Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Orientalist's Bizarro World

Well, it took me less than a week to fall in love with Kurdistan.  It has all the familiar Orientalist trappings that I love so much.  Yet, it feels a bit like Bizarro World.  In comics, the planet "Htrae" was in effect a world gone backwards.  Kurdistan feels familiar to the numerous other Middle Eastern locales I have passed through (the shisha, the food, the culture, the music, all the stuff I love.), yet there are some strange and subtle differences that make Luap scratch his head.  

For one, I expect to hear Arabic, but instead this bouncy unrecognizable Kurdish comes out.  It sounds more Persian than Turkish or Arabic.  I have learned about ten words, and I can count to ten because it is similar to Hindi numerals. Also the people dress a bit differently.  The younger folks are all couture, but the older men wear these baggy green khaki-ish pants and shirts with a large fabric belt looped through the center.  And they wear their keffiyahs wrapped up in a circle to make a tight cap.  

More importantly, everyone loves Americans.  Traveling through the Middle East, my public diplomacy is usually in overdrive.  No need here.  I have had so many people say to me: "welcome, so nice to have an American here; Americans are our brothers."  It's nice not to feel like I have to be so guarded.  Meanwhile, while people are religious here, it is much more low key and tolerance seems pretty across the board.  It's like all the fun of my Orientalist dreams without the animosity, religiosity and angst.

I could really see myself doing more work here.  As per every other place in the Middle East, everyone tells me I look Morrocan, Turkish, Jordanian Kurdish.  I would probably end up living in some villa in the mountains, being jabba-the-hut fat, lying around on cushions while eating olives and smoking shisha.  Anyway, the Kurds need more friends than the mountains, and this Bogart loves an underdog and a challenge.  Kurdish PD, here I come.

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