An email from Mom:
We went to a wedding the other night and though I'd pass along a bit of how they do it here.
On the day of the wedding the groom and his friends go to pick up the bride and her belongings--the bridal car is decorated with artifical flowers, bows, and streamers.
She is taken to the store where her dress is--she dresses, puts on her make up and does her hair. They then go to where the "reception" will be held. The couple sit (very stiffly next to each other) and have their pictures taken with family --which is very large and friends.
The guests, in the meantime are dancing a traditional circular Kurdish dance. Other than the exercise being good for you--it is a little boring after the first circle of the room--you are doing the same thing over and over. The bride and groom join in for one round and then return to the picture taking.
The bride's parents do not attend. They are "mourning" the loss of their daughter. The bride does not smile in any of the bridal pictures as it would show disrespect to her parents. The grooms parents host the reception.
At this particular wedding , some servers came around and handed out packages of cupcakes "flummery filled" ( I think they were suppose to have jelly filling) and cans of orange Fanta. There was seating for approximately 1,000 but think the actual number was closer to 700-800.
After the wedding, the couple go to the groom's parents home (that is where they will live)--boys always return to their parents homes--the bride becomes another serving girl.
The next morning the groom's mother goes up to check the bedclothes to ascertain the bride was a virgin. If mother doesn't see proof, she has the option of rejecting the bride.
There is no religious ceremony but at some point, the couples signs documentation for the government.
The guests: the men wear whatever they want to--anything from suits to jeans and T shirts. The women go all out--because they get out so seldom . The make up is spackled on with a palette--extremely exaggerated to the point of being heidious. There lips are outlined in very dark lipstick--big lips! The eye makeup must take an hour!!. They wear every piece of gold jewelry they own--that is the sign of status. Everyone know to the gram how much gold each other is wearing.
Then in the weeks after the wedding, the bride and groom go visiting all their relatives---she wears all the gold she got as a dowry.
Naturally as in all societies some wedding are larger and more elaborate than others. This one was huge. On our way to Erbil, we passed many wedding parties on the roadside. They haul in chairs for guest to sit/or carpets to sit on. Have some type of music and you have a wedding. Now you Dad's with girls there are many aspects that are appealing to your pocketbooks but do you really want her to go live with his parents?
Love to one and all. Mary
Read below to see how tough Mom is! She was in Bosnia (I believe it was there... just substitute your favorite war torn area) and was walking down a darkish street. Mom was with a couple of other American ladies (identities will be protected) when a group of men approached them on the same side of the street. Mom and her group passed the men, who stopped and turned around as they passed. My Mom, the culturally sensitive and compassionate person she is, turned to them and said "We are American women...and you don't want to mess with us!" She whipped her head back around and kept walking while the stunned men silently retreated. Back to the following entries.....I am sure that if she could, she would have yanked her drive out of the seat and left him on the road side!
There have been several factors in my slow emails coming to you all. The week-end we went on the picnic (Oct. 26.) our driver was driving very reckless (I'm making a very long story short here)--he went over a a very rough patch in the road--I hit my head on the roof of the truck and then it bounced off the window. Now I know what you are thinking---her head is hard!!!! But the neck isn't. I probably have a slight whiplash---or a pinched nerve either way my left shoulder and arm are not pain free. Trying to get medicine here is impossible. Aspirins cost 20 cents each for a low dose amount. I had to ration out my Vicadin until I could find IThen some thing else for pain. Then Monday, all the sand and dirt from Bagdad blew up north. My sinus's reacted normally----so I've been hacking and snorting since then. My sons answered an SOS last Sept and sent Musinex---so my sinus's are under control.
The pharmacy's here have so very little. Please p. that I can find some more pain medicine tomorrow. The Vicadin I have left over from dental work is for the trip home. I really don't like taking something I don't know about but Dad is faithful and in control. More later about the wedding we attended. Love the Kute Kurdish Korrespondant
Friday Oct. 26th, the culter center volunteers plus a video crew from Kurdistan TV took us on a picnic to a cave about a 2 hour drive from here. We were told to bring flashlights and wear comfortable shoes (that should have been our 1st clue).
Climbing up to the cave enterance was not bad (I think the goats though were snickering at us). The front of the cave is used by a family to shelter their goats (the one snickering at us). Then, the TV crew arrives with a portable generator to light the way (that should have been our second clue). But after 3 months here. I am clueless!!
The cave is a geologists dream. If only the government could/would restrict enterance. There are huge stalagmite and stalagtite formations throughout. One guy broke one off (I was glad the TV crew got on to him). As we progressed further in--and yes it progressively got darker and darker, the guys laughed at our flashlights but hey every bit helped. Finally as the moles went deeper, Mary opted out--she doesn't do pitch black cramped spaces. So I decided to "unmuck" my shoes. Notice I didn't say scrape the mud off. The mud here clumps together until your shoes look like basketballs. Then your feet come out of your shoes.
