It is probably my longest drive out of Erbil and the first of its kind. An hour earlier I picked up my visa to the UK.
As I was behind the wheel, my entire mind was with the little treasure humbly sitting in the handbag on the empty seat next to me; like a notebook it has very minimal information, and sadly it includes an abhorrent close-up picture of me. It’s my passport?an Aussie passport with a British visa for a Kurdish girl living in Iraq. As confusing as this can get, I was just as confused about how I was feeling in those minutes and how I should be feeling.
Coincidently, the first song that came up on the radio on my trip back was something that I was hearing for the first time, and the chorus was exactly this: “Safar maka?” (meaning don’t travel). Just what I needed to cry!
The entire journey back–from Khanzad back to Erbil–I would realize that it’s reality. That’s it. It’s time to fly again, yet something inside me doesn’t want to leave this place.
I remember five years and one month ago when I first set foot in Erbil. I had a little wish list. I would drive through the streets and wish for the petrol in the plastic containers to be eliminated. ?When are we going to have a petrol station,” I would think to myself. As I was driving a little while back I saw a great petrol station that was well beyond my original wish. I gently smiled to myself.
I remember I wrote about how I wished for trees to be planted in the city. The smile grew wider as I saw the entire mid-section between both highways filled with a line of trees, and this goes for most of the new areas in Erbil.
And how can I forget the first article I ever wrote was about the miraculous driving. I titled it “Outrageous Road Rage.” I was infuriated, and I wished for safer and organized roads in Erbil. Today (let’s not exaggerate; driving is still not a delightful experience here?but?) at least there are speed cameras and the bumps on the roads are being removed. Of course the most prevalent change is that there are so many more women driving, whereas back then you could hand count them.
At that time I wished to have someplace to indulge in shopping. But believe me, I never wished for five extra grand malls to open in five years.
On the drive back I pass through the beautiful buildings of Mali Khanda (the orphanage), and once again I smile. I recollect times when I complained about the conditions of the elderly people’s home and the orphanage. ?They live in appalling, heartbreaking conditions,” I wrote, wishing to see them live in better surroundings. Recently, the elderly people’s home moved to a stunning new building, and the happiest moments of my life in Erbil are the times when I am in Mali Xanda. The kids are in new houses filled with warmth and love.
I would observe how students studied and grumble over the antiqued education system; now as I leave a reformed curriculum is being implemented.
Some wishes came true, and the greater ones are still “pending.” You never know, once I am back I might check off the others too.
Meanwhile, unlike the lyrics of the song on the radio today that repeated “safar maka, dlm ale natbinmawa?” (don’t travel, my heart tells me I won’t see you again), in my head I sing “dlm ale atbinmawa” (my heart says I will see you again, Erbil!).
This was part of the Memoirs column for last week