The chickens wake you up first. Or the call to prayer. Or your roommate’s alarm clock from the other room. But usually it’s the chickens.

02 (4)Out of bed. Into the shower. Dry the hair. Grab the briefcase (vinyl and canvas because it gets dirty here). Throw some Nescafe in the thermos. Walk outside, yelling “Chonit!” to the guards. Hop in the cab chirping “Chonit!” to your driver. Fifteen minutes to the Medes School. Fifteen minutes in the back of the cab, where if you’re lucky, your driver will quiz you on the Kurdish words he taught you yesterday.

The school bustles today because the school bustles everyday. There is never a day when the kids aren’t screaming. Not in a terrified way. Just in an “it’s time for the beginning of the day again so let’s scream!” It’s pretty fantastic.

I’m a lit teacher, so for me it’s a daily grind of British or American or Ancient Greek texts, correction of pronunciation, grammar, spelling, colloquialisms. Lunch is spent in the teacher’s lounge with colleagues from all over. Iran, Pakistan, India, Kurdistan. And I’m the American redhead eating the chicken shawarma sandwich for less than a buck from the cafeteria. (If you put the mango mustard sauce on it, it’s got a nice kick that satisfies my Texas palate.)

Nights here are full of grading or watching movies with friends or seeing beautiful sunsets or taking Kurdish classes. There is internet and electricity and safety and Diet Coke. And there is an overwhelming sense that life (which exhausting, because this place is exhausting) is incredibly good. And incredibly hopeful.

Break on the StairsI think the thing that surprises me the most everyday is how my students in Kurdistan are so similar to students I have taught in the States. Their iPhones are newer than mine, per usual. They know more bands than I do, per usual. They wrestle with love and awkwardness and loneliness and acne and the peculiar reality of what it is to be Kurdish in a world that only really knows you because of who has been beating up on you. It’s a wonderful and bizarre and heartbreaking place to work. And I wake up everyday excited to be here.

You should think about joining us. I’ll save you some chickens.


If you liked this, you might like: Iraq is Dangerous. Go Anyway.