We then went on a picnic down by the riverside. For all the sand in dirt in this country, beaches in the north are non existent. It was rocky but with the carpets they brought, it was great. The men set up a grill to cook the kabobs( marinated chicken and goat)--it is universal that men must cook men over fire--it is in their dna. The other guys chut up tomatoes, onions and cucumbers for a salad. The wives don't accompany men unless it is strictly family only. Then they brought out the kurdish version of a guitar (which has a lonely plantive sound) and a karaoke set up. The men started singing and dancing (a kurdish traditional dance). Some cows nearby came to check out the aroma but when the singing started, they left. It was a fun afternoon. Love, Mary
Thanks for the call--I know it is expensive but loved hearing from you. Nell is very high maintenance and her computer is more precious than gold--so I seldom get the opportunity to get on. Friday Oct. 26 we went on a picnic with men from the culture center to a cave about 2 hours from here. Out driver (21 yrs old) was hotdogging it--tailgating passing the lead car in the caravan etc. etc. just showing off. The roads were rocky (not paved) and up the mountain--hair pin curves and no railings naturally. He would slid around the corners etc. etc. Flat out showing off. With rocky roads are holes--when he would slow down for the hole to get the front tires through--then speed up before the back tires were out---we in the back seat bumped around greatly. When we stopped for lunch--I told Debbie "tell him to slow down and drive more carefully or this American woman is going to walk home" Well he pulled out and we started bouncing around ( not the cute bouncy bouncy but being thrown around). Debby told him "heady heady" which is slow down--twice. Well he sped around a corner (in the mts. and no rails) and came on a speed bump--he went over it o.k. with the front tires but sped up-- and threw me around. My head hit the top of the car then bounced off the left window. Debbie told him again heady heady--but he ignored her. He pulled out to pass a truck on a curve and met a car--he jerked back barely missing the truck he was tailgateing. At that I told him so he would understand stop the car. I got out. Needless to say he had been driving better these last two weeks. The jerking around and hitting my head has given me a slight whip lash. The pain is in my left shoulder and I can feel the nerves all the way down the top of my left arm and my left hip some. I brought some Vicadin but have been parceling it out with my supply of aspirin. Aspirin here costs twenty cent per tablet. They really don't have pain killers but Debbie found some and it has helped some. Yesterday the wind was blowing all the sand up from Bagdad and threw my sinuses into a tizzy. Thank you for the Musinex. You, Glenn and Teresa are the very bestest kids I can ask for. Debbie's and Nell's children don't email much and non of them have evercalled them. They are impressed/envious that mine do. I must close as I have lost this letter twice--saved it in my draft file five times. Love Mom
I spoke to Mary a.k.a. Mom last night. It seems that she is no technically advanced as we thought. Her cell phone was in her purse and it accidentally dialed my wife's (Teresa) phone. due to the lack of emails from Mom and the actions of Turkey against the PKK in northern Iraq, I had to call and check up.
Mom is fine. The Turkey / PKK action is north of her location. The locals are looking out for Mom and her group. Where she has been very stable for many years and is pretty darn conservative. When I talked to her she was about to leave to go on a picnic. If things begin to get unstable, she assures me she will be taken care of.
More updates as I get them,
Rammadon or Ramazon as it is pronounced here is the month of fasting for Muslin. It falls according to the new moon. It starts and ends when the Mullah can see a portion of the new moon with his naked eye. It started here around Sept. 19th and ended Oct. 12. The month is to be a month of reflection--forgiving those who have offended you, reflecting on the poor people without food or water etc. etc. Many though that do fast don't know why they do it except it is what good Muslins do. There are many who don't fast--but won't drink water or tea in front of their friends--they go home for lunch etc. Men welcome the opportunity to schedule business trips or conferences out of the country--so they don't have to fast. One man scheduled his surgery during the past month---no fasting. The daily fast begins at daybreak--so people will get up at 4:00/5:00 to eat breakfast then do without food or water until sunset. Then they eat a big evening meal.
At the end of Ramazon--it is a bit like our Christmas--getting new clothes, visiting and feasting for three days. It is also a bit like Halloween--as the children go door to door with bags for candy (that we hand out). This 3 day period is call Eids or Ids. Everyone is dressed up. The women have on their finest dresses--and all their jewelry. The men are dressed in their suits & ties--or traditional Kurdish outfits. All is very impressive!! Another anaomly--The English broadcasting TV stations take off the air Ophra and Dr. Phil. But they leave on CSI, NCIS, anything with "action".---Go figure. All of the shows are reruns about 3-4 years old.Signing off your favorite Kurdistan correspondent Mary B.
