Sunday, 21 March 2010


Today I sat on the wall, the cold metal fence providing something to lean back on. I swung my feet back and forth, meaning my heels would hit the brick wall i was sitting on quite often.
I'd planned to meet my friend in the city centre, but I'd come 4 hours earlier than planned to look around the exciting bustle, shrouded in my own thoughts.

I didn't understand how she could be so positive and persistent
What had caught my attention was a scarily thin woman my mother's age. She carried a backpack and approached strangers, she would detail her life story to them, and ask them to buy a joke book to help her 'get back on her feet'. As people shooed her away, or point blank denied her existence, I couldn't help my amazement as her cheerful attitude never swayed. She was ridiculously polite, and as she called out to passers by, she would compliment them - by saying 'excuse me trendy lady', or 'handsome man' etc. A few responded with swear words, but her activeness didn't sway.
It was just beyond my comprehension how she did not snap or give up.

Out of the corner of my eye, a guy approached me. He stood for a small amount of time next to me, following my gaze.
"Waiting for someone?"
My father, I lied, not bothering to look to him. Usually that two word sentence would drive the guy away like I had just told him my father was a cannibal.
"would he be angry if I talked to you?"
That completely caught me off guard, and I turned to face him with shock on my face. A simple no was all that was needed for him to start talking again. He asked me where I was from, and I replied Iraq, with a smile on my face.
I must be psychic, i thought to myself. I had predicted this, as well as his next sentence.
"from the North?" he asked hopefully.
I told him Baghdad. He nodded his head, as if my answer affirmed his suspicions.
His next question, I had also not predicted. "Christian?".
I shook my head, with an air of bewilderment. He repeated the word, but in Arabic this time.
I understood the first time, i thought to myself, I just didn't know what prompted these weird questions .Instead of asking why he would ask me that, I stated that he could speak Arabic. He nodded vigorously, and then asked me if my father would mind if he sat next to me.
Again, I failed to hide my initial reaction of surprise at his exceedingly strange question.

He slumped against the fence next to me, with a hint of triumph. That left me free to return my sight to the eternally cheerful woman. He started talking generally, though in all truthfulness I had no idea what he said. My thoughts were completely with the energetic joke woman, her dyed hair flowing in the wind as she bounded across the pavements.
I nodded from time to time, but pretty soon he caught on, and stood in front of me. Blocking my view of the joke book seller. That kind of annoyed me. But nevertheless, I looked up at him and smiled bravely. He asked my age, but he replied with his before i had even managed to open my mouth. I'm still trying to figure out whether his eyes looked younger or older than his real age. He was young, but his accent visible. He had said he had lived here for 10 years.
He asked something about my parents, though i'm not sure what, as my mind had drifted back to his christian question.
Self consciously i pulled my dress down, and pulled my cardigan up. If my cardigan had been any higher, it would have been around my chin, so I'm not sure why i felt the need to pull it up.Immediately I felt angry at myself for caring about the judgement of a stranger.
Interrupting my thoughts, he told me if I was cold, we could go inside the shopping mall.
He had no doubt seen me tugging at my clothes. I was glad for his interpretation, and blindly agreed.

We talked in Arabic for the whole conversation, and although his Arabic was far from perfect, I knew only a few Kurdish words.
I endlessly asked him for words, and i would repeat them, as he would laugh at my pronunciation. He detailed his whole life story to me, and I listened attentively, occasionally saying something, which would make him grin, or laugh rather loudly.
I knew i was funny, but at times his laugh was too loud. Or maybe just loud compared to the ghostly quiet around us.
He was from Suleimaneya. As he came to his one year spent in turkey, I said a few Turkish phrases that had stuck in my head. He then proceeded to talk to me in Turkish. I shook my head, not understanding a word.
"i thought you might have been turkmani", he explained. I nodded not understanding what his wild guesses were based on, and not understanding why it even mattered.

Inside the mall, brightly coloured gifts caught my attention, and I realised his sight was also on something else - a Kurdish family passed us, the father pushing a pram. I hoped he knew them, so they would talk while i slipped into the shop. That didn't happen, as they exchanged only glances.
My psychic abilities were back, as I predicted where our conversation would lead. Outside he talked of his parents bugging him to marry. He told me he had not decided yet. He asked me if i had decided. I really had no idea as to what he meant precisely, only that it was to do with marriage. I replied to him that life was too unpredictable to decide. He then asked if I had a boyfriend, to which my reply was my eyebrows shooting halfway up my head, and my lower jaw dropping. 'of course not'.
Awkwardness followed, which was saved by an acquaintance of the guy walking past. They greeted each other; i tried to avoid the gaze of the hooded and capped guy, who was holding an angry dog, in fear that he too looked like his snarling pet. It was explained that the hoodie guy was his neighbour. My eyes following the dog and his owner, as they joined a larger group of track suited young men. The dogs jumped at each other viciously, and at the other owners.

