10 THINGS IRAQ HAS TAUGHT ME (so far)

Little boys have SO MUCH MORE ENERGY than nuclear fission.

Dressing stylish and modest is a sign of respect, not just for you, but for the people you are going to see.

Chickpeas are pretty good.

Drink water, think you’ve had enough? Drink some more.

Learn to live without electricity and the internet; you never know when it will go off.

Be hospitable- regardless of your material means. Give what you have, and remember that God is the ultimate provider.

Americans (in general) are weird- we’re loud, we’re ill-mannered (for the most part), we don’t like to lose ourselves to gain community, we want everyone to speak English, and we won’t take the time to listen to what others have to say. [I don’t mean to step on any toes here, because I am still, constantly, learning how to live in another place).

Not every country has coffee. Stop being dependent on it and move on. (or learn to drink caffeinated tea).

When you’re on the phone say the “I love you” part first, it’s the most important and the call will end without you knowing it. (Again- learn to live without electricity and internet).

God is good, all the time. His plan is far greater than what I think should be, and glorifying Him even when I am disappointed and confused is what He asks of us.

Titles are difficult to come up with (something I’ve learned while blog editing)

May 25

Today I went to the bazaar with Cayla. Cayla is PLC’s family advocate, and married to PLC’s press secretary and communications guy. She is such a sweet, fun person and is so comfortable to be around. Also she’s a pro at going to the bazaar and knows where everything is. We took a bus to the bazaar, got there, found what we needed (me- heels and a skirt, her- produce, and a seam ripper for Jessica), took the bus back, and I went to work. The bazaar was so much fun, and every time is such a learning experience. I thank God that He’s prepared me for cultural changes by allowing me to travel previous to Iraq so that I wouldn’t be so weirded out by the crowds, the smells, the drivers, the beggars, and the language barriers. I also thank Him for sending people who make these transitions as trouble-free and uncomplicated as can be. It’s been easy to fall in the trap of not thanking God, I mean I’m in a country where my social freedoms have been extremely limited, but God is so good and all praise is His. I need to remember that He has given me SO MUCH MORE than not being able to wear shorts- He’s given me incredible brothers and sisters in Christ. He’s given me encouragement 100% of the way. He’s given me strength and taught me to rely on Him, and to trust that He will provide. I am so blessed, so thankful that my Father sent me here. I can’t wait to grow closer to Him. I love that one trip to the bazaar could remind me of all this

(In the evening we got some news, but I’ll write more on that later).

May 26
I woke up around 8:00am (which is the latest I’ve slept in here), left the house around 8:30 to catch a ride with Jessica, and worked until lunch (12:15ish). After lunch we went back to work. Yup that’s how interesting my days are. It probably reads really boring, but my days are really actually very exciting to me. They’re exciting because I am learning each day how to do something different and I’m experiencing new things. I never in a million years thought I’d be learning how to post blogs/ edit them in Iraq (actually I never thought I’d be learning it in general), but, so far, I’m enjoying it!

In the evening Jessica, her kids (Micah and Emma), Cody, Michelle and I went over to Awara (you’ll have to ask me about his story. It’s way too awesome to blog about) and his wife’s house for dinner. It was an enjoyable meal of who knows what (rice in folded leaves?, onions, and fermented milk). During the meal we talked very little, because a Korean soap opera was on. OH MY GOODNESS they love their Korean soap operas here. I really feel at home in Iraq- the weather is similar to Albuquerque (it will get much hotter here soon though), the scenery is brown, and now Korean soap operas. Awara said that Korean soap operas were good because some of them reflect what’s going on in the government now, and that Koreans are respectful. Perhaps the most respectful people group besides the Kurds. I don’t know if ya’ll have watched any Korean soap operas, but I have no idea how he got all of that from a soap opera based hundreds of years ago. Awara is a pretty interesting man. He could be living in a huge mansion right now; he could be driving the most expensive cars, and he could have bodyguards around he 24/7, but he choses to live simple. His desire is to serve God and help the helpless. I’ve learned a lot these past few days, but something I know that will stick with me forever is how this man’s greatest yearning in life is to be a servant and how much I need to want that too.

Has It Really Only Been 3 Days?

