Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I've moved to Iraq.

I know. Not exactly where I or anyone probably thought I'd be. 

I left Prague Saturday night in full tears. (I'll be writing a post with a proper goodbye to Prague later.) Unfortunately, my flight left an hour late so I missed my connection in Istanbul. Fortunately for me, that means I got to spend a day in Istanbul courtesy of Turkish Airlines. More on that in another post.

I finally arrived in Erbil (also known as Arbil or Hawler) at about 3 a.m. on Monday morning. My boss met me at the airport and helped me get my 40 kilos of luggage (for which I did not pay an extra cent because of a really amazing friend) up to my room in the female teachers villa. I was already exhausted but I was too wired to sleep. So I was up until 6 a.m. and then proceeded to sleep on and off the rest of the day until about 1 p.m. when I decided to get up, get dressed and go across the street to the office.

Problem: I had no water. I couldn't flush the toilet or use my shower upstairs. Downstairs there was the tiniest bit of water so I was able to wash my hands and face and brush my teeth. Great first morning, eh?

I'm living with two others teachers. One is a Texan. Can't go anywhere without meeting a bunch of Texans.

The Texan roommate explained that night that there are two water tanks on top of the house and we have a pump we have to turn on now and then to make sure we have water in the tanks. It pumps up water from the ground I guess. 

It's not normally a problem, but apparently my toilet runs so I have to make sure it turns off. I didn't know this, so when I flushed it as 4 a.m. it continued running. Then she and the other flatmate both took showers that morning. I was left with no water.

Lesson learned. Haven't left the toilet running since and I had a decent shower this morning.

Anyway, the Texan took me around the neighborhood last night. She showed me where I can find good shwarma, good falafel, a good salon and booze. Not all the same place, don't worry. She also helped me manage my way through the grocery store where everything was in Arabic or Kurdish so you either knew what it was or you didn't. Then she took me over to the fruit and veggie stand.

That was an experience. So obviously, being in the desert, fruits and veggies here aren't all that great. They've come all the way from Turkey and it's just whatever happens to be in season there. They look kind of rough. But I grabbed a few of the essentials thinking I could manage some pasta out of what I'd gotten. Then the guys who worked there started trying to teach me numbers in Arabic. I got overwhelmed and could only say one which I can't even remember how to say now. 

I guess I'll be frequenting that place so they can continue teaching me. I'll be learning both Arabic and Kurdish while I'm here as they're equally useful and both national languages of Iraq.

I'll be honest, after I got home and settled in for the night, I had a mild panic attack and started wondering what the hell I was doing here. I felt so out of my league. But after some reassuring words from a couple of friends, I realized that I'm strong and I can do this. 

It's definitely going to be challenging and I'm not entirely sure what I expect to get out of it, but it certainly won't be nothing. I'm looking forward to it even if the whole thing does scare the hell out of me. It's good to be a little scared sometimes.


  1. Jimmie!!!!! I'm so proud of you for putting yourself out of your comfort zone!!!! I know you're going to walk away from this experience with amazing stories and so much new knowledge about yourself and the world. You are one awesome lady and they're blessed to have you. Can't wait to hear how the experience goes. I'm sure it's going to be super rough for awhile, but what awesomeness that you're living with a Texan who can keep you grounded. Much much love for you and sending you all my happy thoughts. -Lauren

  2. jimmie you are such an inspiration. this morning i felt like my job could not get any more difficult, but you definitely snapped me out of that thought! you will be so resilient after this, and you're going to have experiences that the rest of us can only dream of. want to visit india in november..? :) keep us posted! looking forward to reading more about it.

  3. Hang in there girly, i know you can do it. You are probably one of the smartest people I know and I am pretty sure you don't know how to fail. Glad you to see you had a somewhat good start. This is going to be a great experience or at the least interesting haha. Miss you roomie, take care of yourself and I can't wait to read about your next great adventure. :) Love, Peace and Chicken Grease


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