It is an oasis. They don’t have a state yet. A national flag, yes and they fly it with pride after a century of not being able to. Their own distinct language, yes they have it. They are a place of hope. Christians from Baghdad and Basra find refuge here. Kurds escaping relentless persecution in Iran and war in Syria now call Kurdistan home. Despite the rubble, the never ceasing construction, the wild drivers, and the certain uncertainness of day to day life, it is an oasis.
I slipped in and out of consciousness as the four by four drove into the darkness. The darkness was a lot less scary from within. I would be briefly awoken as the car slowed down to go over a speed bump only to fall asleep again when the truck went over it. The quiet Kurdish music and the feel of the road lulling me to sleep. It was as if they working together to get me to understand Kurdish hospitality.
“Relax my friend” a phrase I would hear many times in the ninety days that followed “this is my home, and when you are here it is your home also. Sleep if you want to.” I so I would close my eyes and listen to music and feel the road and not think. Not thinking was a beautiful thing. Thinking, for me, was a gift and a curse, and to not think was a beautiful opportunity not to be missed.
As we made the way towards the village we passed through three other villages. Each time I started wondering:
“Is this my home?”
“Are these the stores that I will shop at?”
I would scan the outline of the buildings hoping for any clue for the answers. The driver , accustomed at the point to my constant stirring, did not make any indication how far we had to go. He let me stir. He let me look wide eyed into the darkness and smile.
“Don’t think too much my friend. It took you 120 years to get here. You will have many great adventures and drink much tea. It will be a good place for you. It will be your home.”
And I would relax but soon I could not sleep. There was too much child like excitement building as the numbers to my destination got smaller and smaller. The weight of a history I could not understand and was full of adult whispers slowly faded.
I have been travelling for a living for nearly a quarter of my life and this one was different, this one had something very special about it. I had never had so much anticipation about seeing where I was going to live as did at that moment.I wanted to take my camera out and take pictures, but of what? The darkness which was now like a well worn security blanket? The feeling of relief felt in my soul because I knew my searching for that unknown answer to an equally unknown question was finally coming to an end? I put my camera back in my bag and watched the outlines pass. Slowly, even at this dark hour, the streets were coming alive. Like a great big stretch after a good night of sleeping.
When we arrived at my apartment building I did not have the energy to look around. It was nearly 5 am and I wanted to sleep before the sun woke up. The driver and the guard at the door both helped me get my bags to the room. I waved goodbye and felt slightly awkward that I didn’t even know how to say thank you.
I entered the room and with a flick of a switch it light replaced darkness.
“This is good” I said no one in particular.
My body commanded me to sleep. I didn’t even turn off the light. In anticipation and hope of something good my Kurdish friends say “Inshalla” , roughly it translates into “May it be God’s will”. I slept well that night knowing that it would be my last, and inshalla, greatest adventure yet.
To be continued....