Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday is the new Friday

It's Friday! Well, actually it's Thursday, but here Thursday is Friday and Sunday is Monday. It's really tough to keep straight right now and I keep telling me students we'll start something new on Monday, but I mean Sunday.

Anyway, my first two days of teaching are down. I really like my new students and I'm excited. They're in an archaeological program for the conservation of heritage and antiquities. In other words, they're learning to preserve artifacts that are found in their regions, especially those that would preserve Iraqi or Kurdish history. It's a pretty interesting program and since it was originally funded by the U.S. Embassy (and now the University of Delaware) the students are also required to make an effort to improve their English. 

I will see these students every single day for one hour. Four classes each day. Five days per week. It's an interesting group because they're from all over Iraq, not just Kurdistan. That and because they honestly have interesting jobs. 

Unfortunately, most of them are real beginners up to lower pre-intermediate level. For those of you who don't speak EFL teacher, that means they aren't really able to do a whole lot of in depth talking. It's all pretty superficial. 

But today we talked about food, my favorite conversation topic. They were all telling me about their favorite Kurdish and Iraqi dishes. Then a few of them said they will bring something for me to try at some point. I really hope they do. I love trying new foods!

I'm still getting used to sticking out like a sore thumb though. Yesterday, I decided to walk around the neighborhood by myself. I went to get shwarma and then a huge bottle of water from the little grocery store. On my way down there, every taxi wanted to stop and give me a ride, a barber called out, "Hello lady!" from inside his shop, and an SUV with two guys in it circled the block three times, honking at me once. 

I'm told that no matter what I wear, I'm going to get a lot of attention. And everyone has even been quick to say that I in particular will get a lot of attention because I'm blonde and blue eyed. I'm dressing relatively modestly. Long skirts. T-shirts that cover my shoulders. If it's a little low cut then I wear a scarf to cover up to my neck. I'm not wearing a head scarf, but no one expects me to either. There are plenty of non-Muslims in Kurdistan. 

I'm not too worried about it though. I got a lot of attention in Taiwan for similar reasons. I got used to it and eventually didn't even noticed. And hey, being able to get a taxi with little effort can't be a bad thing.

Speaking of taxis, I have to take a cab to work everyday. The company pays for it. It's just the way things are here. Foreigners can't drive. We take cabs. 

The cab I took this morning was driven by a younger guy, maybe older twenties or younger thirties. He was quiet for awhile and then finally asked me, "You speak Arabic?" I shook my head. "Kurdish?" I shook my head again. "Only English?" 

"Yes, only English," I told him. 

He shrugged sort of disappointedly. "Welcome to Erbil."

 I could tell he wanted to say something else but didn't know how. Then, as if he had the most brilliant idea, he got this huge smile on his face, picked up a CD and popped it into the player. "Music Kurdish!," he said happily as he cranked up the music.

I just smiled and giggled to myself at the jumble of music coming out of the speakers. 

Turned out he had no idea where he was taking me and I ended up having to give him directions (remember, this was my third day out). But hey, at least he gave me a proper Kurdish welcome.

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