A Crazy Day – Life in Kurdistan

The painter was coming at 10 with a friend’s father, although it would probably be 10:30 because life in Kurdistan runs on Kurdish time. When I got the call that the painter couldn’t come until 5 pm, I wasn’t terribly surprised.

My car was stuck in a store parking lot from the day before, so my friend was going to help me get a mechanic to go look at my car, even though the guys at the store said I could leave my car there for up to 10 days. But then the mechanic wasn’t available until later. Ok.

I shifted my day around mentally (a skill we all learn by lots of practice, here) and spent some extra time reading 1 Corinthians 13 because God is good and knew that without it I’d lose my mind. (More on this later.)

I proceeded to go fabric shopping with some friends and also visited a tailor to make up some new traditional Kurdish dresses. This process is fun and hilarious because of all the ways you can communicate with minimal language skills. She talked about various other foreigners that she had sewn for and assumed we knew them. I think she was surprised that we didn’t know them. We also got to see her daughter’s incredible artwork.

How Do You Find a Mechanic When You Don’t Speak the Language?

After that, I got another call. The mechanic couldn’t come. His relative’s car broke down and he drove out to a village to help him. (Family always comes first!)

I could feel myself begin to get frustrated and anxious. What if I can’t fix my car? What if I can’t afford it? What is even wrong?

I didn’t want to have to wait another day. But I remembered that I had the phone number of another mechanic and I decided to try calling him even though he doesn’t really speak English. No answer.

I call another friend, who is the friend who introduced me to the Mechanic. 

He tells me, “Yes, yes, he will help you, no problem, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.  But he is in another city and will be coming back later.  I’ll have him call you.” 

Ok, no problem.

I got a little word done before my phone started beeping nearly continuously with texts and a couple of calls with confusion about this and that mechanic. He said he could come at 5 pm, but then I thought the first mechanic could come, but no, so I called back the second mechanic to say, “Sorry can you still come?”

“Yes, yes, no problem, 5:00.”


Then about this time, I get the reminder, “Don’t forget the painter and my dad are coming.  Make sure you’re at home.”  AHHHH—I can’t, I have to meet the mechanic!

I called my roommate and she rescued me. She could take the meeting with the painter!

It’s around 4:30 pm and I’ve had no lunch and am starving (and you know how everything is 10 times worse when you haven’t eaten).  So I called to order a double-cheeseburger and fries from a restaurant nearby for take-away—it’s a little weird to sit and eat by yourself as a woman here, people don’t usually do it, it’s just weird. 

Then the Mechanic texted me, “I am here.”

I say, “Ok, I’m coming.  5 minutes.”  (Seriously this is the actual conversation.) 

I hailed a taxi and it’s a short 5-minute ride to the parking lot where my car was (I had to work through the shame of thinking the taxi driver was judging me for such a short drive when it was short enough to walk.  So when I got in the taxi, I tried to anticipate his judging by telling him (in garbled Kurdish) that my car is broken and the mechanic is already there.  I also try to shove in mouthfuls of fries.  Also, people don’t really eat food in public on-the-go here either. So, all kinds of awkward.)

Oops Again!

I got to the parking lot, no sign of the Mechanic.  The phone rang.  “I am here.” 

I said, “Me too.  Are you at the parking?” 

“I am here, at your house.”

UGHHHH!!  “No, no.  I am so sorry.  I am at this place at the parking.  No problem, no problem.  Ok.  See you.”

The smell of my food was making me crazy. The men who were working at the parking lot (valets basically), came up to me and invited me to sit in their little workhouse.  I said I needed to eat my lunch, so instead of the awkwardness of a bunch of men watching me shove down a cheeseburger, I decided to go sit in my non-starting car and eat.  Hallelujah!

Finally, What is Wrong With My Car?

fixing the carAbout 15 minutes later, the Mechanic drove up.  He took a little look at my car, pulled up his truck, and busted out some massive jumper cables.  I tell him, no—the battery is new.  Is this ok?  (What do I know about cars?)

He said the weather was too cold and proceeded to hook it up for a jump.

And what do you know?  It started without a problem.  He sat in my car with me and says to wait 10 minutes so it can charge.  We managed to communicate in a mixture of Kurdish and English and a lot of non-verbal signals and facial expressions.  While I had a mechanic captive, I told him about the other problem I’ve been having for months.

And Another Problem

My car alarm will just start randomly going off when I lock the doors.  It may be ok for awhile and then out of nowhere, the alarm goes off, much to the delight of the neighbors in my apartment complex.  So, to save everyone’s sanity, I have left my doors perpetually unlocked.  I attempted to explain this to the Mechanic—4 mechanics have looked at it and can’t figure out the problem, along with 2 American friends—it’s been quite the mystery.  Apparently, it’s not a mystery to the Expert Mechanic. He seemed to know the problem and proceeded to start jimmying with my car doors.  He fixed one of the issues, then asked me for my car key remote (aka control-err—with rolled r’s).  Unfortunately, the part that attached to the key ring had broken a couple of days ago, so I just left it off since I wasn’t using it anyway. 

The Expert Mechanic tells me he’ll follow me home to take a look at the control-err.  Even though I know it to a certain extent, I am still so stunned about the kindness and extra mile that people will go for you here.  He followed me to my apartment complex; I ran up and got the remote.  He checked the battery and checked it with my car doors.  The problem seems to be some kind of motor or something inside the car door. 

So, in 10 days, when it is warmer, he said he will help me once again fix the possessed car alarm.  He also told me there should be no problem with my car starting now.  It was the cold weather and the new battery.  I don’t know that much about cars, so it sounded suspicious to me.  Some of you may understand it better than I do.

We are NOT in Control

Events like these are not rare for life in Kurdistan, but it is rare that a whole day is full of them. It can get to you. But this day, in the calm of the morning I was given the words I’d need: love is patient, love is kind, it is not easily angered.  God reminded me that I really am not in control of my life.  And He reminded me that He loves me, even on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, in Kurdistan.