What does daily life look like?

We are not heroes. Not even a little bit. Most of us have a dream, some of us attain it, but all of us make choices. Just because some of us follow that dream to a life outside the ordinary scope of the American norm, does not make us special. We, like others, are simply doing what we love. And what we love might take us to interesting places.

Curiosity about this lifestyle is completely normal. It’s sweet when I find myself sitting across the table from someone who is deeply enthralled with what my life consists of. Sipping our coffee as they fire away questions, I am grateful for the support and interest. In my case, first Egypt and now Iraq, I often forget how strange this is to people. 

So I thought it best to lay it out for you, simple statements and pics showing you first hand that in some ways it’s not so unusual, but at the same time, it’s pretty surreal.

Coffee: Just like life in the states, I rely on my morning cup. The difference here is that it’s expensive to get good coffee, often making this our first request from visitors.

 Produce: Cheaper here, natural. Tastes better.  The downside is that it is frowned upon for me to be seen in the market alone. So I usually rely on others to do my shopping for me.

Neighbors: They are insanely curious about us 5 Americans living in a compound in the center of their overly conservative village. They watch our every move, make up rumors, spread those rumors, and confront us. But I watch them too. 

Clothes: Outside of my house (including my balconies), I do not show my shoulders or legs.

Exercise: Women exercising in public is frowned upon

Marriage: Often this takes place between people who know very little about one another. In most cases, the woman and man both have to agree (despite what you have heard), and the getting to know one another takes place during the engagement

Dowry: Men pay a dowry of gold to the woman (engagement party below)

Medical care: It’s pretty terrible. But the status of doctors is very high. 

College: You study what you are told based on your test scores.

Some days you end up at a village of mud houses

Racism: part of life here. Discrimination is not only tolerated, it is expected

Christianity: Seen as American culture. You understand why they don’t respect us. 

City life: More progressive than village life.

And some places still make their bread in mud ovens

In our village (small town) women are not to go out at night, but the streets are crawling with men

We eat sitting on the floor

We eat a lot of lamb, rice, giant flat bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, soups, yogurt

Tea: in pretty cups without handles; a ton of sugar

Children: sleep when they want, bedtime is not cultural norm

Bribery is everywhere

Artifacts that are thousands of years old are not as exciting to the locals as they are to me

Guns are pretty standard in our village

This is my weakness. The access is as easy as sitting in traffic, and they are being sold in the median

People are not as direct as Americans, but when they are upset, they become angry and emotional.

Critical thinking skills are lacking

The only time I veil is to enter a mosque, or when I am in the market during Ramadan 

I don't understand why those of us from the west don't do this anymore.

Most of the women speak softly…it's pretty soothing

Driving the wrong way down a street is permitted, just use your hazards

No lights on at checkpoints

No lights on during day time driving

Power goes on and off

School is Saturday through Thursday (typical work week)

Everything closes for lunch time

It's brown most of the time, but also really green in the spring

Call to prayer is 5 times a day

Men and women pray in separate rooms of the mosque

Men can pray in public, but women do not

These suckers still do the job

Funerals are the day following the death. I observed this one from my balcony.

Yes people get divorced

FGM is common (especially in the villages) , they think they are supposed to

Most of Kurdish women in Iraq wear their scarves like this, exposing some hair

Shaming a student in front of others is a common practice to encourage learning

We grow our own vegetables here on the compound as well, like these olives which made the best olive oil I have ever tasted

Men and women do not touch (not even to shake hands)

Yes, I drive

Alcohol is not permitted, but people do drink

People want to be white and will use whitening powders on their skin

Everywhere is a like a farmincluding my front lawn

Can’t go into detail on this, but even when the government outlaws inhumane traditions, they still happen more than we want to admit.


It’s normal to marry your cousin

You can have up to four wives

People don’t apologize here

The mountains at sunset are one of the best views from our compound

This culture displays some of the best hospitality I have ever witnessed

Men and women live with their parents until they marry

No one lives alone

And sometimes you get to do incredible things like work IDPs and refugees
and visit one of Saddam's vacation homes

Eggs are better here. 

Many of the restaurants have a section for men, and then a family section

It’s normal for menus to show things they don’t have available, like this for example:

Dogs are not domesticated. They are dirty, aggressive, and dangerous. I took this pic from my kitchen window. 

We dress up in our traditional Kurdish clothes to go on picnics

I prob take more pics of sheep and shepherds than anything else

Kurds usually don’t smile for pics

 The Kurdish genocide is a tragedy whose effects linger daily (particularly in our village made up of the orphans and widows who were left behind.) Our friends have personal stories detailing their lives as refugees in the Iranian mountains, waiting for when it was safe to return to their homes. 

 It's a crazy place that I am grateful to call my home these days. 


  1. Beautiful photos and I always love hearing your stories and experiences! You are a strong amazing woman and I love you!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Eid al Adha