Sunday, June 15, 2014

Missing Iraqi Kurdistan: Seeing the beauty in the small things

Right now I am missing Iraqi Kurdistan. Don't get me wrong, I am also loving being here in Winnipeg in the summer time: living with the family that I love, being able to plant my garden and watch it sprout, visiting and chatting with dear friends and looking toward a busy July and August doing stuff on behalf of CPT here in North America. BUT I am still missing the ones I love in Iraqi Kurdistan. As well, I imagine what they are feeling like right now with the uncertainty of whether life will change or not. [In case you don't know what is happening in Iraq here is one post from someone on the ground in the capital city, Hawler-here ]

So, today I am posting a few photos from my time there this winter and spring. These are some  things that I found to be beautiful in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Beauty at the Bazaar
Sometimes the goods are just placed randomly on the street, but sometimes the proprietor takes a lot of time to make the display beautiful. This is amazing since he will have to undo it  very soon, when the bazaar closes.

The Beauty of the People

These last 3 photos are of two small people I met on my walk home. It was just a week or so before the elections and they were playing with the flag of the Goran (Change) movement. When I stopped to talk to them the little boy asked me if I was Gorani (supporter of Goran). As I stopped to think what I would tell him (whether an easy "yes" which is not really true as I don't support any Iraqi Kurdistan party or to try to tell him the truth -in Kurdish), he got tired of the foreign lady and motioned the girl to head on home.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Berens River Cup Song: and memories of my nursing training

This past week a musical video was posted on You tube. It has since gone viral for good reason. A music teacher in the Berens River reserve school decided to encourage his student's musical talents. He helped them to create a video of their version of the "Cup Song: You are going to miss me when I'm gone". It is great and catchy. If you watch it you will find the tune whirling through your head for many hours!! (See the video at the bottom of this post.)

Beren's River has a special meaning for me. Way back many years ago-34 to be exact- I spent a few weeks in that community. It was my choice as one of my elective placements for my Registered Nurse diploma. I lived at the nurse's station and followed the nurses around as they visited families and saw patients in the clinic. I never did end up working on a nurse's station, but did nurse a year in Churchill, Manitoba. That was the next largest hospital  for many northern  patients who needed medical care. (Clarification: the patients from Berens River would be flown to Winnipeg- not Churchill).

Flying into Berens River- June 1981

A young me in front of the nursing station.-June 1981

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Learning how to give: Two women-Evelyn in Winnipeg and the Syrian woman in Iraqi Kurdistan

Three days ago I met Evelyn. I was sitting in the sunshine at the bus stop at Portage and Colony in Winnipeg. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman come to the area and begin talking to the people waiting. I stuck my nose further into my book and hoped that maybe I would turn invisible, but no such luck. She came up to me and asked for some coins to fund two bus fares- one to her destination and then back again. I took a look in my wallet and then apologized that I had only two dimes. I asked her name and told her mine. Then she moved on.

 I had just gone  back to my sunshine and good book. when I realised that I had 10 bus tickets in my wallet. That would have been so much more helpful to her. So I looked for the grey shorts and t-shirt but they had disappeared. I knew that she could not have gone  far, and I had 15 minutes until my appointment, so I headed down Portage looking for Evelyn. A block later I saw her sitting on the side of the concrete flower planter. I ripped off a bus ticket, drew near for her to acknowledge my presence and then handed her the tiny piece of paper. She looked at me in surprise, "Did you come all the way from the bus stop?" I nodded yes. She said, "Thank you so much, Kathy".

It felt good. I seemed to me that maybe this interaction with a person asking for money had worked. I was able to help her and she received a portion of what she needed. But it took my head back to a situation in Iraqi Kurdistan that felt more like a failure.

During my previous 6 stints in Iraqi Kurdistan with Christian Peacemaker Teams I have enjoyed walking the 25 minutes to the city centre bazaar. I love the colour and beauty and hubbub of the sellers and buyers. However, this January, I found that I had to steel myself to walk the narrow lanes and streets. I definitely do stand out as a foreigner and thus I appear wealthy. I could not pass by the shops without women, often with a small child, coming up to me, holding a laminated piece of paper informing the reader of her status as a Syrian refugee.  “Please, Mrs, Mrs, Mrs… for food for food .for food”.

I soon learned to have a few small bills of Iraqi dinars easily accessible. But when these were gone I had to say, “no, biburre, I’m sorry.” Sometimes she would grab my arm and cry out pleadingly. She did not know of the money I had distributed already and probably would not care.  I continued my words, “na, na”.

One evening I headed down the main street just as dusk fell. The shoppers were dispersing, taking home food for the evening meal. As I came to the gate of the bazaar I saw a Syrian woman sitting on the ground with a small baby sleeping in her arms. The woman did not plead- she barely even looked. Her eyes were heavy and dark. In her wordlessness she seemed in even more despair than all the others. I stopped, found another small dinar bill and placed it on the cloth in front of her. Then I squatted down to make contact and touched her child’s hand. The mother looked at me and then tucked the hand closer. “Zor sarde- so cold”. “Bale/yes” I replied.

It was all I could do and her face stayed in my head all the way home. I suppose I did more than some people, at least I tried to make some contact. But she remains with me and I think maybe I could have run to the closing shops to buy a blanket, or given her my sweater or emptied my wallet.

I can not save all the people who ask me for something. Despite the fact that I look like I am wealthy my CPT stipend does not stretch very far. But the Syrian woman taught me to think again.  I am also trying to  learn that when I can't do enough or anything, I am not a bad person.