Friday, December 27, 2013

What did you say?

“Hi. How are u tomorrow I wana go to a picnic I invite u if u come”

The texter appears deficient in English syntax and this quote is only relevant because it provides clarity on how subsequent events occurred, and, maybe, it also provides a small comedic hook.

Naturally, I agreed to attend the picnic, even though I was somewhat of the skeptic because “tomorrow” happened to be December 26th and Kurdistan is not warm in the winter.  I was also hesitant because, as the text foreshadows, it seemed evident there would be moments of miscommunication.  The linguistic obstacles the traveler encounters are enjoyable, at first, but in pessimistic moods the novelty is more exhausting than entertaining.    

I met up with the picnic crew at Soran’s market.  After careful deliberation we bought the appropriate amount of meat, chicken, pita and vegetables. Then, we left the city chaos and checkpoints to make our way through the mountains of Kurdistan. We followed a road guided by a clear stream being fed by meltwater. We picked a spot to settle between mountains and, after a short climb, we made our temporary campsite. A fire was prepared along with the food, and, before long, glowing embers were making meat edible.    

I was soaking up the panorama and, giving nature a nod of approval, I told my friend, “I could write a poem about this.”

He translated the message. A serious mood settled on the picnic party and the once cheerful faces, now worried, scattered to find pen and paper.  I tried to quickly explain that my expression was figurative, and that by wishing to write a poem, I was merely suggesting that the environment was having an effect on me; obviously if my former statement lacked clarity, the later explanation appropriately increased the urgency of the search.  Everyone began flipping coats and pulling out pockets for a poem that was never intended to be written.
In an exhale of relief, a loaded quill was found and the innocent side of a receipt was provided.

There I sat with four sets of eyes waiting for me to write.  I wrote things down, but didn’t think they would ask me to read the scribbles; why would they? They didn’t understand English. Then, trying to hand the pen back, with Gabriel’s prodding, I was compelled to recite.  Well, the absurdity of the request also makes it equally absurd to refuse.  Would you deny your voice to a tone death audience? Or your paintings to owners of braille bruised fingers?  

So I read my poem; and knowing that the words mattered little, but inflection of voice and animation of hands were paramount, I recited accordingly. 

After the curtain closed on my short, bard-like drama, the four men erupted in applause.  I returned the claps with a congenial nod downward and we resumed our poetry blessed feast.

I may retire from poetry.  I reached the pinnacle.  What better stage than steep escarpments; what better ushers than shepherds, what better aisle than a babbling brook; and what better audience than my four jolly, Kurdish brethren.    

I briefly wondered what elements of this experience were fraudulent:  Was the applause earned?  What actually was applauded? 

I recalled a festival in Southern India where participants gather at a town to recite endless passages of sounds.  The tradition has long outlived the languages that created it, so it is not known what is actually being said.  Are they telling family epics? Are they speaking the language of the gods? No auditory understanding accompanies the recital, but these vacant syllables have become sacrosanct recreations of existence.     

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stone oven.  Pictures here will do most of the communicating.

First step: dig a hole.

Second Step: fill hole with gravel

Step three: Get rocks and mortar and start building

    Some of the base stones were excess of 100 lbs.

 Step four: add layer of beer bottles
 Step five: avoid altercations

 Step six: make sure photographer doesnt make insulting comments about your work
 Step seven: add layer of perlite on top of bottles.  On top of perlite add freshly mixed mortar.  Then add your fire brick.

 Step eight: get clay samples. We found some pretty good stuff at a construction site.
 Step nine: break clay into small pieces
 Step 10: first, make a pile of sand which will later be hollowed out.  Cover that sand with wet newspaper.  The on top of the newspaper add the clay-sand mixture.  The clay should be mixed with sand.  Each clay will have an optimum ratio with the sand.  We used 4 buckets of sand for 3 buckets of clay.
 Step eleven: hollow it out...after letting it dry for 48 hrs.

 Step 12: start cooking