Monday, May 23, 2011

What exactly do you do?

[A day in the life of a CPT Iraq CPT team]

The entrance to our house/office in Suleimaniya.

I imagine that some of you don't really know what we do here. You may wonder what I do all day when I am in Kurdish Northern Iraq for 3 months- away from the blizzards and floods of southern Manitoba. So here is a few glimpses of team life in Suleymaniya, Kurdish Northern Iraq. Right now things are a little slow. The active anti-corruption protests are squashed for now and the leaders are processing where to go next, we are waiting for the mayor in the mountain region to give us an appointment to explain to him why we should be allowed to live up in the village for several months this summer, and we are waiting for meetings with UN officials re our Iranian refugee interviewing project. Life seems to be quite a bit of waiting right now.

7:30 am  My alarm goes off and I do a bit of yoga to loosen up, eat breakfast (yes, we can buy Kellog's Raisan Bran and peanut butter here), and get ready for worship and team meeting. Right now there are 5 of us on team and we have a daily rota: leading worship and team meeting, cooking supper, washing all the dishes for the day and writing the daily events log. The fifth person has a day off from chores.

Another morning team meeting. I think that this one was a short one. Clockwise: Lukasz (from Czech Republic), Peggy (from Ohio, USA), Michele (Minnesota, USA) and Chihchun (from Taiwan) and of course me from Manitoba, Canada.

8:30 All 5of us  gather for worship. Right now people on team are quite punctual for this deadline. Worship time varies from more liturgical worship to watching videos or listening to songs or complete silence. It usually lasts for around 1/2 hour. Right afterward we write down agenda items and discuss the plans for the day and anything that needs to be reported or discussed. This meeting can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on the intensity of things to be discussed and whether something needs a consensus decision.

10:00ish to 1:00ish We may work on writing that needs to be done or go to meetings with partners or study Kurdish in preparation for the 3 hours class (this is only for Lukasz who is taking private lessons right now).
Some days people come to our office/house for meetings ( or like today, they don't show up and we don't know why!). Mohammed, our translator and friend comes most mornings to make phone calls to non-English speakers or to drive us to appointments at other offices. We are pleased to hear that our application to stay here for another year as a NGO has been accepted. Whew!

Mohammed, our translator, driver, advisor and very good friend. I hope to make a whole blog post about him soon.

1:00ish to 3:00ish We all prepare separate lunches. Some of us eat more of a brunch earlier.

3:00-6:00 More of the same can happen. Meetings, phone calls, writing. I often go shopping for household items and bulk food at the larger grocery store, Taj, which is a 10 minute walk away. (Fruits and veg are bought at our local shop which is just around the corner).  My permanent job is taking care of household buying. Other jobs are team co-ordinator, finances, technology and keeping track of written releases and updates. I sometimes take the 15 minutes bus ride to the city centre to the bazaar where one can find almost anything. If I am out on team business, I can take a few minutes to buy more personal things (like Birkenstock sandals at the used shoe stalls).

This picture references an earlier post about the lack of stealing. Note the bills attached to the top of the stand and all the phone cards underneath.

The young salesmen at one of the many used shoe shops at the bazaar. They are standing in front of the "ladies shoes" that they thought that I should buy as well as the pair of Birkenstock sandals.

6:00-7:00 This is supper time. Each of us have our favourite things to make and some repetoires are more extensive than others, but mostly the food is really good. I will have to adjust to having to cook supper most every night when I get home.

7:00-? Evening creates a time for more personal pursuits. Some writing is done and skyping with friends and family. One evening a week we have a team-building night where we play a game or watch a movie or other such fun pursuits. Others of us just have a nap. Here is a photo of our other team member, Lulu. She is 2 years old and is our mascot. She is showing what a CPTer does when one is really relaxed after a hard day.
Playing a German board game.
This is the ultimate in CPT self care.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Disappointment with a tinge of relief.