From the news: Turkey has begun to shell northern Iraq and they are to start military raids in to northern Iraq.
From Mom: I know some of you are concerned about the news coming out of Turkey/ Northern Iraq. Not to worry--we are safe and sound. All the trouble is about a three/four hour drive north of here in lightly populated areas. The scernery is beautiful--I'm told and we'd like to get up there but not right now. I learned a long time ago---just do what the nationals tell us to do. Will try to get a longer letter soon but wanted you to know everything is fine. Love Mary
Location: State of Confusion, Iraq
It's a small world, or Mom knows just about everyone! So Mom goes to a Iraq, to a suburb of a city. The young man that is helping her with translation - he has an uncle that has a cafe just north of Dallas. Mom was minding her own business and some kids ran up to her to announce that there were American's eating at the hotel. Mom went to meet them and one was from suburb of Dallas. The TX Baptist Men are in Iraq trying to get water filters in place. They found Mom and one was from Dallas. Things that make you go Hmmmmm!
Dear Friends and Family, We have been down to one computer for the past three weeks plus our remaining computer does strange things --like deleting a letter in the midst of composing it. This past week has been exhausting. Our teaching schedule is Sun. Mon., Tues., & Wed. nights we teach two classes 1) 5:00 to 6:30 2) 8:30 to 10:00 also on Mon. and Wed a.m.s we teach in Irbil from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. About 3 weeks ago the International Medical Corp. contacted the Tex. Bap. Men regarding an outbreak of cholera in the eastern part of Kurdistan. Last week two men from Dallas came to see how they could help. In this country it takes two to three weeks (twenty steps) to accomplish anything. The Inter'l Med. Corp. did not tell the Health Ministry they'd reguested help. So, most of the men's week was working in a laboratory showing that the water filters they had could and would filter the cholera germs. Then before they would give their stamp of approval, the health ministry wanted them to test for Ecoli bacteria. The lab conditions are third world country standards. It took our petitions to "Dad" but finally the health ministry said they would O.K. the filters. The Ministry of Martyrs and Enfal are really excited about getting to distribute them. The next hurtle will be getting the filters in country. O.K. now a little about the education system here. Primary school are for grades 1-6, secondary schools are grades 7-12 (but they renumber the grades) 7th is level 1, 8th level 2 etc. They all wear uniforms--black skirts (girls) black pants (boys) here in Massif the girls wear white blouses and the guys white shirts. In Irbil, I've seen pink blouses and pink shirts but always black skirts/pants. Black does not show the dirt easily. Boys go in the mornings 8;00 to 12:00, girls go in the afternoon 12:30 to 4:30. The teachers bring their lunches--and the kids eat at home. As I've said earlier, all is memorization. Many of our students know the grammar rules i.e. adding 'ing' to a verb but they don't know how to apply it. University level--all classes are taught in English. (Oh, I'd give my right arm to sit in on some of those classes). Two nights ago we were in a "mall" (somewhat similar to a Wal-Mart), and I went to check out the "Book Nook". University level medical books were for sale--"Simple Surgery", "Pediatric Secrets", "Easy Pathology" . I fully expected to see a yellow and black book "Surgery for Dummies". The next time I am in there, I will have to buy one of the books to bring back. University is four years--medical school is one year beyond that. The students then go to a village to practice two years. After that, they came go into practice or do additonal study. Dentistry is the same. Most people here will go to Iran, Turkey or Germany for really good health care. Having a passport to do that takes a lot time. The students here are not used to interacting with each other in class. So that takes getting used too. People here do not celebrate their birthdays. So many of the young people born in the 70's when there was so much upheaval do not even know their real birth dates. Finally, the govt. declared July 1 as a birthdate and then what ever year. There were no records being kept and the ones that were tried to be kept were destroyed. Well before this computer decides to act up and delete this, I will close for now. Mary B.
email from Mom:
Hello, this is your mother. What is going on there? Just because I accidently spammed MTB, doesn't mean I don't still love you. If I don't hear from you in 48 hrs. I'll email Josh and have him contact you all. I don't like quiet when it comes from you all. Call Glenn. I can't call you all, I loaned my phone to the Tex. Baptis Men that came to work with the water filters and cholera. They leave Sunday so I won't my phone until then. So, send me an email. Love Mom
*** Disclaimer...she has me on a block sender's email list !!
Email from Mom:
My time is short today (Monday afternoon) as I must review the lesson plans for tonight. Tell me what is going on?????? ..................... A pedicure will be at the top of the list of things to do when I get back. There are two Texas Baptist Men here training nationals how to use water filters. Hopefully, they can get about 700 out to villages hardest hit by the cholera. More later Love, Mom