Hang with me here:
My worlds are multiplying before my eyes. It’s wonderful, and strange, to recognize that I’ve created little lives, so separate from one another, across the world, containing unique people, who have never met anyone from my other lives.
My Sulay friends have never met, and probably never will never meet, my flatmates from St. Andrews, Scotland. My cycling family in San Diego doesn’t know anyone from my cycling family in Walla Walla, who doesn’t know anyone from my high school in Eugene.
They are little microcosms, of myself, into and out of which I can step at will.
It’s just – weird.
And yet, still they scatter. My high school and college friends are truly scattered around the globe. I doubt we’ll ever be all together again, in the same place. But it’s hard to feel sad about this when I know how wonderfully far everyone is reaching, to China, and Alaska, to grad school and career opportunities, to penthouses and thatched huts. I’m damn proud of my friends, and I feel extremely lucky to have them in my life.
So it’s the best kind of mourning – the bittersweet longing to maintain relationships across borders. It brings out our best: trust, loyalty, handwritten letters and late-night confessions across time-zones.
And now, I feel like I’m adapting to two more worlds: the world of Sulay, and the world of this international school.
Sulay is hot, windy, dusty, broke-down and thriving and forgiving, kind, deeply invested in others, smiling, busy, confusing.
My school is “organized”, cramped within a too-small building, idealistic, hard-working, demanding, tough-love, throw-you-in-the-deep-end to swim.
At school I am adjusting to my colleagues with whom I’ll be working for the next year. I’m getting used to personality clashes, immediate friendships, and loud-mouthed veteran teachers. I have an entirely new curriculum, a ginormous load of responsibilities, and a hierarchy to fit into. This is my first real job (salaried, full-time for more than a few months, etc), and if I don’t like it, I can’t just quit. Because I’m in f***ing Iraq. I’ve pretty much committed myself to this unknown world.
And as for Sulay? Everyone speaks Kurdish, for goodness sake. KURDISH!! And it’s all written in Arabic letters, which I don’t read, and East Arabic numerals, which I just learned. I don’t know the expectations people in town have of me, the gringa who greets everyone with “Choni bashi?” I get lost in the bazaar and I panic when I don’t know what the sweet old man in a turban is trying to tell me about the price of the onions in his cart. I carry a little notebook with me to write down new words, but it’s a whole new language and I wonder if I can learn how to converse if I don’t take an actual language course. My optimism is persistant, but occasionally the pessimism punches through.
I’m creating new little lives for myself. And surprisingly, I’ve made some friends. I’ve learned some Kurdish. I know some customs. But the amount I don’t know is sometimes paralyzing. My new worlds are so, so far from my other worlds that I find myself wondering what the heck I’m doing, how I can so far remove myself from what I’ve been establishing for 21 years.
Thanks for listening.