Suly

My previous first post in English was about God, Satan and demi-god Stephen Hawking. I’m doing it again in English and might be doing it for a while, posting about something more earthly for all my friends who might want to read it.

It may  be funnier and/or stupider than in Romanian language due to my talent or lack thereof, but I have all the corporate propaganda to inspire from for bullshit English idioms.

So, here it goes. After one year and a half in Algeria (I know…) I decided it is time to take on new directions and accept new challenges in my career. Friends and family welcomed my decision and encouraged me on this new road. I had my good expat friends in Alger throwing me a good bye party, and I got my family’s blessing before enrolling on a new adventure that should enrich me both spiritually and professionally.

As a result, on Friday the 23rd of Sept I was in Alger International Airport so keen to go where some have boldly gone before, that my route would not take me home first but directly to… Iraq via Istanbul.

Now, let’s imagine that there is a piece of Iraq that is not touched by violence, crazy sectarian violence and Americans (except American Dollars, of course). That place exists in the north of Iraq and it is called Kurdistan. It has a nice frontier with Iran and a hot border with Turkey. The city I was heading to is called Sulaymaniyah or As Sulaymaniyah since the Arabic writing has the prefix al but the „s” is a sun letter so we do not pronounce Al Sulaymaniyah. After this short lesson where I showed off my knowledge to justify the approx. two months of Arabic I took in Alger, some further details: for the ease of mind I said to myself that I was going to Kurdistan not to Iraq and to depreciate further the situation we’ll refer to Sulaymaniyah as simply Suly and the Romanians are already laughing now.

Algeria is the last bastion of dictatodemocracy in Maghreb. Morocco is a kingdom so it does not count, even their working week is done for business, so it’s all good. Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia are now changing. But in Algeria the black years, the exaltation of national pride and the new black liquid gold we call petrol keep them in a state of isolation, afraid to move in any direction except the grocery store and, for the lucky ones, to work. I left Algeria, for now, amidst news of something happening soon, increased military presence at checkpoints and a surreal employee strike at Sheraton where the 800+ people rebelled and stopped working all together one day leaving the hotel numb for three days. Then the management started to hire new people and one of the Front Desk agents went on hunger strike and is still there now, in his 5th day. Way to go social security for a socialist country. To celebrate my departure I asked on plane for raki and I woke up in the sound of clapping for the successful landing.

Istanbul airport represented for me civilization after transfers to/from tiring Pakistan. Now, Turkey is also out in the open. Their new found Israelian complex, slow return to a bit more Islam and recent arrests of military pashas give an eerie feeling that all the secularism is about to become something else.

Prim Ministru Turc

Book in Istanbul Airport Bookstore

So no place is better than the other, after all. Another good couple of hours in Istanbul and I finally boarded the flight to Suly more confident. On the tarmac, parked in parallel with my plane was, no other, an Ariana plane prepped for departure. Ariana is banned in the EU but this happened after I took my chances with them in 2003, oh, what memories!

Now, after take off I could see the Bosphorus  and started navigating over Turkey into Iraq. In the thick of the night after the lights of Istanbul there came a desert of black. At one point there were lights like villages, but it was the plane taking a curb and showing me the sky and the stars. So we went into Iraq, with no visible light on the ground, then one of the first clearly visible structures was a refinery then a city perfectly shaped and then we landed safely. It smelled like burned gas or fuel and this is going to follow me everywhere I believe. In the airport nothing unusual.  I got out and with no IQD in my wallet, at 2AM, I took a cab to the hotel where my reservation was done. I knew the taxi ride is about $15 soI try to stick with this price but I believed he asked me $28 instead. And all I changed in Istanbul was 20 Euros for $26. I was watching his hands with small prison tattoos while we were speeding on the highway – yes, highway, thinking how we are going to fix this translation issue. In the end we went at the reception to clarify, cool guy. The front desk guy payed smilingly, gave me a key for a very good room.

The night was only starting. This hotel was the only one available by phone and my reservation meant that I pay in cash all my stay of more than one month. It is across the street from where I’ll work so it was a good option. The lobby is OK but the room the guy is giving me is crap and they’re all like that. Did I mention I have over 1000 Euros on me during all this time? Obviously, in this situation, I started looking for a hotel, in Iraq, at 2AM, loaded. As you do.

Hotel

Salim Street and sidewalk in Suly, Iraq

In fact, I knew beforehand that there was a hotel wall-to-wall with my workplace but it was so recent it is not yet on the reservation sites, no picture, no nothing. So I crossed the street, telling the guy at the reception I go to the company. He looks at me  distrustfully. The other hotel is indeed better, I come back, get my things and try to leave to it invoking that my boss told me so. The guy gives me the eye and no invoice for the taxi, I give him back the key. In less than half an hour in Iraq I have made a friend! I cross again Salim St this time with luggage. The street is the one you see on wikipedia for Suly, probably the biggest in town.

The picture above by daylight is done by my colleague who was here before showing the hotel I moved from. It is not much to see but I’ll try to take some pictures. At first lookt it is a mix of Pakistan and Kuwait but the population is different. And, in any case, compared to the skinny Algerians here there are some heavy Mesopotamians.

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