"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." - John Muir
Remember this summer when I wrote that in the mountains in Colorado, I felt like I was home. Even though I have never lived in Colorado, when I am up in the mountains I have this overwhelming sense of peace and inner knowledge that I am at home. (Exploring Colorado) Well, as I traveled farther into Iraqi Kurdistan, I got that same feeling. Northern Iraq is extremely mountainous and tall, beautiful mountains like Colorado. The beauty I witnessed still gives me goose bumps when I look at the pictures. As we traveled into the border region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, and Turkey, I felt strangely like I was home. I had never been there before, but just felt this overwhelming sense that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I know the mountains played their part in giving me this feeling, but another big factor was the people. All the Kurdish people I encountered on my trip were just so beautiful and loving. I have never experienced such extreme hospitality than what I received in Kurdistan. Even when entering the country, a police officer had to check our passports, but he then apologized for having to do so and welcomed us and gave us a blessing! The first night we stayed at a hotel, but the second night in Iraqi Kurdistan, we stayed with a family in the village of Kani Spi near the Iranian border. Here, one of the families welcomed us into their home and cooked us a delicious meal! We then entered into a time of conversation. This conversation went in many directions, from the history of the village to international politics. I was pretty tired that night and because of translation problems, did not get a lot of what was said. However, one of the village girls seemed to understand my confusion and would smile at me with a knowing look. It is that smile that made me feel right at home. It is that smile that I will remember long after other memories fade.
We spent the night in the family's house and took a tour of the village, its spring, and the surrounding fields in the morning. The crisp mountain air was so refreshing as we climbed around the rocks and enjoyed our last moments of Kani Spi. I will write in my next posts more about the reason why we visited Kani Spi and spent time in the villages, but I will leave you now with some of the pictures taken by a couple of my delegation teammates so you can understand a little of the beauty I am talking about.