It’s a bit of a misnomer to call this post “first impressions” of Kurdistan because I’m writing this a month after the fact. But here’s a few first impressions that I can say are exactly what I was thinking on arrival because they were so glaringly in-your-face.
- WHY ARE THERE SO MANY MEN EVERYWHERE?! And I don’t mean this in a good way, like ‘ooh it’s raining men’. No, this is a ‘I am the only woman by myself in this entire airport’ kind of feeling. I’m used to being the only Asian around when traveling, but this may be the first time I’ve felt distinct as the only woman traveling by herself. Now that I think about it, it’s not that surprising given where I am. I would’ve felt that way traveling even in Morocco, but since I was traveling with a male friend I was sheltered from that kind of experience. And this isn’t to say that there weren’t other women around, it’s just that I was the only woman who wasn’t with family or other traveling companions.
- IMMIGRATION OFFICERS WHO ARE ACTUALLY NICE?!? No effing way. I must still be in my wine-induced coma, crawled up in my claustrophobic economy class seat. Maybe they were nice because I’m Korean (more on the Kurdish obsession with Korea to come), or because I looked so obviously out of place. Who knows, I wasn’t about to question it.
- IT’S HOT AS HELL HERE. Almost literally as hot as what I imagine hell to be like. Thank baby buddah it’s not the oppressive Southeast Asian monsoon heat, but 50 degrees (122F) in the desert is no joke. Them mountains don’t provide much cover or cool breeze. The sweat beads started dripping down my back as soon as I stepped out of the nice air-conditioned airport with two overweight suitcases, a weekender, and a purse (gross, I know, and I recognize my inability to pack light). The last five years in Boston and London I couldn’t wait to live somewhere warm, and I’ve now chosen to come to this HELLFIRE PIT. I really just need to move back to Nairobi or maybe California.
- BUT IT’S ALSO BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. It’s much easier to appreciate the beauty of Kurdistan from the inside of an air-conditioned car. Outside, under the unforgiving sun, all I could think about was “keep breathing, keep breathing, mind over matter”. Mind you, this was the first few days here. I’ve either trained my body to be used to the desert heat, or it’s gotten cooler (both, actually). Anyway, the landscape here is gorgeous. Mountains rising up in every direction, always in a dusky rose hue. Which I would like to romantically attribute to a combination of light and natural coloring, but it’s really just dust. And though I may keep referring to ‘desert heat’ and ‘desert sun’, Kurdistan isn’t actually a desert, and the parts that do look like a legit desert are through fairly recent desertification. Apparently it’s lush green in the spring. Many pictures of the beautiful Kurdish landscape to come.
These are some of the thoughts I had upon arrival. Next up is an introduction to Rania!