Sometimes people ask what we do when we aren’t teaching in Iraq. Here’s one team member’s day visit to a village. 


20732070492_e1623e8b1f_kI got the text on Viber, “I am driving out to my village to get my mom back I was wondering if you would like to come with me.”

I had been wanting to visit my friend Karwan’s village for the last 2 years but we were never able to connect. We had not known each other for a week when he mentioned that he would like to take me to his village for the weekend, but since his invites were typically at the last minute, I was unable to get away. This time was different. The local government had closed all government offices and schools to allow folks to calm down a bit from protesting against the government, so I had some unscheduled free time on my hands. He offered to pick me up at the school since neither of us knew where the other lived.

The next morning we met, greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek, hopped in his battered Mazda and took off. We chatted about school and the current political situation. We coached each other on the Kurdish and English languages and generally enjoyed one another’s company. We had about an hour and a half to drive, but since the journey is something to be enjoyed, we stopped at a local tourist picnic site, a spring that is well known. We took some “usies” and picked up some snacks for his parents. The rest of the way was unpaved road through oaks, scrub and harvested farmland. It was beautiful.

21448562405_aa052fc665_zWe drove on the single lane track thru the village, between small houses. Many of them were in states of disrepair or just outright tumbled down. A majority the homes were roofed with dirt and timbers covered by a blue tarp weighed down with old used tires. There were many chickens of various varieties running around, free range at its most literal. The sides of the valley around the village were covered with lush vineyards.

Karwan’s parents’ home was 3 rooms, each about 3 by 4 meters. One was the kitchen, the middle was the living room, and the final one was their bedroom. The bathroom, I was to find out, was outside around the corner. There was a cement porch in front where they were drying grapes into raisins. Also on the porch was a cement trough built in where they stomped grapes into juice  to make a grape syrup called “doshau”.

We were served water after we seated ourselves on the floor, followed by an excellent lunch of chicken and rice. Then we all adjourned to the porch and seated ourselves in bright red plastic chairs. Tea was served; I popped a a bit of broken sugar cube into my mouth and carefully sipped the boiling hot tea through the sugar.

21438175342_7cce2db999_kThe view was fantastic. Karwan pointed out where his father’s, uncle’s, and grandfather’s vineyards were. After this, I was given a plastic crate, and Karwan and I walked up the hill to pick some grapes for me to bring home. The grape vines were not on a trellis like in an American vineyard but the vines sprawled on the ground. There were still plenty of grapes, and my friend helped me to harvest the darkest ones and showed me how to pop the cluster free of the vine by bending it at a knot in the stem. We ate some as we worked and they were very sweet and juicy.

Once our crate was filled we returned to the house and began to unpack and repack the car. Karwan took out a huge stack of flat bread from the back seat and placed two 20 liter jerry cans of the doshau in the trunk and tied them so they would not spill.

We said our goodbyes and slowly drove out of the village. Karwan decided to take a different road out (a man after my own heart), and we saw many large black and white woodpeckers. I asked what they were called in Kurdish, and was told it was darkutik which translates into… woodpecker.

On the way back to the city, Karwan and I talked about marriage and then forgiveness and then being forgiven by God. I shared that I simply have trusted Jesus to forgive my sins. He said he considers me a good person. I replied that no one is good before God. We have all done wrong. And that I have done some really terrible things in my life. But once again I know my sins are forgiven because Jesus had forgiven them.

We pulled up in front of the school and I said good bye to his mom. Kissed Karwan good bye on the cheek. I thanked him for a wonderful day.