He asked me if I was afraid of dogs teasingly, and I replied truthfully 'no I'm afraid of cats'.
Laughter followed, and he took out cigarettes as he asked me if i smoked.I mumbled on the life shortening ways of cigarettes.He told me he had started smoking eight years ago, when his 30 year old brother died.
That pretty much shut me up.
Although politely he turned his back to me when he smoked, and blew the smoke in the opposite direction of where i was standing. Long streams of smoke hit random passers by, and I couldn't help grinning widely. We walked on.

In the corner stood a woman with blonde hair, streaked with pink. She held a guitar, and I abruptly stopped walking, excited to hear her melodies. He had noticed i had stopped and turned around and given me a look, which clearly indicated how weird he thought i was. I couldn't help smiling childishly. Adamantly he walked back..but only to try to get me to walk on...
I walked on a few steps, disappointed, as he kept on talking ...
i stubbornly stopped walking and stood in front of the singing hippy lady.
This time he hadn't noticed. It was perhaps the time to part - 4 hours had passed quickly.

I started walking the opposite way. Away from his lonely eyes, and away from her pink hair.


JG said...

Nice story, Touta. Some of my most memorable conversations have been with random strangers.

Ihsiin said...

I must say, you lead a very exciting life. Or perhaps the way you tell it just makes it seem exciting?
In any case, a very good read. Looking forward to your next post (as always).

Touta said...

they are interesting, i think it might be to do with the fact that they don't hold their tongue, or necessarily think when speaking, unlike acquaintances do.

In fact it was your post on omnipotence of dreams that reminded me "Dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present". perhaps my worldly perception is dreamy,
Thanks :)

JG said...

Yeah definitely. I met a Dutch guy randomly a few years back and he told me his life story. He was a reformed alcoholic and football hooligan!!

He said he hadn't told his best friends the stuff he was telling me.

spitspermy said...

Wow... is it considered a love story..or something creepier?! Anyhow, talking to strangers you bump in public places is not how this world is working as far as the catalog I received told me.

Touta said...

you can tell strangers anything, i think its what makes blogs so honest at times too.
If you tell your deepest stuff to a stranger, they're not going to care enough to remember, or won't have the opportunity to tell other people.

A love story?! No.
Creepy? Depends on your opinion.
and i didn't talk to the stranger - he talked to me. Its a childish way of looking at it, but life's too short to follow the catalogue completely.

Plus i thought men usually never follow the instruction manuals/catalogues anyway. That is why you screw up so often right? :))

****s***y said...

Nah.. it is a love story even if it was momentary, that's what I prefer to think of right now, you know what, it perfectly matches "strangers in the night" tune!!
Btw, I am not entitled to reply to your accusation regarding men are screw ups, since men as women varies with their way of thinking. But of most of the times people screw up because these manuals are so ambiguous and could be taken out of context.

JG said...

Nobody ever gave me the bloody manual! I feel hard done by.... but it probably explains a lot. lol

Touta said...

I didn't feel any love in my mind, though after writing it down, it does almost seem romantic. That's the problem with personal writing isn't always interpreted in the same way in everyone's mind.
i just heard strangers in the night for the first time after reading your comment, and i have to admit, its a wonderful song.
hahaha everything is ambiguous is it not?

lool, you're lucky you don't have a manual...these manuals are the ikea type...they don't make much sense and always leave out the most important point. :D

Generally speaking, subtleness is a big problem, because everything seems so clear in our heads, but when trying to speak it, or show it, it becomes ambigious.

Anonymous said...

lemme answer ur questions
-from north; yimken you had an daykha aura
-christian: yimken jildich mo malchoo3
-turkmani- yimken shiklich hababa/smiley

dont b so willing to listen, then others wont b so willing to talk.

Touta said...

erm thanks?
although there's a lot of stereotyping in your comment.
as for the listening part...i doubt i'm going to be following your advice, though you may be correct.

Aram said...

Ohh Damn it, another Kurdish dude looking for girls in public places. I am ashamed of these people, they are pathetic. Sadly i have to admit that we have thousands of these creepy guys in the UK..

Anonymous said...

nah touta u got it all wrong

u see its not stereotyping, in fact HE is the one stereotyping - he probably (like thousands of others from the north), think that anyone who comes from the middle or south are dark skinned, ugly people, who wear big black abayas.

ask and i bet u i'm right.

