You ask me “why here and not there?” I don’t blame you. I often ask myself the exact same question, when life here gives me a slap in the face, I ask myself “Why here? Why not there?”
Why live in Erbil when you can live in London? Why be in Iraq when you can be in Australia?
Let me tell you, my dearest, why here and not there.
Because where else will I go for a walk other than Park Sami Abdul Rahman when I need to inhale the smell of Dolma and Bryani mixed with light oxygen, on a Friday evening, to background noise of people laughing, giggling, insulting and gossiping in kurdi.
Because the summer weekend nights car drive back from Shaqlawa on the Masif road is full of life, love and happiness. The loud music in the cars – new and old – the cots, tents, and pots at the back of pick-ups, and dancing-bouncing buses past 10 o’clock at night feels as though for that moment life is just perfect. No one would guess all these people have been out since early morning dancing, eating and swimming in cold waters, with their sun burnt noses and shoulders they still have the energy to sing with half their tonsils torn — clap and dance still at full charge.
Because what is an outdoor picnic without the watermelon sitting for a few hours in the cold Kaani water before dripping on your clothes as you slurp your big slice among family and friends. One of whom is screaming while chasing after a $2 sandal floating away in the icy cold water.
Why here? Because friends visit out of the blue, unplanned, unforeseen. Picnics are planned last minute. Families meet after work and there is always good home-made food to warm the soul. When there is no food, there is gwlabarozha.
Neighbours are like guardian angels. They are there in every emergency, no matter how many times they’ve been annoyed by your car parked at their doorstep. When you’re unwell they are the first to drop off soup, and when you’re a little too quite they ring the bell just to ask if all is OK.
You can experience a luxurious meal as if you were in down town Dubai or have a deep cultural, chaotic experience like that of the Khan Khalil in Cairo all with less than ten minutes distance between modern Empire and the old ta’ajeel neighbourhood.
Your car can stop working on the high way and ten cars will stop to help you, without you even waving a hand.
Because when your heart says I am down, the prescription is a drive to a hill top in the middle of nowhere with some Kulicha and chai khalooz. You don’t need to schedule friends to join three weeks in advance. All it takes is a message in your WhatsApp group and someone will always be there before you arrive.
Why here? because we know how to celebrate. I can be invited to the wedding of my neighbour’s cousin and come home with sore shoulders and a lost voice because of all the halparke and halhala. I will be in her wedding video forever. And I may or may not see her again in my lifetime.
I can walk through Tayrawa, Qaysari, or Langa and bargain a price not because it’s expensive, but just because bargaining is fun. He lies it’s original marka. I lie I saw the same product cheaper a few shops away. We both know we are lying (white lie).
You can drive from Hawler to Slemani, Hawraman, or Duhok and feel you’ve stepped into a new country. Because we are all so different, so separated yet somehow kind-of united (sometimes in a very tricky, sticky way).
Because sometimes the salt and pepper of life is qaymakh, samooni garm and chai with lots of shakar. Sometimes, the queue at the nanawa is what tickles your heart, and the hustle and bustle of the bazaar while you order a falafel is what makes you feel nothing is worth the stress you have…
Sometimes all you need to hear is a choni bashi and a sarchaw…
What would I do on my depressed and tired days without going to Huda’s candle lit home, have Asuda’s homemade special something, be asked to go for a walk with Saza; Rasti giving me a dose of laughter, or a children’s play date with Rupak.
What is life without passing by Mum and Dad’s to see baaba watering his garden at the end of a long day, and daya insisting you stay for dinner?
Why here? Because here is the seeds that father sowed. Here is the shade of that same tree he planted over and over again. Here is the nest that he built and rebuilt time and time again. Here is the root, here is the nest no matter where I fly.
There is a word in Kurdish that explains the loneliness one feels when far from their nest, the lack of belonging and connection to the soil, the people and the culture. I don’t know what word you have for this feeling, but in Kurdish we say ghareebi, and you will never feel it’s true meaning until you set foot outside Kurdistan.
(My dearest, as for schools, health, life care and bureaucracy, that’s when I ask why there and not here? Then again, one can’t have best of both worlds.)
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan