15th blog. January 25, 2010
In the two weeks that have passed since our last report to you, we have had no dramatic events or new out-of-town experiences. Rather, we have been at work on materials for concluding the fall term and for beginning the spring term on February 14.
With the assistance of two of our students we have gone to fabric shops in the bazaar to purchase cloth and had it tailored into proper Kurdish outfits of the type we have shown in earlier blog messages. We will include no pictures the outfits at this time, but will as such a time as we are both fully dressed in our outfits and ready to go to an event where this garb is appropriate. We are including immediately below two photos of the shop where Carolyn bought her fabric. It is a feast for the eyes, rich in virtually every hue of bright color. In the second of the two photos you can see Carolyn and a student named Kurdistan who helped her by translating.
[Carl writing] To get my outfit made, I had the help of a student named Shad who took me to a cloth shop with, no surprise, much duller colors of dark blue and gray. After I bought cloth for my suit, the shop owner took me to a tailor who measured me. A week later, I went back to pick up the outfit. Total cost: about $75.00 for an outfit made just for me.
Shad invited to join us one of his friends named Shwan, an AUIS student who is also from the area and who knows the bazaar very well. Over the two Saturday mornings, Shwan got us into parts of the bazaar that I did not know existed. For example, there is a metal working section in which groups of men hammer axes and hoes out of red hot iron, while nearby other men are fabricating metal gates. As you might guess, it’s hot, dirty, and noisy work, and once again I came away with confirmation of my conclusion that people work hard around here. To make an axe head, one man used tongs to hold the red hot iron on an anvil while two others struck it in a rhythmic pattern, hammering a block of iron into a recognizable tool shape. No one spoke as they worked; they all knew what had to be done. This is the kind of work that is demonstrated in living exhibitions in restored 19th c. museum villages in the U.S. Here, it is real. No costumes. No interpreters. Just hard work.
Near the iron working area, Shwan took us to a small kebab grill stand. Most kebab shops cook either chicken or lamb. This one specializes in sheep liver and testicles. He insisted that this is something I should not pass up, so I accepted his offer. Both meats were good, but I preferred the liver. Later in the week, one of the university drivers named Diary (pronounced Dee-are-ee) invited me to join him at a restaurant that specializes in another delicacy, serupay and geepa. The first word means “head and feet,” and true to its name is made from boiling sheep heads and feet in a large metal pot. As the meat is cooked, the water becomes a rich broth. After the heads are cooked, they are broken open and the brains are put back into the pot along with the tongues. Boiled in the same pot are the geepa, balls about 3 inches in diameter made from intestines that are literally sewn up with thread to make a container into which is placed a mixture of rice, raisons and spices. These balls are boiled until the rice is soft, and are served in a bowl along with a bowl of the meat, tongue, and brains, and a third bowl of the broth. Of course the ubiquitous flat bread called naan is also served. It all sounds fairly exotic, but I can attest that the soup and rice are quite good. The boney parts are, well, boney. Not a lot of meat there, but what’s there is good. The brain would fall into the category of an acquired taste.
As I have described my experience to others on campus, I have been told that even though among Kurds there are some who choose not eat all of these meats, they are considered a delicacy, and they are appreciated as part of culture.
One more experience in the bazaar. Shwan took us to a shop in which the walls are lined with bootleg copies of movies and Play Station/X-Box games. Most of the movies were made in the U.S., and the cost for the DVDs is around $1.75. While some movies are old, others are very current with what is showing in theaters in the U.S. Example: the movie “2012” about the coming of the end of the world, and the recent movie about Michael Jackson’s efforts to prepare for concerts in London in the summer of 2009. As far as I know, these are still showing in cinemas and have not been released for sale as DVDs, and yet they are available here. Some of the jacket covers appear to be copies of copies of copies, etc. and are hard to read, but the movies work. Where and how they come up with these movies is a mystery to me. When I ask, no one seems to know. When I challenge my students about the fact that when they purchase these disks they are robbing actors, directors, distributors, etc., of their just rewards for their creativity and hard work, their response is that it is impossible to get movies by legitimate channels and there are no credit cards, thus it is O.K. to buy bootleg. I can hardly chide them as we have purchased a number of movies for weekend viewing, and, quite literally, there is no place to buy legitimate disks, Netflicks doesn’t serve Iraq, and there is no friendly Blockbuster DVD rental store.
Concluding words regarding weather. After a warm and sunny weekend, a cold and rainy front moved in over the past 24 hours. Yesterday we had heavy rains and some lightening, and we awoke this morning to see a light dusting of snow on cars in the parking lot of Pak City. As we looked further out we could see that the mountains that encircle Suli were covered in snow. By mid-morning, a fairly heavy wet snow was falling on the city, but by mid-afternoon the clouds had cleared, the sun came out, and the small amount of slush had melted. The photos below give you some idea of what it looked like from our balcony by late afternoon.
Last photo is of the eastern skyline just before sunrise. The colors were so very rich.
We wish all of you the best. Go Colts. Beat New Orleans.