From Sami Rasouli who says: Must read to understand what is happening in Iraq…

Stitch by stitch and step by step. “I believe that even bad people are truly good at heart.”   —Anne Frank

InvisibleStitches       Day 15

Two days ago, I hit a brick wall. It was like every insecurity I have ever had hit me all at once and I was reduced to the size of a pea sitting in a room with a family of 12 where I didn’t understand one word. I have been challenged here more than any other place I have been and two days ago the tears were held back with only the constant nip of my own tongue. I came here to be challenged but the pain of war, the politics, daily life and the language are creating a constant flow emotions that are effecting every piece of me.

Two days ago I had been graciously invited to stay in Karbala for three days with Iraqi artists and we went to my hosts family’s home in the countryside outside of Karbala. It was a beautiful place and though I felt like I could spend a lifetime taking in the thick forest of palm trees, I have never felt like more of an outsider.  The children were receptive to me as we played peek a boo and I bounced the baby on my knee, but the adults were cautious and as I heard them talking about me, I felt like I couldn’t get a word in. As I later understood they were talking about zodiac signs an Arabic vocabulary I most definitely do not have.

I was made self-conscious by my rocky Arabic and thought they were insulting me by only the body language that I understood. I later found out that the mother’s shake of the head was out of worry about me traveling alone in the Middle East and thinking I should stay here and marry one of her Iraqi sons instead. Boy was I wrong about that one. I feel incredibly self conscious here because of my Arabic.  The people who came before me not only speak Arabic leaps and bounds better than I do, but they have the C.V.s to get them listened to and respected. No amount of “Shukran Jezeelans” (Thank you very much) or In sha’ allas could repair the opinion of me the other night when I taught one class and was nearly laughed out if because of my 22 year old naïvite and my “rose colored glasses” for the great potential of the Iraqi people.

That class only further proved to me that working with academics here and government officials can sometimes but not always be a dead end. When I mentioned a city wide street clean up, there was wide spread laughter. “that’s not our job.” “we are academics” —- “if its not the responsibility of everyone, then whose responsibility is it?” “The government which clearly isn’t doing anything?” “The US?” “Poor people?” That night I realized how important education is here and not just an education that includes the ABCs, Alif, Baa, Taas, and 1+1=2, but an inclusive social justice based education where students learn interactively with their community and learn the importance of social awareness.  The children that are playing in the streets, amid the garbage, or the children dashing through intersections to tap on windows and ask for money are the children that are going to grow up and have the power keep rebuilding Iraq and they not only need to be educated but thy deserve to be educated just like any other child around the globe.

On the note of my three day trip to Karbala. Karbala is beautiful. We spend the day inside hiding from the heat because both Fatin and Muthiq are fasting for the month of Ramadan. We watched Iraqi soap operas about the era of Saddam and watched a show called the electric chair where the host tries to get all of her guests to cry. An Arab Barbara Walters if you will.

At night we had Iftar in the countryside the first night and at another Iraqi artist’s named Abraheem’s home the next night. Both dinners were wonderful. The next day Abraheem and his family drove me back to Najaf and we visited the mosque of Imam Ali.

After borrowing a pair of black socks and a Shia Abaya to wear on top of my Abaya from Muscat, I was ready to go into the mosque. It is hard to explain the beauty that is inside of the mosque and cameras are checked at the door. Everyone is violently pushing to get to kiss the doors and the tomb. “move sweetheart” “please” “MOVE!” Shove!! “Hey ouch!” “your hair is sticking out of your hijab”  –all in Arabic of course.

The mirrored ceiling is unparalleled to any other mosque I have been here. I began to cry when I was standing inside the mosque. I was not only taken with its physical beauty but to be surround by people crying and praying simultaneously and to feel the power of every person’s faith charging through the space like electricity is a feeling that will go unmatched throughout my life.

After visiting the mosque we returned to Sami’s and we all had Iftar together. We then took some family pictures of the five of us and though they are all blurry, mostly from Omar’s constant movement, they are pictures that I look at and can not help but smile.

Sami extended an invitation to return and my response can only be this.. “of course you’re family.” 5 days left here… I can’t believe it is almost over, I would love to write more write but for right now I just want to go spend time with my family and maybe have country music dance party with my little crazy 4 year old Omar..  Who knew Taylor Swift would be his guilty pleasure too? He’s got no shame, why should I?

Posted 2 days ago

In my study of photography there are so many things wrong with this picture. It is out of focus, taken through a dirty back window, and the lens has my fingerprint on it. However, this girl was a beggar dashing through the intersection desperately tapping on windows for money. She tapped on our window and Sami gave her some money from the front window. She and I then proceeded to have a staring match until she dashed to the next car.  She can’t older than 11.Somehow the fact that she is behind a dirty rear view window is so fitting. Driving away from her was one of saddest moments for me here. In my study of photography there are so many things wrong with this picture. It is out of focus, taken through a dirty back window, and the lens has my fingerprint on it. However, this girl was a beggar dashing through the intersection desperately tapping on windows for money. She tapped on our window and Sami gave her some money from the front window. She and I then proceeded to have a staring match until she dashed to the next car.  She can’t older than 11.

Somehow the fact that she is behind a dirty rear view window is so fitting. Driving away from her was one of saddest moments for me here.

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By Published On: August 22nd, 2011Comments Off on Invisible Stitches: Must read to understand what is happening in Iraq…

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