Everyday observations in Iraq
Back in the business center, listening to Dave Matthews Band live at Luther College. Thought it is about time to share some everyday observations from Iraq:
1. Sweden, and Swedish Social Democracy, is present as always. Except for Volvos, Ericsson cell phones, loads of Swedish Kurds visiting the region for the summer etc we have also visited Olof Palme's Park. I also heard that a school is called the Anna Lindh school. It was quite late and dark when we visited the park so Claes' picture did not come out as perfect as we have been used to but still: You can see the sign in the park above with the famous quote "Alla folks frihet, hela varldens fred". In Swedish. We were all very touched, of course.
2. Speaking about parks, there are parks everywhere and the people here love their BBQ:s. You always see big families together until late in the evening and I can only say that we should do that more back home.
3. Kids stay out VERY late, all you mums and dads who read this blog. Basically they are out playing until their folks are heading home, and I guess there is not a market for baby sitting here. Instead the kids hang out with their parents and family all night, seems pretty natural to me.
4. The students we meet unfortunately/still speak very little English, although there are exceptions to the rule. Our Kurdish friends who now live in Sweden are great at translating but I have not used sign language this much since... I was playing charades with Jim's and Jean's extended family during Thanksgiving in Cleveland, Ohio in 2001?! It works pretty ok for practical stuff, but since I want to discuss politics and globalization with everyone I meet it is somewhat frustrating, but understandable.
5. There is no McDonald's yet, but a poor but fun copy called MaDonal. They use an indentical logo (the golden arches, Ronald, etc) and they will soon be seen in court, I guess.
6. Pedestrian crossings and traffic lights have yet to find their way down here, traffic is crazy but still everything works in some interesting way. Investments in infrastructure can be seen everywhere though.
7. I have never seen this many flags in a country. Ever. The amount of Kurdish flags you see during a walk downtown beats (or at least equals) New York or Washington DC after 911 back in 2001. The Kurdish flag is red, white and green with a sun in the middle and tell me if you want me to bring a pin back home. They are sold pretty much everywhere.
8. The food is very good, I have eaten a lot of nan bread, chicken and meat kebab. They always give you way too much and we normally manage to finish half of the food we are served. For lunch you often get a tomato soup which reminds me that I should eat soup more often. Tuborg is actually one of the beers you see most frequently, together with Carlsberg and Heineken. During meetings you are always served a soda (with drinking straws, why don't we use that anymore, it is fun!) and later during the meeting tea with loads of sugar.
9. Kurdish people are really really nice, warm and open. Our hosts always hang out with us all the time, they buy us water, we try to pay, they get really angry, and if you sneak away to buy something they want to pay for it anyway. We get invited to weddings, lunches and dinners all the time. Today we will have lunch with my friend Fyda's family, and they bought a sheep that they will cook for us.
10. Last thing, and as Emma pointed out for me. We are used to Western style toilets but here the simple hole in the ground is still standard. That's ok, you get used to it. But there is no toilet paper, instead a hose or a carafe with water can be found. But how do you manage without getting wet when you put your pants on? The whole Middle East is coping, so there must be something we don't get...
Conclusion: With people this great it is impossible not having a good time and I really hope that we will manage to start a project here in the near future (possibly a Youth Center in Kirkuk focusing on democracy and gender equality) . In that way we will be able to give something back to the wonderful people we have met here.