Wednesday Memoirs

The column below was published in 2009, in the Kurdish Globe newspaper in Erbil.

Village girl vs. city girl
By Sazan Mandalawi

Picture C. Jan Sefti Kurdish Girl

I have previously stated there is no woman in the world like a Kurdish woman, and I stand by those words–although I have decided to take the challenge further and look at the difference between a city girl and a village girl in Kurdistan.

So what brought this peculiar and rather strange idea to my mind now? Aside from the fact that stereotypical, negative views dominate our society about village girls, I had the privilege to spend the Jezhn break in a village near the Mergasoor area of the region. Having spent all my life in a city and never having lived in a village or country, I came to realize just how “girlie,” frail and delicate we–the city girls–can be.

The young women or the girls in general in the villages differ to a large degree than the girls who have grown in the city. A new groom would have to spend half his paycheck every month on clothes for his bride who has lived in the city all her life and would most likely consider shopping as one of her hobbies. In the areas I visited, the girls wore simple Kurdish clothing at home and had another set–with more details and colors–for when they go out.

Apart from the housework of running around cooking and cleaning for the guests who continuously walk in and out the house, these women also do the men’s work in their small farms or look after the animals if they have any.

I was proud of the fact that I can cook rice, eggs, and potatoes; but after what I have seen I feel foolish and?let’s just say?not so proud.

We were invited for dinner at one of the local houses–in the two-hour span they knew we were going to be their guests that evening the girls had cooked all the difficult foods that Kurds have, including the dreadful Yapragh. We (the city girls, that is), on the other hand, with two days prior notice and following the cooking methods in a few cookbooks–other than the salad nothing seemed to turn out right!

One thing that amazed me the most is that if these people had a dishwasher it would not wash the dishes as clean and fast as young women can. Meal after meal, the girls tuck their long Kurdish dress under the rope on their waist, pin the sleeves on their shoulders, and wash the dishes better than three working dishwashers. Then there is us–the pitiable city girls-we wash the dishes one day and go on about it for the next two days. Did I mention one person uses the detergent and another washes it away with water, and usually a third person would also be helpful to remove the wet dishes from the rack so it gets out of the way?

In the city, on almost every second street there is a local salon–and I assure you they make better money than many businessmen in Erbil. Whether for a party, at any hairdresser or in any beauty parlor it is worse than a doctor’s clinic where sometimes, even with an appointment, you can wait up to half an hour before your turn.

We are all about makeup and dying our hair with multiple colors, and now even manicures are becoming popular. The village girl, on the other hand, needs no layers of foundation as her skin is naturally smooth; she posses the natural beauty that looks more dazzling because of the natural environment she grows up in. Her hair does not need to be dyed in three different colors to look good, because the natural henna she uses gives extra shine and strength to her already eye-catching long black hair.

Even when it comes to fitness, the village girls seem to be a leap ahead of us. With the many gyms and swimming pools now, many girls are members at local fitness centers to get that “perfect body.” From her constant work in the house and on the farms, the village girl has a body of a model hidden in her loose Kurdish clothing. We indulge in chocolates like Galaxy and Ferrero Rocher; they, on the other hand, enjoy natural foods freshly picked from the trees–the way she can break a date and peel the skin with her hand is admirable, or the way she treats herself to berries sitting by the shade of a berry tree.

A typical girl who has grown up in the city would most likely be well educated and go to a university. This does not undermine the intelligence of a village girl, who knows all about natural remedies. A village girl learns from life’s experiences-something you cannot gain from reading thick books and highlighting all the important details.

Show a city girl a cockroach and she will scream her lungs out–literally. On the other hand, the bravery a village girl possesses is immense; she can confront a wild animal to protect the family’s herd of sheep.

Finally, village girl or city girl? You be the judge, but keep in mind even though they may not go to the best English-speaking universities or might not be involved in the train of globalization that is apparent in city life, a village girl in Kurdistan is a young woman that must be respected and admired in her own rights, because if not worse, we are certainly not better than she is! 

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