Friday, January 25, 2013

I miss pork.

There are a lot of things that are different about Kurdistan, but probably one of the hardest things for me to get used to, especially after having lived in the Czech Republic, is the severe lack of pork. And by "severe lack of" I really mean "complete non-existence of." 

Pork is "haraam" which basically means it's forbidden by Islamic law to eat pork. 

In Prague, you couldn't walk two feet without smelling some kind of pork. My niece and I spent all summer eating sausages and ham with cheese and bread for picnics in various cities across Europe. I may not have always eaten pork chops but dammit I miss bacon. 

Luckily, I have friends who often leave on R&R. That and I had a visitor from the Czech Republic over Christmas. So I've stocked up a little bit on pork. 

In my freezer you'll find Spanish chorizo and three Czech klobasa. We've already eaten the other three klobasa, and two links of Macedonian sausage that some friends gave us for Christmas. We're also halfway through a chunk of ham I was given (which I loved making mini-frittatas out of). I also have a package of bacon on its way from another friend.

Point is, there have been a lot of things over my years of living abroad that are difficult again. Normally, they're things I can live without or that I don't find particularly difficult to have shipped over (like the gigantic bag of spices my friend, Flannery, just sent me!). 

But pork, man, who was I kidding, I love that stuff. It's also a huge pain in the ass to get shipped over. Not impossible, but considering the mail system here is even less reliable than the one in Czech... oy vey.

The boyfriend and I are heading to Beirut in March for a long-weekend holiday that we have coming up. I'm told I can buy pork there. It's very likely I'm going to bring back half a suitcase full...

Don't take bacon for granted, people.

Christmas in Iraqi Kurdistan

Just before Christmas I received an e-mail from a friend wishing me a Merry Christmas and gently chastising me for not having blogged more since I've been in Iraq. I've just looked back and was surprised to find that I had actually managed to blog no less than five times since I've been here. Honestly, I was surprised. I was certain I hadn't even managed that much.

I had promised to makes some posts over the Christmas break since I would have ample time to sit and do nothing, which I then did not (more on that later). But now that I've been sitting at home with bronchitis for three days and I have the weekend ahead of me during which I do not plan to go out at all, I thought I may as well give it a shot. (In reality, I've already watched everything on TV at least once and I'm a bit over it...).

So I thought what better than to back track a bit and discuss my Christmas in Iraq. 

As you all know, I'm a Thanksgiving person, really, but I don't shun Christmas as long as those celebrating have their heart in the right place. I enjoy the holiday festivities and I'll certainly never turn down an excuse to make a badass meal.

Oh by the way I have a boyfriend...

This year was no different, even despite being in the Middle East. 

In fact, here in Ainkawa, we had the tallest Christmas tree in the Middle East. I bet you weren't expecting that, eh?

The only picture I can find of the Big Tree.

It said "Merry Christmas" in English, Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian.
It also wasn't the only super tall, out-in-the-open Christmas tree in the area. There were plenty of them.

Much like Eastern Europe, Christians here celebrate their Christmas on Dec. 24th rather than on Christmas Day. However, my friends and I decided to continue to celebrate on our usual Dec. 25th. 

I made desserts and my Jamaican-Floridian flatmate made us a Jamaican-style dinner. 

Then the night turned into the usual party. Honestly, there wasn't much to it. The only reason I'd really call it Christmas was that I had put up decorations (i.e. We had a Christmas tree and some lights strewn up on the balcony...) 

It was a rather modest Christmas tree.
There weren't really any gifts (unless you count the alcohol people brought or the pork I was given, which I certainly do), but it was rather informal as a Christmas among friends tends to be. Still, it helped take the sting out of what could have been a really sad, lonely, boring day without my family around.