Monday, November 9, 2009

8th Blog, November 9, 2009

[Carl writing.] This past weekend was rich in cultural experiences. On Friday evening we attended the fall semester student dance. It was held in a large circular banquet hall, and was one of the most heavily guarded events we have been to. Three guards at the outside gate were checking IDs of everyone who entered. Then, as we entered the venue, three more guards. The amount of firepower they were carrying would deter all but the most determined terrorist. One of the guards greeted me especially warmly and posed for a picture (see Picasa web site: )

Regarding the dance, we had heard that men and women students were reluctant to mix at events like this, but what we witnessed on Friday suggested that this is not true. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, and from the first opportunity that the music started, began dancing a traditional Kurdish dance, that involved long lines of dancers in a simple two-step as they move in a counterclockwise motion around a large dancing floor. One of my students insisted that I get into dance in spite of my protestations that I am rhythmically challenged. I dragged Carolyn in with me, and she helped me with the left-step, right-right cadence, so I did not embarrass myself too much. See first photo above for a sense of what we looked like. The students seemed to appreciate our efforts even if the outcome would not win a place in a Kurdish version of Dancing with the Stars. Photos 2 and 3 above are of us with those students who are in our classes, and who were available at the dance at the time of the photo. As is always the case, it seems, these still photos of the dance do such a terrible job of representing the sounds and feel of the banquet hall as lines of persons did the traditional Kurdish dance with such syncronicity, one would think that there must be a choreographer directing them . The dance was great fun.

Several of the students and staff, both men and women, dressed in traditional Kurdish dress for the dance. We have included one photo above as an example of the traditional dress of women. The rule seems to be that the more decorated – shiney, glittery, bejeweled – the cloth, the better. See the Picasa web site for some additional photos. Carolyn and I have decided after this experience to go to the bazaar with Kurdistan, one of Carolyn’s delightful students, who knows tailors and cloth shops well and who can help us get outfits made. We have been told there will be some other opportunities to wear them later in the year.

On Saturday morning we returned to the Red Museum for the opening of an art show that was supported by a major arts organization from England as well as by the U.S. and the British Governments. (See One of my students joined Carolyn and me for the morning. The event was attended by representatives from the US consul’s office from Irbil, Dr. Salih, and by Lady Hero the wife of Jalil Talabani, the President of Iraq. It seemed there were as many body guards and photographers from the mass media as there were observers of the show. (One of our students informed me that Carolyn and I made the Saturday night local TV news.) There were exhibits of original Iraqi art as well as photos of Kurdistan taken by Susan Meiselas who collected a number of photos in a book called Kurdistan in the Shadow of History.

As impressive as it was to see the photo and art exhibits, the rooms that most captivated us contained several dozen traditional Kurdish and Persian rugs. See above and several more on the Picasa website. The rugs are absolutely captivating in their design, complexity, and color. If ever I wanted to quietly steal something from a museum, this was the moment. I resisted the temptation, as stealing is discouraged in the Bible(one of the big 10, as I remember), and I do not wish to experience from the inside what an Iraqi jail is like. I leave to you to decide which was the greater deterrent.

Classes continue apace. We are approaching the time to submit mid-term grades, and it’s hard to believe that almost 1/4th of the year has passed. We thank you for your continuing interest in our story.

1 comment:

  1. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving--fully aware that it's business-as-usual in Iraq. Nevertheless, I hope you share with us how you spend the day. Please don't tire of writing. The experiences that may become commonplace to you are still most interesting to us.