May 23

I woke up around 5:30 am. I was just too excited that I was in Kurdistan and could not wait to get to see some of it! After several more hours everyone else was awake too and at 8:45am we headed to the PLC office. J The office is right above a bakery- yum. There we received some information and our task for the day. The task was for us to split into two groups of three (you know so we wouldn’t draw more attention to ourselves than necessary) and explore the bazaar. Anton, Ben, and Ted were in a group and Adam, Ryan, and I were in the other. Tasks we needed to complete at the bazaar included exchanging $100 to Kurdish currency, picking up SIM cards for our cell phones, drinking fruit smoothies/ juice, learning a few Kurdish phrases, and making it to a restaurant by noon. It was kind of like the amazing race in that as soon as we left the building we were on our own and praying the taxi driver we found knew where he was going and what we were saying. We arrived at the bazaar, walked around, walked some more, and then walked until I developed blisters on my feet. The bazaar has EVERYTHING. Everything from fashionable modern heels to traditional Kurdish Klashi; from spices to live animals; from smoothies to cell phones, from DVDs to fabrics, it is so much cooler than a Wal- Mart. An interesting thing about the bazaar is that the people are probably more into building relationships and getting to know people than selling and buying. It isn’t uncommon for a shop- keeper to just sit down with you and have a cup of tea. When we were searching for specific items we discovered it isn’t uncommon for a shop- keeper to leave his store (potentially losing business) to help you find the store that carries what you are looking for- and also making sure the person there is respectful to you, because you are now his friend. We need more of this hospitality and less of the self- service mindset we’ve been taught for so long. I am thankful that I was able to experience the service of the bazaar because while I am here to serve, I need to learn from them what exactly that looks like here and how I can most respectfully serve and love them.

After the bazaar we ate a delicious, extremely filling lunch, and then came home to learn of the house rules, what each member already on staff at PLC does, safety ‘rules,’ and some more of what is culturally acceptable in Kurdistan.  Right now I am overwhelmed with information, but more excited to start building relationships, learning, and loving here in Iraq.

Kurdish Wedding/ Engagement Party

After writing my blog about the bazaar I went downstairs to chat with Cayla (Matt’s wife), who is amazingly sweet (more on the PLC staff later) and Jessica. They were in the kitchen prepping for dinner as the kids (Emma and Micah) were eating watermelon. After chatting with everyone for a bit, Emma and I started playing Polly Pockets upstairs in her room. Not more than 10 minutes into Polly Pocket playing (or really just setting it all up and making up background stories for our Pollys) Jessica came in and asked me if I wanted to go to a Kurdish engagement party. It was for the older sister of the first girl that PLC sent to Turkey for heart surgery. THIS IS HOW AMAZING AND IMPORTANT THE RELATIONSHIPS PLC BUILDS WITH FAMILES ARE! I, of course, said yes. We literally had 15 minutes to get ready (as Jessica thought the party was tomorrow night and not tonight). Jessica, Emma, and Micah all wore traditional Kurdish clothes (gilly-kurdi?) and I wore more make- up than I had ever worn, or feel comfortable in, because I needed to show how much I respected the family we would be paying congratulations to. After picking up Michelle (Cody’s wife) we headed over to the party. Little did I know that engagements are SHORT in Kurdistan. Like we missed the engagement party in the time it took us to realize the party was tonight, decide to go, get ready, and go and we were there for the wedding reception and pictures. The women there were all dressed in gilly- kurdis and looked absolutely beautiful in their bright/ sequined/ beaded outfits. They were all smiles and immediately took us inside to sit on the couches when we got there. I think the reason for this was to take pictures with the foreigners. The bride and groom were busy taking pictures with the other guests of the wedding, so I didn’t feel like we were upstaging the beautiful, BEAUTIFUL bride at all. After sitting, trying a little bit of the super sweet breaded desserts, the dancing began. It was not Western wedding reception dancing, but a Kurdish dance (basically side stepping, while holding hands in a circle, and moving your shoulders up and down). It was a lot of fun, but for those of you who know me it was also still a lot of not Liz to get up and dance. After some dancing we left the party and I pretty much just went home, ate a late dinner, and slept.

May 24

Today started off early again, at least for me. I woke up at 6:00am to shower. I wanted to make sure I gave my hair enough time to dry. Walking out of your house with wet hair is a huge no, especially for women. We got to the office (which is just a 10 minute walk) and talked about office rules, maintenance, and weekly schedules. After this we were informed individually what we would be focusing on this summer. I learned a little of my tasks. I’ll be the blog editor. This means I’ll be reviewing everyone’s blogs, picking pictures/ titles, scheduling who blogs when and what the content will be. It sounds pretty fun, but I know there is so much that goes into this that I’ll be learning over the next week- like what do people what to read, what makes the blog, editing, who will write what best, and things like that. Then we went to lunch at a falafel place- delicious. After lunch Awara talked to us about Kurdish culture and what we were NOT to do.  Then we headed over to Matt and Cayla’s house for chile, corn bread, snicker doodles, cake, and Megamind. I, of course, fell asleep.  And that is today- tomorrow morning Cayla and I are going to the bazaar. 🙂

From Albuquerque to Kurdistan

Thanks to everyone who reminded me to bring things, next time please remind me OVER AND OVER to bring my iPod and camera. Yes, I forgot those. Thank God there is music online and other interns who are amazing photographers (and generous with their extra cameras that I can borrow). Thankfully those are the only items I forgot (I think).

