From Kur­dis­tan to New York

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

gets be­hind and tramp around in the woods.

Tech­no­log­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally speak­ing, Kur­dis­tan is thor­oughly mod­ern now. Peo­ple carry smart­phones. Cafés and ho­tels of­fer WiFi (and, re­mark­able for the Mid­dle East, there is no In­ter­net cen­sor­ship). The elec­tric­ity flows con­tin­u­ously. You can buy beer at 4 A.M., which I hap­pily did. The main drag through Suleimaniya boasts a Jaguar deal­er­ship. No one in Kur­dis­tan thinks any of this is a big deal. who sang clas­si­cal Kur­dish songs, and Meran, who sang mod­ern songs. Most of the adults were drink­ing. On the floor, men and women, el­bows locked, formed large semi­cir­cles and did the rash­balak, a tra­di­tional Kur­dish dance. Young and old swayed to­gether with el­e­gant, rhyth­mic steps. Mean­while, the chil­dren—and there were lots of them—ran among the ta­bles, whis­per­ing to each other, shout­ing, and, most re­mark­ably, dis­ap­pear­ing for long stretches. told me, gather ev­ery Fri­day.

Is such a scene even pos­si­ble in a large Amer­i­can city? A ca­sual fam­ily gath­er­ing—en­tire fam­i­lies, teens in­cluded, get­ting to­gether with other en­tire fam­i­lies—on a Fri­day night? Undis­tracted by work, by text mes­sages? Where adult brothers and sis­ters still live within a few miles of each other? Where they still speak to each other? Maybe I’ve been away from Florida for too long, but in New con­di­tion­ing—which is a good thing, since the day­time tem­per­a­tures out­side usu­ally hover around 110 de­grees. The Nali is a wel­com­ing place to linger and work, and on many days I stayed there for three or four hours. Not once did a waiter flash a phony smile and ask, “Is there any­thing else be­fore I bring you the check?” The same went for the out­door restau­rant at the Ch­war Chra Ho­tel (it means “four lanterns” in Kur­dish), in the nearby city of Er­bil. Din­ers lin- gered over their ke­babs and beer un­til 2 A.M.

One more thing I no­ticed in Suleimaniya: the eco­nomic boom has brought many Kur­dish fam­i­lies their first au­to­mo­biles. The city, sleepy and quiet ten years ago, is now crammed with cars. The traf­fic is hor­ren­dous. Ex­cept on Fri­days. That’s the Kur­dish day off, and on Fri­days the streets of Suleimaniya were all but empty. In the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon, I could have rolled a bowl- ing ball down Salim Street, the city’s main drag. I am al­most dread­ing my re­turn to New York, and the manic pace that awaits.

As it hap­pens, I’ve been car­ry­ing around a bat­tered copy of “War and Peace.” About a third of the way through the book, one of the main char­ac­ters, Prince An­drei, feels a sim­i­lar predica­ment. Af­ter be­ing wounded in Napoleon’s invasion of Rus­sia, Prince An­drei, at the age of thir­ty­one, re­tires to his coun­try es­tate, where he lives qui­etly for two years. Then he feels the pull of Peters­burg, the lure of the city, and be­fore long he finds him­self thrust back into the rapid-fire pace of ur­ban life. Here is what he feels:

Dur­ing the first weeks of his stay in Peters­burg Prince An­drei found all the habits of thought he had formed while liv­ing in seclu­sion en­tirely eclipsed by the petty pre­oc­cu­pa­tions that en­grossed him in that city.

On re­turn­ing home in the evening he would jot down in his mem­o­ran­dum book four or five un­avoid­able vis­its or ap­point­ments for spec­i­fied hours. The me­chan­ics of life, the ar­range­ment of the day so as to be on time ev­ery­where, ab­sorbed the greater part of his vi­tal en­ergy. He did noth­ing, did not even think or find time to think, and only talked, and talked well, of what he had had time to think about in the coun­try.

He some­times no­ticed with dis­sat­is­fac­tion that he re­peated the same re­mark on the same day in dif­fer­ent cir­cles. But he was so busy for whole days to­gether that he had no time to think about the fact that he was do­ing noth­ing.

Sound fa­mil­iar?

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