In a few hours my time of living a quasi-monastic life will come to an end with the arrival of my colleague Lukasz. I say quasi because five days a week Mohamed spent eight hours with me trying his best to teach me how to speak, write and read Kurdish. The remainder of my day was usually spent alone reading, cleaning, practicing language studies and of course sleeping. At first, I have to admit, I was a little stressed out being here by myself. I was told not to make it obvious that I was alone and to keep the gate and doors locked. This added fuel to an already heightened state of anxiety fed by an overactive imagination that took me to fearful places in my thought’s. I couldn’t help but see every entrance as a potential access point for someone to break in with the intention of doing me harm. “Did I lock the doors? I think so but, what if they …” would play nightly as I laid down to sleep and in the darkness I would arise and follow a nightly ritual of checking each bolt. Lying in bed often I would be awoken by noises, low booming noises, banging metal and voices from outside. One of my recurrent worries was, how do I call the Kurdish version of 911 and overcoming the inevitable language barrier? What are the words to say, someone’s broken into my house and I need help! Not to mention that the address I would need to use is general directions, not a street name. Needless to say, help would be a long time in coming. These thought’s and fear’s would arise each evening following Mohamed’s departure as I slid the numerous bolts to lock the gate behind him.
Gradually as the days passed I learned how to overcome my fear’s by remembering some of the technics that I learned while at university studying for my degree in psychology, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT. CBT, simply stated, is a method where one gains control over negative thoughts by interrupting them when they begin and not allowing them to grow by confronting their validity. This worked well for me because many of the thought’s I had were pretty out there! The other was becoming familiar with the sounds that permeate this old building, the water tanks as they contract and expand with the nightly temperature changes, the activities of our neighbors through the walls and the voices of the children as they play outside. Which may seem strange that I am trying to sleep at night while little children play outside, but here in Kurdistan, the tremendous heat of the day keeps people indoors and so many people who don’t have to work during the day, sleep and come out in the cool of the night air remaining outside till 3 or 4 in the morning. Having this understanding has helped me sleep much better and now, with my CPT partner here we can begin the real work of CPT, human rights.