Monday was a workday for everyone. All of the women met at a conference center to work on the humanitarian aid packs. There were women packing bags with hygiene items, and women making packets for the children. Some women were scattered about the room chatting and sewing on quilts or making beaded jewelry. What you hear is what makes this scene unusual: three different languages all being spoken at the same time. The room is filled with the Gold Star moms, the Kurdish women and the women from Baghdad, making the room a musical mixture of Arabic, Kurdish and English. It’s amazing how much communication can happen between the eyes and the hands. Everyone was helping each other, some of the Iraqi women speak both Kurdish and Arabic and are always there to help interpret, but they usually are not needed. When the words fail, the body language takes over, and it always works. Besides the sewing and packing there is lots of picture taking. The ANFAL Widows especially like to have their photos made with the Gold Star moms.
I have learned that the best tool of communication I have is my camera. Everyone loves the camera. They see it and strike a pose or wave or grin from ear to ear, but there is always a reaction. They are not a shy people.
Monday night we were treated to a quite a feast at a private palace. This trip is very important to the Iraqi people. They are welcoming these women with open arms and going out of their way to make sure they are treated with the utmost respect.
When you go to an important dinner in Iraq, you start out in a sitting room with a bottle of water, you chat and mingle with each other then move to the dinner table. You take an appropriate amount of time to eat then you move to either a smoking room or you go to a room for hot tea and fresh fruit. Couches and chairs line the walls of the rooms so the center is left open for mingling and a spread of fruit and cheese. So dinners take a long time. After dinner we were taken to watch an Islamic Religious Ceremony. As a Christian, I found it very disturbing, and I don’t remember ever being so thankful for being born in the United States.
We did manage to go shopping in The People’s Suk in the afternoon. Let’s just say it’s like the Anderson Jockey lot on steroids. But it was the first chance we’ve had to be among the Kurdish people and see how they live and work.
It was a good day.