Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sulaimani and Hawler

          Sulaimani is the city where CPT is headquartered and we stayed in the CPT house for the rest of our time in Kurdistan. I wrote in my journal that first night, "It is weird being in a city. I have to admit that there is a huge part of me that already misses the villages and the mountains. You can see the mountains but it is not the same. However, as one of my fellow delegates pointed out, I could just as easily fall in love with the city." This turned out to be true. Even though Sulaimani looks so different from the rural villages we came from, the hospitality of everyone I met was the same.
          Our first full day in the city was relatively uneventful. The morning was free time, which I spent catching up on my journaling and checking my email. In the afternoon we had a long debrief about the first part of our trip. Then a long time friend and colleague of CPT came to talk about the current political situation in the city/country. We learned about the demonstrations that took place last year during the Arab Spring. We also learned of some of the actions the CPT team has taken. That evening we went to dinner at Kanar's (the delegate actually from Sulaimani). Her house was absolutely gorgeous and the food AMAZING! It was such a great time relaxing with the delegation and enjoying one of the last days in Kurdistan.
          The next day we got up at 5am in order to leave for Hawler by 5:30. I slept the first hour then we stopped for breakfast. It was extremely interesting because we drove through Kirkuk, which is only partly in Kurdistan. The security check point after Kirkuk was difficult because they were worried about letting in terrorists (Kirkuk has a lot of car bombings... 11 people died there only two days after we drove through). I do not believe I have mentioned the check points. All across the KRG region of Iraq are check points that we have to pass through. A lot the driver would just say something to the soldier and we would go on. A lot of the check points knew the CPT team and it was no problem to get where we wanted to go. Although the check points are not nearly as intense as I have heard they are in Israel/Palestine, they served as a reminder that I was not in Colorado, but an area that has seen a lot of conflict and government tries maintain a lot of control.
          Right before we got to Hawler, we found out that the Archbishop whom we were driving there to meet had only scheduled us for a half hour and since we were late, we were not able to meet with him. Instead, we met with the MCC representative for Iraq and learned about MCC's work in Kurdistan as well as the minority groups that live there. The afternoon was spent in the city center where we had the best falafel of my life (no joke) and then explored the citadel, which is claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world. I loved this part of the trip and exploring the thousand of years of history and climbing around! I was right in my element!! We then drove back to Suli that night for dinner. 

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