[Carolyn writing] Today is three days after my father’s 88th birthday! And we will stay up till 12:30 am tonight to Skype our whole family who is getting together to celebrate my dad. It is hard to believe we have been here almost thirteen weeks. Carl has done such a good job of writing about things we have seen and experienced and stories about the people. I want to write today a little more about our daily lives and how we have come to survive here.
A week ago yesterday, we moved to an apartment in an apartment complex called Pak City where the university has leased a number of apartments for its faculty and staff. As you can see from the Google Earth photo, we have moved much closer in to the city. By the way, we took our daily walk today from the apartment to the bazaar which you can see (about two and a half miles away.)
Although there were problems to fix here as there is everywhere such as leaking showers, we have found the convenience of location to be a huge plus to our daily lives. There are four small markets within two blocks of our place where we can buy the daily essentials. The smell of diesel fuel is ever present and we have been told we smell it because the management pours it into the drains to keep the sewer gas smells under control. Whatever the reason, it is bad enough to cause headaches sometimes. And although the apartment is spacious as you can see by the pictures (see below), the finish work is still rough and the decorations are a little garish. Cleaning the place is a challenge because we can never tell whether the spot on the floor or wall is our dirt, or construction debris from 3 years ago that was never cleaned up.
Our apartment has a nice size entry way, study, living room, and kitchen; two full western baths and one eastern-style toilet room; in one of the bathrooms, a washing machine that works quite well; three bedrooms, one for sleeping, one for drying cloths, and one we use for storage. But the best of this place are the balconies. The views of the city and the mountains are spectacular and we are high enough up, seventh floor, that we almost forget about all the trash one sees everywhere. The mountains, we are told, will be covered in green and colorful flowers in the spring. This morning brought a beautiful sunrise over the mountains to the south-east of the city. We have attached below a few pictures.
More on our Picasa website: http://picasaweb.google.com/averagerider3/LivingInIraq#
Yesterday, we entertained some of the faculty in celebration of the coming Christmas season. Carl and I were able to walk to Kurdistan 2, a local supermarket, about fifteen minutes walk and make enough purchases for me to actually bake some brownies from scratch. Carl walked about ten minutes away to a local restaurant and purchased wonderful grilled chickens for our dinner. I found just a few Christmas decorations to make the place slightly festive and we even sang a couple of Christmas carols. The Chancellor (president) of the University joined us and we had a wonderful evening together sharing our stories with each other. We are making some good friends!
Until we got our wireless internet, some very kind Kurdish neighbors offered us the use of theirs. The locals all are so friendly and helpful, but service providers work on their own time schedules. I went to get a haircut the other day and the hairdresser wasn’t even there for the appointment. Someone called her after I arrived and she came in about forty minutes later. The haircut isn’t bad but she surely is no Gloria.
Last week, the day after we moved, the University had a tree planting day at the new campus. Our Chancellor, pictured in the below cited web address with Carl and me as we planted a tree, is a real nature man and wants the campus to be a park. So some faculty, students, local gardeners and important political people joined together to plant 500 small pines on hillsides of the new 450 acre campus. I highly recommend you take a look at the pictures provided by one of the teachers in the English as a second language program. He is a gifted photographer. http://www.flickriver.com/photos/brownbearphotography/sets/72157622729347439/
And you can see for yourself, the locals worked side-by-side with us to make this new campus for their people. It was one of the best days we have had here even though it was rather cold and rainy that day.
Speaking of weather, yesterday and today it has been bright sunshine and in the low 50s. Great for walks, especially as we hear about the cold, windy, snow our home is experiencing back in the states. So although there are many disadvantages to being away from home, we do on occasion have some plusses to this experience.
As many of you are aware, I love handwork and I have managed to find some yarn here. I have made three sweaters which I have given to some of our drivers who have recently become fathers, and now I am making hats and mitten sets to give the children in the local refugee camp. We have not seen this place but have been told it is a very muddy field filled with tents housing the poor displaced Arabs from Baghdad. It is a small act but knitting fills my long evenings and helps a little bit.
On Friday, December 18 we leave for the United Arab Emirates and Oman for two weeks. We will be in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman. We have planned the trip around being in Abu Dhabi on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Carl was in Abu Dhabi in the spring of 1989, and went to an Easter Sunday service at the Anglican church that we will be going to. We will return to Suli on January 1, 2010. The hotels we are staying in all have internet access, so we will attempt to keep up communication along the way.
We trust you are experiencing a most blessed season filled with love and family.