Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blues Bar in Sulai

A friend asked me if I wanted to go to a Blues Bar in town. I'm not really a big Blues fan but the sheer novelty that Sulaimani could play host to such a place peeked my interest. So on Wednesday night we went over to check it out. It's on the way to Sarchinar ... the western part of town that has many restaurants, coffee shops, the one and only chinese restaurant in town (not too bad considering) and the local spring/water source for the town.

I didn't get the name of the place but it's marked by a big green Grolsch sign on the street. It's a brand new place and there were only a few folks there when we arrived. The motif is "Guitar" ... guitar shapped tables, guitars hanging from the ceiling, guitars lining that balcony. They certainly got the mood right with low lights and my friends soon turned it smokey (to my dismay).

Though we in a primarily Islamic country, the Kurds love their liquor and the menu offered pages and pages of alcoholic options, but I opted for water and alot of bar food, which was also reasonably descent and a little different from the usual Kurdish fair.

We were joined by a young kurdish guy who came with Music CD's. He told us that when he first came to the place a few weeks before he caught them playing Yanni, but he soon set them straight and he's been providing music ever since.

I hope the place is successful (I'll certainly spread the word among the expats I know who will enjoy the place). Just to see some variety here in Sulaimani is a welcome thing.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Homeless American Woman gets the Royal Treatment from Kurdish Minister

Sometimes my Arab colleagues say the darndest things. Yesterday one told me, "Look, you could be a homeless person off the street from the U.S.A. and the Kurds would still treat you like royalty." But the implied flip-side is, if your Arab, the Kurds will cast you out on the street.

Since generally Americans are well liked in Kurdistan and Arabs rather universally despised there is a certain truth to this. I worry about my team, made of up of just a few Kurds and mostly Arabs, when they go out to do field work. They would have trouble at the checkpoints without the Kurds to negotiate them through. Working for an Arab organization, it is always a bit of a surprise how a Minister will smile and laugh with me, and then, as recently happened, say disparaging things against my organization in the local media. Is it that they don't really associate me with my own organization, despite my calling card? Or is it just the same-old, same-old, tired, two faced nature of Iraqi culture?

Whatever got this particular Minister's goat up has been smoothed over through the help of other Kurdish friends who interceded on our behalf (a bit like my Kurdish teammates negotiating the team through another checkpoint). Trust can be lost in a day ... but it takes time, a long time, to build it up again.