Broken-down Poetry: July 2010


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Friday, July 30, 2010

Jesus Wore Klash

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.


Kurdish men wear these funny shoes called klash. They're handmade, hand-sown clogs with a hard sole and white top. Ever since Lydia and I first arrived at the Sulaimania airport, we saw dozens of men wearing these shoes with their juli kurdi, traditional Kurdish garb.

During my internship with Preemptive Love in Iraq, all the intern guys bought one or two pairs of klash. Jeremy and Gigs, the photographer, have klash too.


When Jesus came to earth 2,000-odd years ago, he didn't come in a sparkly white robe with a glowing orb surrounding him.

He wasn't the son of a king or religious leader. He wasn't hot. He wasn't a different race than the other Jews; he was from the tribe of Judah.

He was born next to sheep. He grew up learning a trade like all the other boys his age.

He was Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. He lived among the people he wanted to help. He didn't elevate himself to a higher position. Philippians says, "he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant."

People didn't know him as that outsider coming in to change their situation. He didn't market himself as a savior.

I wonder what would happen if Jesus acted like a lot of Americans doing development work overseas.

What if he only came for two weeks? What if he came with certain tools useful in his homeland, but not this one? What if his knowledge of the Hebrew people came from Disney movies or what he heard on the news?

I love that Jesus came and lived as a human among humans for 30 years before starting his ministry. He didn't come out of the womb proving to be an expert. He lived like us. He worked like us. He dressed like us.

I'm convinced that if Jesus came to the Kurds of northern Iraq, he'd wear klash. If he came to America, he'd wear Converse or flip-flops.

And he wouldn't talk like he knew everything,
without living in the culture for a while.


I spent two months living and working with Jeremy and Jessica Courtney, two development workers in Iraq. I saw how their way of living affected PLC's work in Iraq. Locals respect them because they live like their neighbors: in similar clothing, in houses among other Kurds, they know the language.

Spending a summer with the Courtneys has taught me a thing or two about God.

We say that we have a LORD that empathizes with us. I get that now. Empathy implies experience. It doesn't mean Jesus gets how we feel because he's GOD and that's what he does. It means that he gets it because he lived it.


* photo by Lydia Bullock

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jeremy Courtney is legit.

I've had this blog in my head for a while. I didn't want to write it until I was home in the States. I didn't want anyone to think Jeremy coerced me into writing it. I promise: no coercing took place.


My friends and those of you who follow my blog know that I am very critical of "Christian organizations." Can an organization possess faith? Is that even possible? Preemptive Love Coalition, though founded by a couple Christians, does not call itself a ministry or a "Christian organization" - it call itself a coalition of people, an NGO. PLC is devoted to eradicating the backlog of Kurdish and Arabic children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery and creating cooperation among communities at odds.* No secret agenda. It is what it says it is.

If you go on the PLC website, you'll see pages and pages of company and financial information. PLC has no secrets. They have a very in-depth core values page, written by CEO Jeremy Courtney himself.

PLC is devoted to local solutions to local problems. The staff isn't only using foreign money to fund heart surgeries, but takes donations as well. And Aram, our Klash maker, is a local business owner. All the shoes and all the scarves we make are made or bought in-country.

Jeremy, who was not only my boss for the summer but my mentor and Iraqi dad, is an incredibly intelligent, well-read, thoughtful friend, father and husband. He is legit.


The week or so before I left for Iraq, I got coffee with Dr. Perry, my professor and mentor. He told me I have unrealistic expectations for companies like RELEVANT that calls themselves Christian. But he told me to stay idealistic, and not succumb to cynicism.

PLC has renewed my hope.

Jeremy and the other PLC staff would not admit perfection. They're broken people too. But they're honest and transparent about it. They don't put up a front. There's nothing I respect more.

Working with Jeremy this summer reminded me that though not all ministry and "Christian organization" heads have integrity, some do.


I'm not done blogging about Iraq. I have a hard time processing anything when I'm in the middle of it. Now that I'm home, I'm starting to comprehend what this summer meant for me as a student, as a comm. major, as a writer, as a Christ follower and as a woman.

So get ready.


* Funny side note: the actual mission statement says "between communities at odds," but PLC does not just create cooperation between only two groups, but many. Grammatically speaking, the word should be "among." Thus, in the year-end review, I changed the mission statement to say "among." Ha, sorry Jeremy.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nine of the fifteen people I live with

I love them.

Back-front, L-R:
Me! (Laurenzo)
Claireta "Killer"
El Presidente

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy (belated) America Day from Iraq

It's fun celebrating an American holiday abroad. I highly recommend it.

I love that no one understood why we ran to the basement Ferdos market to find sparklers; or why we made a makeshift American flag and saluted to it.

I've never been a huge fan of America. Ha, it's sad but true. I hate her materialism, her ethnocentrism, her arrogance. I've never really appreciated our rights because I lived without them. You know, until now.

How I celebrated the Fourth of July, Iraqi style:

At 9 a.m., on our way to work, we bought cans of Coca-Cola and drank them for breakfast. What is more American than coke - except drinking coke with bendy straws? (Which we did.)

