Friday, July 20, 2012

Mini-YES Academy Kirkuk

As previously noted, we were holding a mini-YES Academy in Kirkuk for half the faculty, while the other half was working in Baghdad.  The mini-YES Kirkuk was being held at the Kurdistan Save the Children's Fund.  We had a productive four day academy, teaching children's theater, orchestra, woodwinds, clarinets, piano and guitar.

Also, as I noted, we had a crazy commute to get there.  We would switch routes, times and cars.  I ended up in a jalopy  with three armed pesh merga with no AC in 120 degree heat with the most bat-shit crazy driver named Sari.  For me to say someone is a crazy driver really means something.  Sari was probably the most dangerous threat to my safety in Kirkuk.  He would try to pose for pictures while driving, or would take off his flak jacket while driving through traffic.  When he wasn't requesting me to sing, or talking about railing California girls, he was cursing and yelling at the other drivers he cut off.  It was an epic commute.

On the last day, to show our appreciation to the soldier guarding our well-being, we bought them a kilo of baklava.  Nothing says friendship like ooey-gooey baklava.  We stood out in the baking sun, eating the flaky honey and nut pastries as we waited to switch convoys.  We also gave them a nice card shaped like a heart that the theater profs had designed.  Something quite memorable about a grizzled soldier in camo, flak jacket and a kalashinkov holding a pink heart-shaped thank you card with a beaming smile.

We held the last day of classes and ended early to have a brief concert to show off all that we had learned.  I played MC and welcomed everyone, with my words translated into Sorani Kurdish.  I thanked all the partners- the US Consulate in Kirkuk, the Kurdistan Save the Children's Fund, and the faculty, and promised to keep it short and sweet.  Had to, given there was no AC and it was 115 or so.

The Children's theater went first and performed a Kurdish folk tale about a lil mouse.  Unfortunately, the wee actor slated as the lil mouse got a case of stage fright and hugged his father tight while refusing to go out.  Thank Allah for understudies.

Then the woodwinds played a brief piece that was well done.  We couldn't wheel the piano out, so the piano program did not get to showcase.  We ended with two pieces played by the orchestra, and they did a marvelous job.

This was the first YES Academy program in Kirkuk, and I remarked that is was inshallah the first of many. It was a great endeavor in creating real people-to-people ties.  Such ties cannot be built online, but rather with boots bows on the ground.  The program ended, and I thought I finally had vacation, but alas not.  Read my previous post on my role as a debt collector.

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