Sophia's Peace Work

Friday, March 09, 2007

Some additional photos

With Kurdish friends outside an Assyrian Tomb. Dug into a mountainside of rock - the view into the valley below was incredible

The Fish Market in Dokan Village

The northern edge of Dokan Reservoir - aside from the obvious garbage, the water level in both of Iraqi Kurdistan's two main reservoirs (Darbandikhan and Dokan) is very low and troubling ... with little winter snow this means water levels will only go lower.

Some photos of the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan

Bird Watching on Pera Magron Mountain

Mine Field near the Iraq/Iraq Border

30 Meter Waterfall near Moat Mountain on the Iraq/Iran Border

The Zoo of Erbil
We were taken to the zoo by the head of the Natural History Museum of the University of Salahaddin in Erbil. In my opinion, such places should be closed ... it seemed that it was filled only with sick and stir-crazy animals. If you can't properly care for and handle wild animals, the education value of having them in captivity isn't worth it. One boy was having a grand time "playing" with a monkey by slapping and spitting at it. To quote Teddy Roosevelt in the recent movie, "Night at the Museum," I wondered, "Who's evolved?"
A very sad wolf at a sad zoo.

One of two brown bears at the Erbil Zoo. At the gate you can buy cookies and cheetoes and throw them at the animals ... the bears oblige by opening their mouths wide.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Relocated to Kurdistan

Finally moved to Sulaymaniyah or Sulaimani or Sulay ... whichever you like. I've been working straight ever since (and am actually checked into a hotel because I put my back out and caught a bad cold and didn't feel like recuperating in our newly purchased but cold and unfurnished house/office). Anyway, it's been a busy time and I've had no time to post so I'm sorry to say I'm recycling old emails home for this one.

Sulay is a different world ... they don't even speak Arabic here ... well they do, but they resent it. There are too many Iraqi arabs here for their tastes. They are nice folks as a rule, but I had forgotten what it is like to be stared at all the time. It does get old fast. In Jordan they have seen so many westerners that they only stare if you enter the really poor areas. Here they just aren't used to seeing westerners at all.

My initial situation was that I was living in a place called the Milan Hotel (or the Melan, depending on what sign you look at). It's $40 a night (and that's the discount) for a largish room with two beds, TV with Satellite, a ricketly table and two rickety chairs ... and a 1/2 fridge that is only on when the power is on ... which is from about 5 pm to 1 am (then it's lights out, baby!). They also turn it on from about 7:30 am to 10 am.

Sulaymaniyah, as cities go, is a dirty, smudged brown of a place ... it lies in the valley between to big ridges of mountains ... I believe they run roughly east-west or southeast-northwest. There is even a bit of snow on some of them ... further north the mountain ranges get higher and there is lots and lots of snow (no ski resorts that I know of) ... alot of the best places apprear to be along the Iran/Iraq border. Unfortunately that's landmine country (1500 landmine fields in Sulaymaniyah Governorate alone). We started a Biodiversity survey on the 21st of February of about 30 sites in the north ... After I resolved the ever pesky visa problems (the usual bureacratic, kafkaesque nightmare), I was able to go to a few of the sites (stunning, amazing, pictures will follow soon) but my primary task is to get the new office ready. My boss bought a house here (but as an arab, we had a difficult time registering it ... the usual bureacratic, kafkaesque nightmare). It will be our new "Central" office. It's a brand-new, 3-story job in a central area of the city.

My boss also hired a kurdish guy to work with me on a trial basis. He's is a guy in his late 40's but looks like he is in his 60's. He started off saying, "we must hire a bookeeper, an accountant, a driver, a cook, a housekeeper, a guard, a receptionist...." I told him, "This is not a big NGO ... in Amman, I am bookeeper, housekeeper, receptionist, training coordinator, editor, IT and logistics person, and sometimes tea-maker - all in one." Anyway, we went searching for furniture and other office and house stuff (mostly all Turkish ... you should see the couches and chairs the turkish make ... over stuffed and gaudy crap) and he seems like a nice guy. I also have two logisitics guys (my boss and the senior project manager each sent one ... though I didn't really need them ... well I guess I'm starting to use them more now).

Anyway, between these three guys, the house/office and the field teams doing the biodiversity survey, I have my hands full.