Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Travels of 2014: Kurdistan, Part 3

November - Iraq: Day Two

The very important question in the van on the way to the hospital was what the hashtag of our trip should be. Which is hilarious because only one of the six of us even have a twitter account. It was a debate that lasted for days, but it was agreed that Jeff, Tim, and I were the #AllTheFun portion of the team. The reason was twofold: one, none of us had medical degrees (still don't), which led to two, we got to do something outside the hospital while our good doctors were stuck inside all day!

We left Dr. Kirk, Allison, and Anita at the hospital and went to the KSC headquarters. We were ushered to an office with a large desk, wood floors, and couches on both sides of the room. One of the administrators came in and made pleasant small talk with us at one point, but it was about 45 minutes before we left. In that time, they brought us my favorite Kurdish tea yet. They're all the same basic idea: extremely strong black tea with sugar, but each maker's tea tasted different, and the tea made by a lady at the KSC office was my favorite. I remember telling her "Good morning" in Kurdish, and upon finding out she's Persian, said "Merci" for the tea. 

Soon after we climbed into a van that was followed by one or two others, loaded with large cardboard boxes. They are filled with clothing for refugee families who have fled here from conflict-torn cities like Mosul, and our task of the day is to deliver the boxes to local churches where the refugees are staying. Our guide and translator for the majority of the day was a smart young woman named Nawras in her mid-twenties who worked for KSC. Her English made me slightly embarrassed for even attempting Kurdish because she was so fluent, but we all enjoyed her company very much. She was kind enough to answer all of our questions and tell us about the city as we drove through various parts, and brought some well-timed humor. (I asked if there were many road accidents considering the....adventurous and flexible nature of the drivers. I then said I hadn't seen one since we arrived, and her response was, "Would you like to see one?")

We pulled into a cobblestoned alley flanked by two tan-stoned buildings. The wall on the right gives way to a long arch of a doorway, the doorway to a church, and there is a grass-covered courtyard beyond it. The other three walls supported two floors of rooms. Tim walked in and a handful of children flocked to him, and within seconds there were enough of them that he backed out into the alley to make room for those bringing in boxes. Tim is truly something of a pied piper, because in a blink the number of children around him did something like quadruple - or more.

Eventually we were ushered into the courtyard with the gaggle of kids, and my eyes bugged seeing the throng surrounding our balloonologist. There were toddling little ones to youngsters taller than myself, and parents holding babies, too. I can't decide if a crowd of people all talking at once is less or more chaotic if you can't understand the majority of what is being said. At any rate, seeing as Tim was swamped, I laughingly remarked on how his hands were full. He returned by telling me he had a second pump, if I'd like to start making balloons too. I'd never made a balloon animal in my life, but there was no way I could say no.

In Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, in a church housing refugees, and I'm holding a brightly colored pump about to make an inflated animal out of a green balloon. I had many an incredulous private laugh. 

I made a balloon animal alongside him while he made one, then he moved a distance away, talking half of the crowd with him. I stood on one of the stepping stones that lined the courtyard so I could feel slightly taller than the adolescents who stood eye to eye with me. 

"Animal? Flower?" These words, a few of them know. 

"He wants an elephant."

"And he wants a bicycle."

I'd made only one balloon animal in my life and I was being asked to make an elephant and a bicycle. 

Let's just say I did my best. 

Jeff, Tim, and I were having so much fun with the kids that we didn't realize the trucks were getting packed up and leaving. The van that we arrived in was the last to leave, as the kids didn't want the novelty balloon man to leave. 

But with a few parting tokens, we climbed into the van and drove off to the next mini adventure of the day. 

(to be continued)


Hannah Joy said...

THIS IS SO FABULOUS! <3 I was laughing about the balloon-making....AN ELEPHANT AND A BICICYLE. XD That is so awesome. Keep posting!!!

Nita said...

I love your travel reports! Keep them coming :-D

Liz Hericks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz Hericks said...

WHY DIDN'T I READ THIS EARLIER. I LOVE ITTTTTTTTTT. Those kids are so sosososooso adorable.