The Transition

I remember back in February when I started my next job hunt. I felt like I was stagnating and needed something new. I wanted to keep growing, both as a teacher, but also as a human being. I figured the change I needed could be found in something that was different from China. After a month of looking through job lists, applying, extracting information from colleagues, and mining through job-hunt forums, I was dismayed.

My dismay was a product of seeing the same jobs offered in the same places. Each night, my eyes would burn from the contrast of the blue type against the white background. Advertisements such as “Teach in beautiful Thailand!”, “Teach in Saudi Arabia and make lots of money”, “Teach with kids in Indonesia and make a difference!”, and “Teachers in Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Brazil, Chile, UAE, China needed immediately!!!!!!!!!” filled my inbox or cluttered the screen at eslcafe.com. These are typical in the ESL teaching world and I wanted something that wasn’t typical. I wanted to completely extract myself from Western civilization (this is almost impossible considering salary requirements and the influence of the Leviathan) and put myself in a culture that would immerse me in the unknown.

This isn’t to say that these jobs aren’t great opportunities to explore new cultures or countries–I would have readily accepted any job with the right benefits and opportunities presented to me in any of the above countries. Even more, I still wish to take a job in any of the countries listed above, but I’m not Dr. Who and I can’t be in every place and in every time-event that I wish. I’m a human that occupies a physical space on an event horizon that is limited by biological processes and oxidization, i.e., death. If i’m going to die at some point in the future, I want to be picky about my life.

I have had a couple of opportunities to work in some out-of-the-way places. Over the past five months, I applied for a couple of places in Myanmar, Mongolia, and Oman. I received an offer from Myanmar (it didn’t pay enough because of student loans which is why I’m trying to pay them off as quickly as I can), I never heard back from the school in Mongolia, and Oman contacted me four months after I applied. I hope I will have the same opportunities to apply again to these places in the future.
During March, I was perusing eslcafe.com and burning my eyes out of their sockets again. I came across an inconspicuous advertisement for a school in Kurdistan. I clicked on the link and read the description about an international school looking for English teachers in the north of Iraq, officially known as the Kurdistan Autonomous Region or informally as Iraqi Kurdistan. I read over the qualifications and sent a formal e-mail along with my curriculum vitae. I didn’t expect to hear back from them but I received an e-mail two days later requesting an appointment for an interview and thus the process began.
The typical conversation ensues when I’m asked about where I’m going to teach next:
   “So where are you and Danielle headed to?” they ask.
   My reply: “Kurdistan.”
   “Where is that?”
   “It’s in the Middle East.”
   “Isn’t that dangerous?”
   “The Middle East is a big region that encompasses a lot of places. No, I don’t think it’s that dangerous in some places.”
   “So where in the Middle East is Kurdistan?”
   I hem-and-haw, sigh, and my eyes fully rotate around in their sockets before I answer. I’m always nervous about people’s reactions, “Actually, it’s not its own country. It’s in northern Iraq.”
   At this point, I usually receive some kind of eye-brow raise. And this was before the take-over of Mosul or the current situation in Iraq.
To address a myriad of questions that I’m usually bombarded with, please read the following information:
  • We will be teaching students from Erbil which is approximately 60 miles away from Mosul.
  • Our school is located on the outskirts of Erbil, approximately 25 miles away from the city-center heading towards the interior of Kurdistan.
  • It’s an International School with an internationally paid salary. We are not volunteers although we do plan on doing volunteer work for the refugees from Iraq on the weekends.
  • There is the possibility that Kurdistan may be attacked, especially Erbil, as well as being a target for bombings.
  • The possibility of attack is not very high. Moreover, Danielle and I can die at any time and in any place. A debt is always accepted upon being born and it is only repaid upon your death.
  • The current situation is complicated at each level: global, regional, national, provincial, and tribal.
  • Western media has painted a situation of Iraq that is strictly drawn down easily digestible or black-and-white boundaries. For more accurate information, check out Kurdistan’s international news outlet: rudaw.net/english or Al Jazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/category/country/iraq.
While writing this post, Danielle reminded me of a very important point. She asked me, “Why are you going?” Considering all the negative reactions I have received up to this point in time, I had lost sight of the reasons why I wanted to go to Kurdistan:
  • I feel that this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal.
  • I want to help the refugees that are leaving Iraq for Kurdistan.
  • I want to explore a little slice of Mesopotamian culture.
  • There is a lot of biblical and anthropological history in the area.
  • I feel that the U.S. has militarily intervened throughout the last 25 years without providing any other type of support or infrastructure. I would like to help re-build it in whatever way possible.
  • The area is quite misunderstood and I will like to show people a different perspective based on my own experiences.
  • It seems like an interesting and exciting place. The Citadel of Erbil is often lauded as one of the oldest habitations of humans in the world. How many people get to see something like that?!?!?!
A lot of people ask me why I’m going to Kurdistan. I often answer, “Why shouldn’t I go to Kurdistan?” I have no idea whether or not I will find what I’m looking for in Kurdistan, but I know that, just like my time spent in China, I will grow and develop in ways that are completely unexpected. Moreover, I do know that this time I am more prepared for the challenges ahead and that those challenges can only be met in the form of my everyday attitudes about the area in which I will be living.
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