Sunday, October 4, 2009

Carolyn writing; Carl in brackets:
We have just had our first week with the students and what a delight they are. The students I have in accounting have now been here at the university for English language training and are now completing their sophomore year of academic education. They appear to be well trained in English at least in speaking and listening skills. I haven’t had much chance to measure their reading and comprehension skills yet but I suspect they are weaker in that area. Teaching accounting to students who have grown up in a cash basis only society presents its problems but I just have to remember checks and credit cards as well as buying on account don’t exist here. The students seem fascinated with that idea and are anxious to learn though. Our classes are quite small, about 8-12 per class, so it is easy for us to give individualized attention when needed. The students are very friendly; I had lunch with four of my students Thursday and they were very willing to answer any question I had. They are also very curious about the United States and are very proud that they are getting an American education. That is something to be prized here. It is clear that although many of these students are local Kurds, they have at some point in their lives, lived in other countries during the Saddam era when so much damage was done to this city and other areas where there were large concentrations of Kurds.

{Carl writing: I am finding more diversity among my students than Carolyn has experienced in terms of ability to grasp the material I am dealing with. Some are able to handle 10 pages of text, others struggle to get through two or three pages. I am also dealing with a group of students who are very nervous about how they are going to be graded and seem more interested in what’s going to be on the test – a typical response in a general education course not in most students' majors. In short, they’re much like US students in this regard. But they seem anxious to learn.}

One of the best people-watching experiences came when we had to go to immigration to get registered to be in Kurdistan. There is such a mixture of people coming here from other parts of the Middle East as well as the US, Europe, and the Far East. We met some men who had just arrived to drill some oil wells just south of Sulaimani on the way to Baghdad. When we finished the immigration process, we were to set up our bank accounts but the bank is very busy recovering from the time off for the holiday Eid. So our bank accounts have not been completed and the University paid us our first month’s salary in cash. Being American, we were rather concerned about the safety of this process, but that is the norm here and they think nothing of carrying around large sums of cash. We have been told that the walls of the bank are lined with the cash right out in plain sight; it’s safer there in the presence of armed guards than in a secluded safe where someone might take it.

Some of you have asked about food purchasing and preparation. One can find some things readily so we can prepare a tradition meal such as chicken, potatoes, green beans. Cucumbers and watermelon are as good as I have ever tasted anywhere. But pork is not available so the green beans are prepared without the seasoning of ham or bacon. We did find some ground beef the other day and made spaghetti and meat sauce. It tasted pretty good but we can’t find Parmesan cheese! Garlic bread can be made if you are willing to use the flat bread they call “naan” and spread the garlic butter on the top. Butter tastes more like lard so we add a little salt to make it more palatable. Chicken, lamb and rice are mainstays. I am not crazy about lamb so I haven’t bought any yet. We have a propane gas stove and oven so cooking is very similar. Just remember to wash every vegetable and fruit with soap and boiled water before eating.

We had a wonderful experience Thursday night {the equivalent of going out on Friday night in the States at the end of the work week} when we went to a local restaurant with another couple from the faculty. It was an outdoor restaurant and they seated us right next to the fish tank. The tank contained several very large carp and when someone would order fish, the waiter came to the tank, fished one out with a net, laid it on the ground right next to our table and proceeded to beat it over the head until it quit flopping. Then, they cut the head off and placed the fish over the open fire pit to grill it. There were also live chickens roaming around our table although we did not see them killing those. The meal consisted of about eight or ten dishes and cost us 9,000 dinars, approximately $8.50 for the four of us. That’s right, slightly over $2 per person. The cost of things is difficult to define because another friend from the faculty went out for steak and potato with a glass of wine and paid $35 for his dinner. We suspect if you are willing to eat local fare, you get by much cheaper than eating Western. Our meal was very filling and quite an experience too. We will try to include pictures of that.

Probably the highlight of the week was what happened at a BBQ the university had for all its expatriate employees on Friday evening. The man who is head of security at AUIS, Dr. Aso (veterinarian) and his wife were with us for the evening. She had given us a Kurdish lesson that morning so we were visiting with her when someone announced that Dr. Barham Salih, Prime Minister of Kurdistan, was on his way to visit with us. He has been instrumental in seeing that AUIS becomes a viable American University and we have seen him on campus at least twice this week. He was very gracious in allowing us to have our picture taken with him as you can see in the photo posted at the top of this blog. Other photos of the past week are at:


  1. Dwayne and I love reading your blog and looking at the pictures. (Also a email.) Some of this really reminds us of our Australian experience when we lived there. Shopping, adjusting to different foods, etc. By the way I learned to roast lamb and we loved it. Hope all is well. Love to you both.

  2. Thanks for updating and posting pictures. They are quite fascinating!
    - Andrea Patrie

  3. Enjoyed your experiences marketing. Good luck cooking. Will be anxious to hear more about your students.