Residency Papers

Today was a special day we went to the Residency Office to apply for and receive my resident card. A kind of driver’s license looking thing with your photo and social demographic information on it. This card can also be used in place of a passport while in country as it acts as a visa as well.  Preparing for the trip to the residency office is a pretty enormous task and it is made much easier by  Mohamed who knows, writes and speaks Kurdish as he fills out the mountain of forms. When we arrived at the offices, a huge building I imagined being used to house Saddam Hussein’s secret police with torture chambers and things, but was assured it used to be a school until it was given to the immigration service after a new school had been built. AS we approached the building about 7:30 AM local time, there was already a huge line of people waiting in line perhaps a hundred or so all foreigners trying to gain the coveted card. Mohamed fortunately, took us right to the entrance telling us that was not our line, that was for the male factory-company workers and we were looking for the NGO line. Once inside the building, which was also very crowded, we were directed to a room way in the back somewhat similar to a DMV waiting area which was empty save for the four from CPT. Soon this area too became as crowded as the other spaces with people from all over Asia, China, the Philippines, Mongolia, India and so many others each with its unique qualities. After sitting in the heat for a time, watching the comings and goings of these people and not being able to perceive any pattern to their movements I began to feel a little disoriented, maybe it was the heat or the jumbled cognitive processes I don’t know. We had lost our guide for sometime and all we could do was sit and wait. After a time he returned but with the news that our paperwork was incomplete, we needed to return to the office, fill out more forms and procure our CPT official stamp for them. SO, back to the office, eat lunch and back to the lines and chairs and people watching. Sitting in the room on old blue chairs, listening to the echo of a multitude of languages while trying to piece together the stories of the people around me, I began to see that Kurdistan was experiencing the flood of oil money and the people here were here to benefit from their new found affluence. Like the 49ers of old drawn to the new found wealth in the ‘black gold fields’ of Kurdistan. The Chinese oil workers in their orange jump suits, the well dressed people of Indian with hotel-company logos on their bags and the impoverished low paid workers brought here by some contract company to do menial labor the Kurds no longer want. I think about their situation, how they are being treated, were do they live and the circumstances that brought them to this? After waiting for several hours Mohamed returned and informed us we are in the next step, the interview, photograph and fingerprinting. We take our number and continue our wait for the number to be called. 140, its me and I walk to station 4, and stand in front of this large eye looking camera with a woman behind a computer screen. She asks me questions which Mohamed answers, she turns to her neighbor and asks questions while holding my passport up, they look at me, then back to the passport and back at me for what reason I do not know. She then gestures for me to look at the eye and tells me, finished. Once completed we walk to room 8 hand the paper work to the man behind the counter and sit yet again. Here however is a big screen TV with a soap drama about Kurdish life under Saddam Hussein. Finally I hear my name called out and pick up my Residency card, here as I look at my new ID, I realize that with all the inexplicable culture, languages and dress there is a constant in the universe, ID photos are universally horrible. Be it the DMV of Iowa, AMBS student ID, CPT ID, or a Kurdish residency card, they are all bad.

8 thoughts on “Residency Papers

  1. Sandra. Glad to know you arrived safely. You are on my prayers. May God add strength, compassion and understanding in full measure to your time there. Ken Hawkley AMBS

  2. Hi Sandra, greetings from the German delegation. We heard about you coming and are happy to read about you getting settled. Mohammed is so precious, he has helped us enormously on our trip as translator, guide and friend. Wishing you and the entire CPT team all the best. Christine

    • Thanks Christine! I wish I could of traveled with the delegation I could of used the practice with my German! (and my Kurdish too) and your spot on with Mohammed, he is wunderschön. I have passed along your wishes to the team.

  3. Sandra,
    Ah bureaucracy! I remember the complications of visa work in Colombia, although no photo IDs, just lots of paperwork and offices. Our world is in flux, isn’t it–people moving for lots of reasons, many of them economic. I look forward to reading the next installment from the only person I know in Kurdistan!

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