All of my flights were extremely stress- free. Thank you for all of the prayers, I definitely felt them while the plane was taking off and landing. When I landed in Chicago I walked around the airport for a while before heading to the gate to meet the three guy interns. As I was walking to the gate I realized I really had very little idea what these guys looked like, thankfully I don’t think anyone realized me staring at them as I tried to connect Facebook pictures with real- life. While waiting for a semi- familiar face I went on Facebook to see if any of them had updated their status to “In Chicago.” Nope, no one had updated their status to that, instead one of the interns updated their status to “Flight schedule rearranged due to delays because of the weather in OKC. Now going through Amsterdam! Prayers much appreciated.”  I was a little concerned about this status (especially since he had important things to give a few of the interns in Chicago). I waited, slightly more nervous than before, there for about half an hour before seeing Ben, another intern arrived. We introduced ourselves and not long after the boarding call was announced. We saw Anton, the third intern at O’Hare, but didn’t get to meet him until we were all on the plane. After landing in Frankfurt we got to know each other a little bit more and met Adam (the new wolf to our wolf pack). The flight to Istanbul was relatively quick and painless. We got our Turkey visas and strolled through customs- literally strolled, we didn’t even stop. Then we waited at a coffee shop (Gloria Jean’s Coffee) for the other two guys. Ryan (and yes I say his name normally and not Ryyyyan like Maci in Teen Mom would say, well not yet anyways) came and waited with us for the last guy to arrive. I asked probably about a million (slight exaggeration here) questions. I was so relived that these guys were so comfortable to be around, but that might have something to do with the 24 hours of flying, no sleep, and a tired, slightly loopy Liz. After a hour or so Ted arrived (Ted was the guy who was suppose to meet us in Chicago). The 5 guys (ha ha 5 guys) and I went to go find our shuttle, waiting for the shuttle for a while, and then embarked on a fun, foreign bus adventure. Istanbul drivers are more adventurous than Guatemalan drivers, but I am thrilled to say they have nothing on Korean taxis. The drive from the airport should have taken about 15 mins, but after about an hour and a half we were finally at the hotel (I enjoyed the drive because we got to see some of the city). We pretty much threw our luggage in our hotel rooms (I had my own) and then took off to see the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, get dinner, and walk around a bit. Let me say this, if you are ever in Istanbul you should go with 5 guys (and take me please I want to go back)! We went back to the hotel, slept (well at least I did), got up to make the 6:00 am shuttle, arrived at the airport, checked in, flew to Erbil- the capital of Kurdistan!
I will update more on the drive to Suly, the first night, the house, the guys, ect later!
Thanks so much for the prayers!
Love from Iraq,
Liz

The Night Before

God, you want me to go to Iraq?

Really?

Really.

REALLY?

Really.

And that’s pretty much the synopsis of how my conversation with God went about me going to Iraq for 10 weeks this summer.

I am so, ridiculously, excited to go. I cannot believe I leave tomorrow morning. I cannot believe I have a day of flying ahead of me. Going to Iraq is obviously from God because NEVER would I voluntarily fly without a sister with me. Even though my sisters are not flying with me tomorrow morning, I am so thankful that they are spending the night before I leave with me. It’s been such a needed break from over thinking this trip- to just sit, eat cookie dough, and watch a good movie with them. They know I am nervous, not because I am scared of going to a country we have so many stereotypes about, but because I don’t know if I can be of any use there (and because I love to over plan everything). These girls know me so well and I thank God, so much, that I have these amazing, encouraging women praying for me and standing beside me throughout this adventure. [These last few minutes before I go to sleep should probably be spent making sure I’ve packed everything, or creepily watching these girls sleep, but after some (over thought) contemplations I have decided to keep a blog this summer. A blog on my thoughts on Kurdistan, my reflections, experiences, the amazing works and people of Preemptive Love Coalition, new loves/ obsessions (who know maybe I’ll come back an expert on Iraqi music), and how God is working here and in me. I am excited about this new adventure, and sharing with it with you!

If you have any specific questions about my trip, Kurdistan, or Preemptive Love Coalition PLEASE feel free to ask me. 🙂