I haven’t been posting so much lately, for two reasons: 1) my internet sucks, 2) I’ve found people to talk to (yes!) so at the end of the day I don’t always feel the need to write. I’ve talked with them, so I’ve released most of the things I need to say.
Which is great, because I’m finding people! Patching together friends, from different groups, different countries, different languages, forming them together around me. It’s lovely! I’m meeting at least a couple new people each week, getting their numbers, making plans.
This – well, networking, is relaxing me. I’ve got to take people as they come and learn to spend time talking about any number of things. It’s not rushed, there’s not a definite goal. Here, everything is about building relationships. You know each other, you’ll support each other, and things will get done.
No one’s alone in Kurdistan.
Arazoo said it well last week – Kurds almost care too much about others. They often put their own concerns aside in order to get involved in others’ issues. On the positive side, this means that wherever you go, people (well, for me, maybe not men) will try to make sure you’re well-cared for. These are the most generous people I’ve met.
On the negative side, this means that your reputation is everything. When personal connections are the most important thing in a culture, a reputation is your most valued asset. And people talk. Whatever you do, people know. I guess if you have a good reputation, doors open for you, but building a good reputation takes a lot of careful steps, whereas a bad reputation can be attained in one fell swoop. Also, this highly relationship-based culture means that if you come to the region knowing no one, you’re truly adrift. You’ve got to moor yourself to people and trust them. Then you can navigate Kurdistan.
Last night, I went to a party with the other expats. I’m trying not to judge them for leaving me out of so many other plans – instead, I advocate for myself. I figure that now, it’s up to me to figure out my plans. I’m not going to wait for anyone to make them for me. I’m not complacent, or a victim. So I asked around, got invited, and went. The party was an interesting amalgamation of Britain, France, Kurdistan, and America. A bunch of different people brought together by…something. I really have no idea how we all met each other, other than than we’re all fluent in English. That’s a good enough reason to all be friends, right?
I met two guys from California! We ended up teaching a bunch of Kurds and Brits how to play flip-cup. And I also killed it at beirut. Damn, it’s strange, but just those frat-basement-type drinking games and cheap beer was a relief. Like sinking into a comfortable, overstuffed chair after a hot day of walking with sore feet. Like wrapping myself in a thick duvet and drinking tea after coming in after a cold, bleak, snowy day. That’s really the only way I can describe it.
And it was beer pong!
For a real change of pace, today I hung out (while hungover) with a few of Jennifer’s Christian friends. It’s a bit odd to me how involved I’m getting in the Christian community here – there are a lot of Christian NGOs and English schools here. If you speak English, it’s a good bet that you’re a devout Christian. As a Jew, I’ve pretty much avoided the church my whole life. Now, in a Muslim country, the Jew is going to cafes with Christians. It almost sounds like the set up to a joke… But they’re truly lovely people, and one of the women is from Salem, OR. We talked today about Portland and PNW fashion versus Cali, Midwest, English, Australian, Kurdish fashion. Man, it’s such a relief to talk with someone from home, and someone my own age (she’s 21). Yes, there are some big cultural differences between us that, in Oregon, might preclude a friendship – she grew up in a devout Mennonite family and went to Christian schools all her life. Back home, we probably wouldn’t be friends because we’d never meet, or because we’d each meet people who were more similar to us and we’d cling to them.
Here, differences are minimized. We’re both Oregonians. Hence, we’re friends. Traveling makes us less picky, less judgmental, less concerned with minutiae. So, for me, this means that I have a big group of very openly Christian friends. Who’da thunk?!
I’m getting Kurdish friends, too! I’m going to Parki Azadi tomorrow with Zhino and Arazoo (the women I met on the bus to Halabja), and at noon I’m hopefully going to Amna Suraka with three other Kurdish teachers, who appointed themselves my “Kurdish guardians,” as it were, after they were shocked by my audacity in going to Halabja alone. And then tomorrow afternoon I’ve got my Kurdish lesson with Raz!
So I’ve got three different, totally disparate groups this weekend – Partying expats, Christian expats, and local Kurds. And somehow I fit into all of them.
I’m enjoying who I am.
Links I’ve been enjoying lately: