Most likely relocating to Iraqi Kurdistan. What do I need to know?
September 4, 2009 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Most likely relocating to Iraqi Kurdistan. What do I need to know?

First off, I think it's important to note that I fully realize that Iraqi Kurdistan is a whole different ballgame from Iraq Proper. Please don't assume I'm having visions of Baghdad or anything... :)

That being said, here is a bit about me and the situation:
I'm a Canadian in my mid 20's, female, single. If I decide to accept the job, I will be teaching English at a private language school in Erbil. I understand that a lot of the logistics of this will be arranged though the school (housing assistance, visas, etc) but I'm looking for some other perspectives on life there. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of resources on the net about this, even in spheres like Lightstalkers, and comebackalive. Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree has quite a bit about traveling there, but not as much about living long-term. I am currently living elsewhere in the Middle East, and have traveled quite a bit (including some potentially sketchy places), so I don't think the transition will come as a shock.

1. Kurmanji vs. Sorani? I already speak one minority language of the region, which I've heard will be helpful, and I've studied a bit of Arabic (enough to be vaguely familiar with the script, and a touch of vocab), but I will need to learn one of the local dialects. Both are spoken throughout Kurdistan, but I'm wondering which might be more useful outside the country. (assuming I'll continue living/working within the M.E. for at least the next decade or two). Also, which is easier to learn? (Latin and Arabic scripts aside, though I know that might be the tipping point). Would it be at all feasible to just ditch Kurdish altogether, keep studying Arabic, and use that and my other minority language?

2. What is expat life like? I live abroad to fully experience the culture, but sometimes a good laugh over beers, and English conversation about the latest "Office" episode, or issue of Foreign Policy is needed. Are there many younger (under 45) expatriates living there? I would assume they are almost all aid workers or journalists. What do local expats do for "fun"?

3. What can I not purchase there? I'm familiar with a number of items not typically available in the developing world and/or M.E, but any things specific to Kurdistan?

4. I have an Israeli passport stamp, and my passport will expire 11 months after my arrival. What problems might this cause? Is it possible to get a new passport once I'm there? Or should I try to get a new one before I leave. (Though I cannot return to Canada before I go.)

5. Where can I find information about housing, rent, shopping malls/grocery stores etc? Will any of this be available before I leave, or will I just have to figure it all out once I arrive?

Also potentially relevant information: I take medication daily. I'll be traveling with a Mac. I'm also a freelance photographer and will be bringing a bit of camera gear. I'm a messianic jew who would like to attempt to practice (NOT proselytize) my faith there (through either a local synagogue or church). I'm highly interested in aid work and would like to get my foot in the door through volunteering at local NGOs... I think that's about all the info you need for now!

Also, any personal anecdotes, links, or book suggestions (either on the history/culture of the area, or language-learning books) would be immensely helpful!

Thanks in advance, mefites!

(anonymous because I don't necessarily feel like attaching my name to all this personal information)
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around Piranshahr, Iran (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing I can offer is a book suggestion: Invisible Nation by Quil Lawrence. Lawrence is the NPR correspondent in Iraq, and his book is about the political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:04 PM on September 4, 2009

I would recommend getting a new passport before going to ANY Muslim countries after going to Israel. I wouldn't tell any local that you're a Jew. (If I were there I wouldn't tell any local that I'm a Jew, either.) With all the Kurdish-Sunni-Shiite fighting going on, beating up on Jews probably isn't anyone's top priority, but on the other hand it's probably something they can all agree on.
posted by musofire at 2:23 PM on September 4, 2009

Second the new passport, although if your name is very obviously Jewish it won't make much of a difference. I think you could just go to the nearest Canadian consulate to get a new one.
posted by mareli at 7:21 PM on September 4, 2009

Israel will avoid stamping your passport if you ask them, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:40 AM on September 5, 2009

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