

    Susan, yes it’s safe here in Suli. There are no issues here. Even on my walks, I frequently run into Peshmerga.

  4. Anna Bouey says:

    I like the captions “Somebody’s House” and “Somebody Else’s House”. 🙂 Why is the bread disposed of separately from other garbage? Glad to hear you’re getting a good amount of excercise, that’s something I am always striving for.

    • maurdian says:

      Thanks – those two were actually next door to each other so it particularly stood out:)

      I don’t fully understand the reason for the separation of bread. I asked at a picnic once when all the bread was being collected separately and was told that it’s because the bread is considered ‘holy’. I’ve tried googling it for more info but came up blank. Maybe if any of my Kurdish friends are reading this, they could comment?

  5. Joan Cahill says:

    The Peshmerga sound somewhat good on the one hand and bad on the other. Your approach to the situation sounds most optimistic and also pragmatic. You are surprised when you learn for the first time about dangers and countermeasures that you hadn’t thought about previously. That’s a natural risktaker for you…if you understood the risk entirely would you take it? I know when I take risks, and they don’t work or I lose a lot as a result, I am very surprised… it’s and odd human trait, Gotta laugh at our follies, what what!!? ( that’s my inner english colonel coming out)

    • maurdian says:

      Joan, why do you say the Peshmerga are good on the one hand and bad on the other? What’s the bad part?

      Re the risk-taking, I can’t say for sure if I would take it or not, knowing what I know now, but I think I probably would. The best way I can describe my process is that I have an inner balancing mechanism that I am very attuned to and I sort of ‘feel’ my way into decisions, rather than taking a cerebral, analytical approach to them and working them through with logic. Sometimes things are just a ‘hell yes’ for me and nothing could cause me to deviate from my decision (selling my home and possessions and disengaging from my stable life in Victoria in ’97 to move to Thailand with all my kids, knowing virtually nothing about my target home is one example of that). Once I’m ‘on course’, that’s pretty much it and I was on course coming here so I doubt that detail would have affected me much.

      Yes, we have to laugh, but maybe, just because things turn out differently that we’d thought they would doesn’t necessarily mean they were follies? It’s all grist for the mill I think and if we don’t take risks, we don’t live fully. At least for me, life without risk is not a life worth living; everything we do, whether termed success or failure, is a new thread or set of threads for the tapestry of our lives.

  6. ourmerrybee says:

    Is tearing the bread into little pieces part of the bread disposal process too?
    Also glad to see how much exercise you’re getting. It reminds me that I need to get out and walk more these days myself!

    • maurdian says:

      No, that isn’t part of it. It’s just that this is the left over bread from people’s meals; that’s why it’s in little bits.

      Yes, the exercise is feeling really good!

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