Nawroz – The Streets of Suli
September 20, 2012
A few days after the BISK party, it was Nawroz. The town of Suli was primped and ready. Salem street had been closed to traffic become a pedestrian mall, my camera batteries were charged and I was once again in my pink gellicurty. Matthew was going to go with his friends and one of their fathers, Vin who does not like crowds decided to stay home so Heidi and I ventured out. Again we were met with stares and smiles as we made our way to the taxis. The driver knew exactly where we wanted to go without a word from us. He smiled the entire ride as we giggled with anticipation in the back.
As we approached Salem, we were amazed to see the people walking over the bridge to the center of town. Everyone was out. Multigenerational families, young and old dressed in their finery. Our cameras never stopping. There was a band playing to the side and people dancing. Men with men and women with women. Guards keeping the two separate. Joy on everyone’s face. Kurdistan flags were flying, dancing, yelling…it was indescribable.
The one constant was people staring at us. People stopped and asked to take picture with us. Singles, families have pictures of me on their cameras! Total strangers so welcoming. We just walked and talked and took it all in. We ran into people we knew in the middle of the street and crowds. Some old friends some new. More bands, kids yelling and playing. People dancing everywhere. The weather was great and the sights and sounds greater!
About halfway into our walk, I am stopped by the local Kurdish TV station, Kurdstat. They want to interview ME!!! Seriously! We are hysterical. Ok, why not, right? I tell them I can only speak very little Kurdish but they want me to speak English. They ask me what brought me to Suli, how do I like it, do I have a family here. I felt like a poster child for AUIS and Kurdistan. People circled around and watched. I was a celebrity! We said our goodbyes and Heidi and I laughed our way up the street. We meet more friends and soaked in the atmosphere. After about 2 hours of walking and picture-taking, we were tired, thirsty and hungry. Castello’s restaurant, a local favorite of expats, was up ahead. Located smack in the middle of the center of the celebration what a great place to stop. We made our way through the crowd and up the steps to find that there was no room in the inn, having to settle in the enclosed area away from the celebration. We were just happy to sit and relax.
As we sat and people watched, we were amazed to see Matthew and his friends. They had gotten separated from Art, the friend’s father, and had this their meeting spot. They pulled up chairs and had sodas with us. Cell phone coverage was down due to the tens of thousands of people on the streets so they hung with us and waited. In and out they went enjoying their freedom, while knowing they were being watched. We ordered food and were happy. Art ended up joining us and we all waited for our food, which after waiting for over an hour, we found that the restaurant has run out of!!!!
Still hungry and tired we decided to head off the main street to find a taxi. The streets were alive. The music, fireworks and dancing still continuing hours later. We walked up the hill and were amazed we found a taxi. The driver put on Iraqi dance music and off we went. Dancing in the car with the driver singing. Traffic was everywhere but we didn’t mind. We were still part of the celebration.
When we arrived back at Pac City the driver refused our money (a little dance that is often done where, no please take it, no, please, no, please, ok) and as we exited the taxi the silence was deafening. It was a different world. Home. Heidi and I hugged goodnight, laughed about our adventure and went to our apartments. It was a great day that I will never forget.
The next morning the AUIS drivers told me they saw me on TV. Kids from school who live in Pac City said the same. People stopped me to tell me they saw me too. Guess I really am a celebrity (but I am not letting it go to my head!!!)
I don’t know if the picture could ever express the feelings of the day, but enjoy them the same. Happy Nawroz!!!!