Up until a few weeks ago I had never travelled internationally with my dad. I mean we did the typical family road trips, and a few father daughter canoe trips, but nothing really BIG. He’d taken my other siblings back to see where he grew up in Brazil, but I was too young at the time and missed out on it.

But then he and I were traveling to Iraq. His first time, and what felt like my 500th. It’s a different experience to travel with your parent to a place where you know everything and they only know what you have told them. My dad hadn’t flown internationally post 9/11 so pretty much all of it was new. He’s was game though, and that really made all the difference.

It was weird to have my two worlds collide. My students and friends in Kurdistan met my dad with so much kindness and generosity, and he seemed to be having the time of his life. Meeting someone’s father for the first time is a big deal in the U.S. It’s magnified a hundredfold in Middle Eastern culture. I was honoring my friends by introducing them to my dad. They knew that my relationships with them mattered because I had brought my father half way around the world so that he could know them. They’re not wrong. I don’t introduce my father to just anyone.

It touched my soul to see how taken my students especially were with my dad. They warmed to him immediately, offering (and following through) to take him to the “Old man section” of the bazaar so he could get souvenirs for his grandkids. They treated him with honor and respect by asking him questions through me, quietly “asking” me and hoping he would respond. It was a little awkward for him at first, but he quickly caught on to the process.

My dad was floored by the number of ways that people took care of each other. He was impressed by my team that made sure we had the taxis we needed for inter-city travel, blessed by my adopted national family that invited us to spend time with them every chance they got, honored that my school supervisors took the time out of their busy schedules to talk with him and make sure he was enjoying himself. We were given an apartment to stay in, a phone to use, a wifi hotspot all our own and were constantly asked out for dinner, ice cream, coffee, shopping, or just to spend time with people.

My dad got to see all the things about Kurdish culture that I have come to love and appreciate over the years that I have lived there. He loved them to, and grew in his understanding of my heart for these people. He has always been super supportive of my choice to live in Iraq as a single female, but now I feel like he “gets” why I love it so much. My only regret of the whole trip is that we hadn’t done it sooner.

Who would you take with you to Kurdistan? Why?

Hannah taught at the schools of the Medes for 5 years. She now heads up recruiting and some of our trips to Greece to work with refugees.