On Wednesday I and two team members made a “flying” trip to the mountains and the tiny village of Kani Spi. This was a 10 hour return trip for a 2 hour conversation to confirm plans for an accompaniment in this village.   We had spent a night there with the delegation early in April. At that time we had a discussion with Kaka M. the head of the village re possibly coming back for an extended stay during planting season. This is one time of the year when shells/bombs come  over the mountains from Iran.
This tiny village has to contend with these bombs coming very close to their home, as well as fields of land mines surrounding the fields that they cultivate. They must be very vigilant of their children and livestock in order to avoid tragedy.
At our first discussion he suggested that planting usually starts around 20 May. Then approximately 35 families arrive back into the village. Most of them set up stone foundations covered by tarps in which to live until the end of October. During these months they work hard in the vegetable fields and live in their beloved mountains.
When the rockets/shells come over the mountains, those with children usually flee back down to the city. Others find shelter under rocks and in caves.  The bombing tends to happen during the night or early morning hours. Our role of accompaniment would not offer any respite from the bombs. We would be there as documenters that this really does occur. We would photograph, video and write about what it is like to have one’s ancestral lands frequently bombarded by a neighboring country.
I was really looking forward to the chance to live in this village. It is so gorgeous up there in the mountain air and the Kani (mountain spring) water is clear and cold. I had wanted a chance to interact with the villagers and to talk and play with the many children. However, I knew this was going to be a huge stretch for me too. I would be required to use an outhouse type squat toilet, cook over an open fire and sleep in a temporary structure for days at a time, never mind trying desperately to understand the cultural expectations while not understanding the language.  Thus, the tinge of relief when we heard that the late spring rains (very excellent for the farmers) had set the planting back a week or so, and that they would like the team to come the day before I leave.
I will include some photos of our 10 hour (return) trip to Kani Spi including a couple of adventures we had along the way.
We took a shortcut through the city of Soran. This is what we faced just minutes before the intersection with highway. It was suggested that drivers in the West Bank face these berms of dirt much more frequently than Kurdish drivers do but with careful driving the car made it over.

This is one of the mountains that the shells/rockets/bombs come over.

The view from the yard of Kaka M's house. The Kurdish word for mountain is sharkh. That is easy to remember as the peaks due look a little like fins.
Red poppies (gul soor) are in bloom all over the roadsides and foothills.
One of the beauties.
These are the goats/sheep that we did not hit. We also did not hit the lone goat who crossed at dusk either, but she almost became part of the grill of the car.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It is better that one sits in boredom..?

Today is the 16th day since we and many people in Azadi Square ran from live gunfire. The population of security forces has dwindled leaving the square to the bean and sunflower seed salesmen and the shoppers heading to the bazaar. Demonstrations have not been attempted since that day.

Security forces on the square the evening before  the demonstrations were "squashed". The soldier in the centre of the photo spied the team's little camera and headed toward them with baton raised. The team headed back out of the square.

However, it is possible that plans for other ways of expressing the discontent are underway. We do know that one of the leaders of the demonstrations has been sentenced to 30 days in prison. He refused the chance to pay a relatively small fine instead, in protest of the fact that none of the security forces who killed 10 protestors have been brought to justice. Interestingly enough, some unknown person paid the fine for him. Faruq did not want to leave the prison- he wanted to serve the sentence as a form of protest.

The last few days I have had Skype contact with Laurens, my son-in-law to be, who is with CPT in the West Bank. He has told me of his days and they certainly sound more exciting than mine. That team has a regular routine of going out on school patrol and evening patrol to observe the actions of soldiers and settlers. Daily, they seem to have some situation to document and photograph. I found myself somewhat wishing for some action. Maybe the day in the square made me long for an adrenaline rush and the feeling that I am doing something.

But, then again, it is much better for the people if they are not facing live gunfire and the possibility of injury and death. Our work here in Kurdish Northern Iraq is very different than what is done in Palestine. I am using this down time to work on learning some more Kurdish vocabulary, write up meeting notes and to talk with our translator, trying to make sense of the political situation here.

Here is a couple of photos of the CPT house. This is the kitchen with Michele from USA and Allan from Canada

Our office. Here is our translator and team friend, Mohammed along with his son.