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. ┬áPreparing for the trip to the residency office is a pretty enormous task and it is made much easier by ┬áMohamed 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.

Swamp Cooler Repair

Today we repaired and did maintenance on the swamp cooler, a much needed addition to the house!

Today we went up on the roof to repair and perform maintenance on the swamp cooler, a much needed addition to the house!

Cleaning a really tried and old swamp cooler takes a lot of TLC

Cleaning a really tried and old swamp cooler takes a lot of TLC

Replacing the filters for the water to flow through in a downward direction to create the reduced temperature.

Replacing the filters for the water to flow through in a downward direction to create the reduced temperature.

Our finished work and it helps, a lot!

Our finished work and it helps, a lot!

Traveling

Today was a busy day. We left Suleimani at 7 AM and traveled down to Kirkuk then up to Hawler, capital city of Kurdistan, also known as Erbil, to visit the Ministry of international NGOs.The drive to the capital felt a little stressful because your reminded of all the strife the country is experiencing as you pass through all the check points. Lots of serious looking soldiers with AK-47s asking for your passport, giving you the once over, then pausing before giving it back and waving you through, usually with a smile. After our arrival in Hawler we stopped for breakfast then went on to find the Ministry. Hawler is an incredibly busy and beautiful city, much of it under construction with new buildings, schools and retail space.Once we completed our task at the Ministry, see the previous post, we went and had lunch and then drove the back way through the mountains on our return to Suleimani. What an amazing place! Steep mountains many with sheer rock faces, lakes, rivers and wide open spaces abound. Once the adventure seekers discover whats here the place will become a top destination. Still, CPT will have much to keep busy with. The Kurdish people have been through so much and unfortunately are still experiencing hardships in many areas. Then there are the Syrian refugees who’s plight is on going and their call needs to be answered.
The journey reminds me of how I like to live life. The modern highway with its fast past, heavy traffic and roadblocks leave much to be desired. Life should not be simply the drudgery of moving from point A to point B with only the designations having value.The journey is an integral part of the narrative of our stories as became the roads traveled to and from Sulimani. The modern road expressed what life has become for us today, rushed, crowded, moving at great speed and placing oneself into position of acceptable risk of harm from others. The road home was slower paced, with frequent stops to refresh, becoming close to those who live by the road, traveling villages and climbing over mountains to discover vistas of unparalleled beauty and yes, placing oneself at risk of harm from the environment. I really do love the road less traveled.

CPTers get attention

CPT Media Interview Kurdistan Ministry of NGOs

Today after a lot of hard work and effort CPT was awarded permanent certification as a registered international non-govermental organization in the Ministry of Planning. Immediately following the presentation of the certificate CPTers were interviewed by local media.

Arrived Safely, Now Learning

Yes, I made safely to Iraq. We had a medial emergency on the flight across the Atlantic Ocean and through the efforts of several of the other passengers and myself kept the flight from diverting to Ireland or London.
Sulaimani, Iraq is really not what I expected, its better in many ways but I have much to learn about the culture and so forth.
Dehydration is a big problem here and I need to keep reminding myself to drink plenty of water, its easy to let oneself go as the fluid loss is imperceptible until symptomatic, what with the high altitude and dry climate. Speaking of dry, when the plane descended below 15,000 ft, on our arrival to Sulaimani, there was a thick the yellow haziness of the dust that almost looked like LA smog and after disembarking you could taste the fine grit with the first few breaths. The house that we work out of is nice, a fig tree in the courtyard, a big kitchen and many rooms. My bedroom pretty awesome it has an outside balcony that overlooks the street and I can see the markets on the corners where bread is made fresh while you wait.
The local Mosque is down the street a few buildings away and the call to prayers is quite beautiful and calming. Friday around noon the street is quite busy with the men coming to mosque. The call to prayers seems to have different styles at different times of the day. The noon ones are at secular noon, the four o’clock prayers are at 3:40 PM local sun time. The Friday prayers include what seems to be the sermon and other parts of the prayer service. I plan to ask our local guide more about the Mosque and the Muslim faith in general. Ramadan is soon approaching and I want not to offend anyone through a lack of knowledge.
The society here is all about the men, they are everywhere with only about five percent women walking about the city which makes it easy for a westerner to make a mistake and violate a cultural norm. Like I did yesterday at the bazar attempting to buy traditional Kurdish shoes, they are men’s only I believe and I think I upset the store owner by asking to try them on. Learning how to navigate here is going to take time and I will have to be patient with myself as I through the process of finding my space adapting to this new world.