In the office, before our morning meeting, we played American music from our computers - Yankee Doodle, the Star Spangled Banner, etc.

(For lunch we ate Kurdish food instead of American. Whoops.)

At home, someone made a paper American flag and Micah, the two-year-old, waved it over his shoulder like a Continental solider.

We made cheeseburgers for dinner and ate cookies and brownies for dessert.

We played Bon Jovi and sang along.

But more than anything, we taunted our British housemate Anna for losing the war. A Revolutionary War reenactment:

Thank you, Joshua Gigs, for playing the humble colonial soldier.


In all seriousness, living in a country that doesn't have a Bill of Rights has makes me appreciate, if nothing else, the First Amendment. At home, journalists don't get killed for speaking out against the government. Thank God.

I have privileges in the States that I don't have here. As a woman, I can speak up in America. I can choose whatever career I want. I can join a union! I can petition.

Despite some of my issues with the American attitude, I cannot forget how blessed I am.

So the first and only time I'll ever say it, and perhaps the last time I'll ever say it again: God bless America.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

it's all crazy; it's all false; it's all a dream; it's alright

A huge part of why I'm in Iraq is to correct my preconceived notions about Iraqis, Kurds and Muslims - and yours too.

Joshua, Jeremy and the guy interns get to hang out with Sheikh Ali, a Muslim sheikh (religious leader). He's not what you'd expect from a devout sheikh. He's friendly and funny and hospitable - not what the news tells us about Muslim rulers like him.

The guy interns talk constantly about how much they love hanging out with Sheikh Ali. (We girls are a little jealous.)

Check out Jeremy's video about our Muslim friend, and see for yourself:

The Sheikh's Smile from Preemptive Love on Vimeo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nom nom nom

I think I've grown out of my picky eating phase. Unlike 8-year-old Lauren, I now eat mushrooms, onions, thin crust pizza, Subway, most fruits, etc. I still won't eat tomatoes, but that's beside the point.

Finding food in Iraq that I love has been easy. (Good thing I love carbs!) Here are my Top 3 Food Preferences in Iraq:

1. Sara (long a sound) is my favorite restaurant in all of Iraqi Kurdistan. Claire, who wrote a blog post solely about her love for Sara, would agree. We eat there somewhere between 2-4 times a week - no exaggeration.

What I eat at Sara:
  • Sada - beans, rice, and mystery side (you'll either get cooked eggplant or cooked apricots)
  • Naan - delicious flat bread. Fun fact: Kurds don't like the fluffy edges of the bread; they eat the dry insides. We Americans do the opposite.
  • Chicken tikka - chicken kabob. First of all, note the Kur-English. The word for chicken is mareeshk but if you order mareeshk you'll get a whole chicken. The owner of Sara knows us - though, we can't talk to him because we're women - and he knows what we mean by chicken tikka. But seriously, this chicken kabob is the best chicken I've ever had in my entire life! It's cooked with yogurt and tons of delicious spices. There's no way I can replicate this at home.

2. Pizza Plus. Alex, Claire and I found this gem a few weeks ago. First of all, the cashier is a hunky half-Kurd half-Arab that flirts with usgirls. But not in a creepy way, I promise. Secondly, there's only one English menu and it has the oddest spelling. Gaseous = soda. We still don't know what a "sheet" is.

The atmosphere's the best. Pizza Plus has huge TV screens, perfect for watching the World Cup, and country flags hanging from the ceiling, A/C, banisters, etc.

What I eat at Pizza Plus:
  • Roll chicken - chicken, peppers, onion and tomato rolled into a delicious naan wrap with special mayo-based sauce
  • Chips - the BEST French fries I've had anywhere. Perfectly seasoned.
  • Cheeseburger - decent, but not worth the 6,000 dinar. French fries on top
  • Margarita pizza - wonderfully cheesy pizza. Worth the 6,000 dinar between two people
  • Coke in a bottle - ultra fizzy
  • Smoothie - they make incredible fresh smoothies and freshly squeezed juices
  • Cake - when I got my cake from Pizza Plus, the nice man behind the counter put an L on it, just for me!
3. Cookie's Attack [sic]. This is the best ice cream I've ever had. It's your basic cookies and cream in a tiny carton. (Side note. "Tiny" is an adjective we use a lot. That and "small." Tiny water. Small brother.) The cookies taste like Oreos and the ice cream tastes like the inside of an Oreo - not plain ol' vanilla ice cream. When Ferdos (the market down the street) runs out of it, chaos ensues. We're stuck eating the less-tasty Magnum bar.

Honorable Mention:
  • Magnum bar: ice cream covered in white chocolate and some sort of nut. Tastes like a Dove bar. 
  • Bravo: the exact same thing as a Magnum bar
  • Nut City: think Nutella, but BETTER
  • Melody cafe: free Internet, but kind of smoky. Their ice cream is delectable.
  • Blue cafe: delicious kiwi milkshakes, but kind of pricey. Free internet.
  • Food Land: conveniently in PLC's building, but the food is just so-so. A hamburger is cheap, so is pasta. If you order chicken and rice you get a big piece of chicken, rice, beans, soup and bread - totally worth the 6,000 ID.