October 15, 2010.
I have been on the ground here in Sulaimani for twelve days, having arrived at around 3 a.m. on October 3, 2010, after being in airports and in the air for almost 24 hours. All went well with baggage and connecting flights, something I am very grateful for as I have heard horror stories of lost luggage and missed flights from other ex-pats here in Suli. The driver at the airport was one of the regular AUI-S drivers that I had said good-bye to in June, and he as well as many others over the next few days welcomed me back.
As we turned into the apartment complex called Pak City where Carolyn and I lived last year, I felt like I was having an out of body experience looking at the building we lived in and knowing that this time I was on my own. In fact, that feeling came back to me several times over the next few days as I went to places in the city and the university that we had been to together. How can I be back in a place that we had left, presumably forever, in June?
The new building, comprised of 12 floors with 4 apartments per floor, is much cleaner than our former building, has larger and cleaner elevators both of which work all the time, and has no smell of kerosene to greet you as you enter from the outside. I have also experienced far fewer power outages. So apparently, when it comes to apartment buildings, there is such a thing as progress. Below this paragraph I have inserted a few photos taken of the inside of the apartment so you can get a sense of what it looks like. It is smaller by one full room than our apartment of last year, but that is perfectly O.K. as I do not need a lot of room. I use on a regular basis only four rooms: kitchen, den, bedroom, and bathroom. I sometimes take my supper to the living room so as to watch CNN or BBC world news, but that’s about the only use of the room.
The view from our former apartment was to the east and therefore across the city. From this apartment, I look to the northwest. This allows me to see a different set of mountains. See next two photos for a sense of what this looks like. The mountain in the background of the photo is actually quite tall and is much further away from Suli than it looks in this photo.
Today, Friday, October 15, 2010, the ex-patriot faculty and staff were given the opportunity to go to Lake Dukan, a large man-made lake that is about 45 miles from Suli. I went along with a fairly large group of maybe 20 to 25 persons. Because this large of a group of Americans might attract hostile attention, the security office at the university arranged to have 4 pershmerga, Kurdish soldiers, go along with us.
The day was very nice, in the 80s and cloudless, so we had good weather. Once we arrived at the lake, we were taken by boats to an island where we would have more privacy than we would have had near the shore where lots of local persons come to the lake. On the island, we found a flat and fairly smooth area to set up a kind of base camp from which people could go hiking or swimming. I chose to swim, but have no pictures of said activity. The water was cool but not cold and was really pleasant to be in. Once I was out of the water, my cotton Bermuda shorts (I did not bring a proper swimming suit) dried quickly in the intense sun and light breeze.
The whole time we were on the island, our peshmerga guards were walking the perimeter of the area we occupied, constantly on guard for unwanted visitors. It’s amazing how one can get used to seeing uniformed, heavily armed guards and not give their presence a second thought.
Waiting for our boats:
One of the peshmerga soldiers rode in the same boat that I rode in.
The trip to and from Lake Dukan was uneventful in terms of traffic, and was quite enjoyable. It’s now Friday evening and I am committed to getting this first posting on the blog before I go to bed.
My classes are off to a good start. I will write more about them next time.
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them on this blog or write to me at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.