Why Being In Iraq Is Such A Blessing

If you asked me last year what I thought of Iraq I would have given you an answer based on the war, the images I saw on BBC News, or even the stereotypes of Muslims made out by the television or movies. I wouldn’t have told you about the generosity of the people, the ways close guy friends hold hands walking down the street, or the ridiculous (in the best way possible) amount of tea they drink.

Iraq has taught me to look beyond what people tell me and to search deeper for the truth. I think I’ve always been encouraged to do this (with the Bible, with any beliefs), but being here makes me want to know why I believe things…not just because John Piper or any other incredibly smart person told me to.
Leaving the country means placing everything in God’s control. Not just in the kitchy, “God is in control way, (but really I still holding on to everything just in case) way.” I have no control about what’s happening at home. As much as I would love to be there and pretend like I am control, I am blessed to be here and have no choice but to surrender ALL to God.
and that is the best.
All I can do is pray. All I need to do is pray, to meditate, to focus on Him. Praise Him that being here has taken away all other distractions and enabled me to do this!
The staff of PLC (Jeremy, Jessica, Cody, Michelle, Matt, Cayla, and Awara) and the other interns have each been a huge encouragement to me. They are the type of people we should all have in our lives.
Other people have come into my life here (other Americans, Iranians, Kurds, Arabs) that have all been such interesting people. I get to meet people and hear stories or ways of thinking that I would never had been able to in my own little niche of NM. I get to talk with them about God, to hear what they think, what they believe and be encouraged and worship Him. 🙂
When the people of Iraq greet each other they do so with a plethora of blessings. These blessings range from, “May your womb never close,” to “May your parents remain together and grow old,” or to “God bless you,” and to “God-willing you have a long, prosperous life.”
How do I bless others when I greet/ meet them? Do I?

A Few Photos

Pictures like this are going to be very prominent because it’s usually just Lydia and I (or no one will take our picture).
My latte at Melody’s cafe. I could get use to this artwork.
Newsha (an amazing Iranian photographer), Lydia, and I at the Metrography exhibit.
Adam, Lydia, and I usually end up in the back of taxi’s together…and cab club pictures are a must.
top three photos taken by my super awesome roommate, creative, inspiring photography, and classy, yet trendy dresser: Lydia Bullock
last photo (cab club) taken by my super awesome roommate’s boyfriend and super smart intern: Alex Phillips

Leah: After Remedy She Still Isn’t Growing

On Thursday (before I went to the super secret cool club) Jess asked me if I wanted to go on a house visit with her. Of course I said ‘yes.’
We were going to visit Leah, a 9-month-old, Downs Syndrome baby who weighs 12 lbs. She can’t sit up, crawl, or even control her neck/ head. Can you imagine that?
I didn’t know what to expect as we drove to her house. It was a short drive where I Jess and I got to know each other better and where I felt I could release some emotion I had been holding in for a day or so. God knew I needed this drive and I am so thankful for this.
We pulled into the parking area and Leah’s mother greeted us, along with Leah’s two older sisters. We sat in the living room and had water, Mountain Dew, and apricots. Jess and Leah’s mom talked. From what I could guess Leah’s mom is really concerned her daughter is not gaining weight or developing correctly. Jess said that Leah has a band around her pulmonary artery because her heart was pumping too much blood into her lungs. She needs surgery to correct it, but is too small to undergo the invasive procedure. After all, she’s already had heart surgery.
I can not imagine being in Leah’s family right now. Their daughter has already had major surgery, and still needs more.
Leah’s family, in my eyes, is beautiful. Her sisters played with her and cared for her. Leah’s mother, while worried about her daughter, fed us a large lunch. . The upstairs neighbor came down with her baby to eat with us. (Leah’s mom and the upstairs neighbor eat every meal together. They are the best of friends!). Her parents want to save their daughter, even though they know they’ll be caring for her forever. They love her. They will not give up on her.
These are some of the reasons I LOVE PLC. They love their kids and they don’t give up on them. They aren’t afraid to be advocates for a Downs Syndrome kid- so many organizations and doctors just ignore them. Who are they to deem these kids as not worth saving? AND they Followthrough. They go to homes like Leahs’ to make sure she’s eating properly and that the parents know what other avenues to pursue. They aren’t a hand-out, but a hand to help guide them and stand next to them.

7 Things I Want More Than Coffee

Iraq doesn’t have coffee. They have NesCafe, but I miss my Satellites and Starbucks and coffee dates. But I can live without coffee. These are the things I wish I had here in Iraq:

1. Dolce. I feel so bad that dogs don’t understand why people leave them- all they know is they left. I just want to hug her and sleep in the same bed as her and have her sit in my lap when I’m being all emotional. I know my parents are taking GREAT care of her (right mom and dad?), but I still miss her a lot.

2. A camera. Can you believe I forgot mine?! I still can’t. My Blackberry is doing an alright job of capturing key things, but it is no replacement for a camera. Especially because I almost never upload pics from my phone to my computer.

