Enjoy the Ride

Waiting in the shitty international terminal in Istanbul to board my flight to Erbil the crowd begins to form.  Only three white folks on the flight. One of them is clearly ex military, a contractor of some kind. Bald, tattooed, boots, built, he looks at me as I join the crowd for a second too long then makes every attempt to keep his back too me. Clearly I’m the confused liberal idiot.

Clearly I’d like to jump your bones, guess another time. Wont be the last one of these handsome creatures I see. Maybe I should spend more time in Iraq I think? Lots of troubled lonely, “my types”. What the fuck, I actually thought that. I have so many problems.

They begin checking passports for boarding. The two Turkish airline workers laugh and smile amongst themselves as they confirm I am an American and I do actually intend to go to Iraq. Starring me up and down they shake their heads and stamp my passport. Major eye roll. No I bought the ticket by mistake.

So onward the Internet stripper goes into Kurdistan Iraq. As we land we are greeted by a field of Blackhawks and a couple in flight near by. It immediately hits home the lifestyle that is required to maintain peace in a region surrounded by conflict. This isn’t a drill.

Kurdistan is an autonomous region within Iraq. A brief history of the Kurds hardly does them any justice. Suffice to say they are a people who have fought for a peaceful independence, the right to exist, for as long as there has been time. Right now, for a blink in time, they have some, peace.

The day I arrived was their parliamentary elections. Brilliant I know. Add checking election schedules to list of high risk travel regions for future notice. I was informed the day I left there was a chance my flight could be canceled, but not to worry this is normal, don’t panic.

No, this is not normal at all thinks very midwestern white American girl. But damn I’m down, sounds like an adventure!

Upon arriving I was met by my guide who I found online. He dropped me at my hotel. I then immediately contacted a friend I also made online come pick me up. Realize this sounds like a bad idea and there was a chance it could have been but I have learned you must trust some people if we ever want the world to work.

I made this friend sometime ago. By chance through Instagram. There are some perks to being an “instafamous” nude model. “Pesh” we will call him is a Peshmerga Army Officer. I started talking to him when I was on that balcony in Sarajevo Bosnia last spring. He messaged me on Instagram, his profile looked interesting, and I have a problem with anything in uniform, I must look, so I clicked it and down the rabbit hole I went.

Who were these Kurds? the Peshmerga? I had heard all these words on the nightly news for years but I didn’t actually know anything about them or their history. Immensely intrigued within hours I found my new favorite people, called my husband and told him I was going to Iraq.

I was coming really undone in those days. I’m not entirely sure if he believed me or not. He initially told me that Americans couldn’t travel there so I doubt it. It was on that balcony I knew our marriage was coming to an end. Knew he wasn’t going to be with me through this shit I was going through. I was sitting up on that stupid fucking balcony, chain smoking, doing everything I could not to drink, coming to terms with some of the worst thoughts in my life, and Kurdistan came to me. The Kurds. These mountains. These people. This place.

It is a popular saying that “ The Kurds have no friends but the mountains”. Of this I can relate. I can relate to so much here, more that I wish I could. Over the last year I have learned to listen to the universe when it sends me signs and just take them. I am here because I am supposed to be.

As first days go this one was phenomenal. The thing that moved me the most today was the joy I saw in all these kids hanging out of cars like dogs. At first it struck me as, well they just have a different respect for life than we do over in the seatbelt world. And it occurred to me that yes they do, they are just letting their kids enjoy the ride…life is short

enjoy the ride, my friends :)