Ira W Esta (Here And Now)

I love hearing from you all. I love knowing you’re all out there, my loved ones. And, as self-indulgent as it is, I also love hearing that people enjoy my writing and hearing about my experiences.

One thing I find intriguing is how many people say, “when you get back…”

People assume this is temporary. The Kurds here, as well. They assume that it’s very American to go off for a few years, work as an English teacher, then return “home” and get on a career track before it’s too late.

But who says that I have to come “home”? And who says that the Pacific Northwest has to be my only home?

Yes, I want to “settle down” eventually, but only in the respect that I do want to get married and have kids (how traditional). But that whole white picket fence and the minivans thing? Never appealed to me. I don’t see any reason my future family can’t grow up “abroad.”

And as for that word, “abroad” – it only makes sense if you define it from a fixed point. If my default “home” is the US, then everything else is “abroad.” But to me, calling Kurdistan “abroad” cheapens the experience my life there. It’s as if it isn’t home, it’s the place I live until you go back to where I belong. It tethers me to the US and keeps me from actually settling into my life here.

Why can’t this, right here, right now, be sufficient? Why can’t I live here, work here, make my home here? This, now, is my home.

Here, the mentality concerning accomplishment is very different. Although money = power and people are quite eager to become rich, this city doesn’t have a sense of urgency. People seem to rarely be stressed or think that they “have to” do something, unless it concerns family.

This is a huge departure from the American mentality – the American dream where, if you work hard enough, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps become a millionaire (ignoring the fact that it’s literally impossible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps – have you tried to do this lately?). People are so eager to get promoted or invent something new or make just that much more money. Here, I try to get a cab, and the cab driver waves me away because he’s chatting with his friend.

Americans are always looking for the new, better thing. Kurds are pretty much happy with what they’ve got, as long as they have enough money. But being American anxious has its benefits – we have the best TV, good literature, architecture, cutting-edge science, etc. And in Kurdistan, try getting “the best kebap.” It doesn’t exist, because all kebaps taste exactly the same. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So people have asked me what I’m going to do with all this Kurdish knowledge when I come back to the states. I should write a book! I should become an ambassador! I should go to grad school! I should do something else which acknowledges the important lessons I’ve learned abroad but which expands on them and thus makes them much more worthwhile and oh, also makes me much more money than I’m earning as a kindergarten teacher.

But what’s wrong with the here and now? Maybe I will go to grad school and write a book and become the American ambassador to Iraq. But what if I don’t? Does that make me less ambitious? Perhaps, more lazy? Less responsible and/or properly concerned with my future?

I’m occasionally asked why I’m learning Kurdish. Here are the arguments against it: it’s Kurdish. It’s not some big important language like Arabic or Mandarin or Spanish. I obviously won’t live in Kurdistan the rest of my life. And it’s Kurdish. Why am I learning it?

So I answer: For me.

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