3. Gayle. I so very wish my little sister was here right now. I know she’s having an amazing time in East Asia and making the world more salty! I just miss her and could really use her wisdom, humor, and empathy right now. You better Skype with me when you get back! I MISS YOU and the big owl misses the little owl very much! (shout out to the tea team)!

4. My family. Korean soap operas are so popular here and every time I see Dong Yi I think of my mom and how much I just want to hug her right now. I’m so thankful that Facebook, email, and phones exist, but they are no replacement for actually sitting around the dinner table talking about each other’s day. I pray for my family and thank God that He blessed me with such a wonderful one. (thanks for all the prayers and support mom and dad)!

5. A car. I don’t mind walking to work and home, but I miss being able to sit, drive fast, and listen to loud music. It’s a lovely feeling and I miss it. I do however think that I will get pulled over here and my car taken away, so I am glad I don’t have a car in Kurdistan.

6. Green Chile. Is it weird coffee doesn’t make the list, but green chile does? I miss it on pizza, burgers, burritos, and everything else. When I get home I would LOVE it if someone would greet me with green chile pizza from Dions/ Village Pizza, red stuff from Flying Star (or the friotella), and Dolce. (*hint*hint*)

7. Shorts. I have put on pants so many days this week. I think it’s safe to say that pants will not be making an appearance from August- October. I welcome skirts, dresses, and shorts. On this note, wearing pants and long skirts aren’t bothering me so much. I respect that women here take caution in how they dress. They want to look nice, but not so nice that it’s a distraction. Or that other women think they are trying to attract men. I want to respect their way of dressing, just like they are being so helpful in my lack of knowing the language or where things are. I do, however, want to wear shorts when it’s over 100 degrees.

Obviously I couldn’t put every friend’s name on this list, but I do miss miss miss my friends. SO MUCH. I miss river time, flying star dates, photo shoots, movie nights, popcorn and cheese, DAM club, baking, tanning, Baileys, riding, music-ing, and all the other friend stuff!

Super Secret Club

So my roommate happens to be an amazing photographer and super cool friend, and she invited me (Wednesday and Thursday) to go to a Metrography conference. (Metrography is Iraq’s first photography agency). For the conference they brought in internationally known photographers and editors (like TIME and National Geographic).

Where was the conference?

Oh, you know, just at Amna Suraka.

The area where the conference was held was a complete 180 from the torture cells I had just seen. Yes the buildings were still covered in bullet holes, but inside was, what looked like, a mini movie theater.

Walking into the conference was like walking into the coolest place ever, where the coolest people ever were.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but just walking in you could feel the creativity and amazingness these people possess.

I had a great time being able to talk to some of the talented, inspiring photographers and observing how much time and discipline goes into their work. and maybe even for a few days being invited to sit in on their super secret cool club.

Ever Wonder Where All of Iraq’s Electricity Goes?

There are three types of electricity in our city: national (where everything (internet, outlets, lights) works), community (where only necessities (lights, fridge, outlets (ish) work), and none (where nothing works). Most of the time we’re on national, but lately it feels like we’re spending more and more time on community. Anyways that was just a preface to this post.

 Thursday evening some of the interns (Lydia, Adam, Ben and I) took a taxi over to Parki Azadi’s amusement park. [YESSSSSSSS THIS IS THE SAME AMUSEMENT PARK THE TOP GEAR GUYS WENT TO WHEN THE DROVE THROUGH KURDISTAN!!!!]
We rode sketchy rides, ate delicious cotton candy, and met some teenage friends.
This park is open at night and everything always seems to be working. The electricity here is never off! I think this is why I don’t get my a/c in the middle of the night or why I have to use the restroom in the dark, but after having so much fun last night I am ok with not always having electricity.
Also when we arrived home we walked into a dark, dark house. Our electrical box thing (that’s my technical term for it) blew. Sparks had come out of it and all of that jazz. So we had no electricity for the night/ morning. I blame the bumper cars.

Last Saturday

You would think that I would be a more efficient blogger since my job here is centered around PLC’s blog. I’m sorry I haven’t posted about what I’ve been up to these past weeks. So I’ll just write a lot today!

Last Saturday (the 4th) we all went to Amna Suraka, or in English “Red Security.”Amna Suraka was built to house the Kurds during Saddam’s regime, it operated from 1979 until 1991 (at which point the Kurdish Peshmerga (armed Kurdish fighters) attacked and won control of the prison from Saddam’s party). 
The first room you walk through is covered in broken glass pieces- a piece for each 182,000 victims under Saddam (an conservative estimate). The room’s ceiling is covered in 5,400 small light-bulbs– each representing a village destroyed by Saddam Hussein. On Saturday I was sure this place was the most evil place I could ever have visited.
After the prison we walked to a park (Parki Azadi or Freedom Park). It use to be where public executions took place. Now it’s where families go to picnic, children come to play, and an amusement park is running (and taking all of Iraq’s electricity I think). Isn’t that beautiful that instead of allowing Saddam Hussein to ruin this land, they turned it into a place where life can be happy and celebrated?