A bit of local colour

So, now that I’ve caught you up on my hectic last few weeks, and given you the idiots’ guide to Iraqi politics, it’s time to do what I do best – tell you hilariously mundane anecdotes about my experiences of living and working overseas.

(And for those of you who don’t care for such things, stop reading now – this is my blog and I shall fill it with as much random crap as I like. So there.)

To start with then, how about a little weirdly uplifting tale? Kurdistan is the first and only country in the world where I have seen people consistently using their hazard warning lights correctly. Interesting fact or boring and mundane verbal diarrhea? That’s for you, dear readers, to decide…

All of the roads here are covered in fairly large potholes, secret hidden speed cameras, and speed bumps, which for some reason they have decided not to paint or make in any way visible, even when you’re essentially on a motorway doing 100kmh. So the fact that all these kind, thoughtful drivers who stumble across a stealth bump in the road use their hazard lights to warn other drivers of a potential hazard is really quite nice I thought!

Kurdistan of course is completely beautiful, gorgeous mountains everywhere, and incredible scenery. It looks as though a giant hand has reached down from the sky and gone “Scrunch scrunch scrunch scrunch scrunch!!” with it. The people here are lovely and incredibly friendly and nice. Most Kurdish people I’ve met have been refugees overseas at some point or other, which is a slightly weird concept for me. For example one of our drivers spent 10 years as a refugee living in the Netherlands, UK and Sweden before returning home, so he enjoys chatting about Manchester and other places in the UK he has been. Another of our staff is a Kurdish Syrian refugee who now lives in Kurdistan with his wife. It’s strange to think that both of these staff might have been on the other side of that line – they are working with us to help other refugees and IDPs when they themselves might have so easily ended up in those camps or cow sheds too, had their circumstances been a bit different.

To give you some cultural background of a cruder nature, the hotel which we stayed in for a couple of weeks down in the south only had squatting toilets, which was somewhat challenging. I mean, I don’t mind squatting to pee in general, but I’m definitely getting older and find it incredibly hard to balance while still half-asleep in the middle of the night! However I must say that after a 2-week stay there I have started to develop thighs of steel, so that’s an upside!

In addition to my squatting exercises, I think I am definitely going to lose some weight here – the first two weeks we were working so hard we barely had time to stop for one meal a day, and the hotel we were in doesn’t have a restaurant, so after eating the same food at the same restaurant for two weeks, your appetite certainly decreases. The food here is generally pretty nice, although rather repetitive. It’s mostly kebabs – lamb or chicken, with flatbread. They have hummous here, but it’s out of a can and not the tastiest hummous I’ve ever had. In restaurants too you often get an array of side salads and dishes once you order your meat, so everything from pickled cauliflower to pasta to baked beans. I also discovered a particularly delicious chickpea dish called Nok which I loved, so need to find out how to cook that!

Switching from food and toilets to things of a slightly more romantic nature, I’ve been pleasantly surprised just how gorgeous a lot of Kurdish men are. The Kurds seem to have a very mixed heritage, and given their wide geographical spread, Kurdish looks are very hard to define – some are very arabic/middle-eastern looking, while others look very much like romany/gypsy types, while quite a few are pale-skinned and red-haired who could easily pass for Scottish!

Anyhow, so far I have attracted the attention of an Iranian businessman (while out to dinner with colleagues), who seemed very keen, but sadly was a bit too old for me, and his moustache was really quite full-on. I was also rather taken with a lovely guy who shall henceforth be known as “Dishy Mohammed”, but sadly he’s a bit too married for me. He is very gorgeous though, and apparently he knows karate, so I’ll be hiding behind him in the event of any trouble! 🙂

So, there’s a little glimpse into the exciting world of Kurdistan, as seen through my eyes. Plenty more to follow, so don’t you worry!


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