Touta said...

there's lots of 'kurdish guys looking for girls in public places'?
to tell you the truth, i haven't really noticed this, but you seem like you know more about this topic... i don't live in a city, so finding any iraqis here is something of a rarity. :)

hmmmm, i have noticed that a lot of people expect iraqis from the middle/baghdad to be a group of angry black clad people, but like i said, there's lots of stereotypes in every society.

Aram said...


i have been following your blog for a long time and this is my second comment here, i leave that for u to guess, why!.

when i first read your entry, i was 80% sure that the guy will be kurdish.

I call this people Kurdish chavs, unlike the British ones instead of shop lifting, street drinking and drug abuse, they girl hunting in public places. Well, you saw his mates (hooded and capped young guys in track suits) that explains a lot.

They usually tell about all their life in an hour just to get the girl's attention. I have to admit that i was a bit pissed when i wrote the first comment but yes we have a handful of these peoples like every other nations. If i were you, i would avoid them when u next in the city :)

Yep, i live in a city full of kurdish and english chavs :P

And Anonymous got it wrong, coz this man thinks only about girls and have no idea about peoples form north, south, middle of iraq or africa,lol... he is simply girl hunting and he approaches several ones everyday, so chill out bro :)

Anonymous said...

wow...that was interesting...4 hours ?? but yeah, who knows, u may never meet him again in ur life ..who knows

JG said...

I call this people Kurdish chavs, unlike the British ones instead of shop lifting, street drinking and drug abuse, they girl hunting in public places

At least talking to girls isn't a crime, like all the things you say the English 'chavs' do!

Aram said...

@ CJ
Okey i agree with you but who said they any better or worse!!?

Touta said...

yup i remember you commenting once before...and i want to know why, because all my guesses are silly :D
hahaha you were 80% sure? this shows that you know people well, which i dont think i do.

"They usually tell about all their life in an hour just to get the girl's attention."

awwww i thought i was special,:P i am glad you seem to know a lot more about this than me, so i'm going to take your advice,and you are right, once i saw his 'friends' i did feel like running.

"Yep, i live in a city full of kurdish and english chavs :P"
hahaha surely thats a good thing? ;)
you get more experience this way, but it can be annoying.

you say these guys only have girls on their mind etc, but after a long time living in this type of society, i expected them to change.

4 whole hours on non stop talking. Quite an achievement don't you think?
and yes, everything is unpredictable in life when it comes to people.

well you never know exactly what they get up to, so they might be similiar to their english brethren. Plus, the 'picking up a girl just to 'get' with her' is pretty much a crime to the kurdish population of iraq (they uphold the women's 'honour' thing a lot more strictly)

JG said...


you can tell strangers anything, i think its what makes blogs so honest at times too.
If you tell your deepest stuff to a stranger, they're not going to care enough to remember, or won't have the opportunity to tell other people.

Very true! And you don't have to worry about being judged. It can be quite cathartic.

'picking up a girl just to 'get' with her' is pretty much a crime to the kurdish population of iraq...

So they protect the woman's 'honour' more than Iraqi Arabs? They must be hardcore! Because it seems that women are very protected in general.

Aram said...

Plus, the 'picking up a girl just to 'get' with her' is pretty much a crime to the kurdish population of iraq

Lol, come on u got it all wrong. Generally speaking, kurdish society is more open minded and tolerance towards females than any other nations in Middle East (do not look at particular cases).

Its not a crime to talk to a girl in Kurdistan but is just impolite to bore a stranger and tell everything about ur life when you clearly see that ur stories doesn't interest him/her!

Touta said...

you are right, the sense of the stranger not judging is probably the main advantage, because even the closest to you have opinions, whereas like you said, a stranger wouldn't.

Women are generally protected, but i think the kurdish population are more upholding than the rest? i'm unsure about this though, because they are also known to be more 'western' than the rest of iraq. Doesnt add up.

"kurdish society is more open minded and tolerance towards females than any other nations in Middle East"

It is true that in kurdish society, women have a lot more strength than any other middle eastern countries. At times kurdish women even seem to have more freedom than turkish women etc.
And generally the interactions between girls and guys in the north, is a lot more normal than in other parts of Iraq, where looking at the opposite sex is something of a crime.

But at the same time, there was is a women's group in Erbil, that always used to advertise 'widespread' honour killings. I don't think this only happens in the north, but the 'data' they used showed it happened more in kurdish families.
sometimes, i wonder maybe that everyone thinks this happens more in the north, because it is only there were people follow this, and other parts of Iraq don't follow girls deaths as much?

Aram said...

Yes, there are honor killing and what you hear from those organizations are all true and precise infors, Most of those problems happening in the villages and thankfully is descending now.

For example, not a married man can remarry until the first wife goes to court and sign all the agreement documentations. And if anyone breaks the law, will be jailed for a few years!

There are many shelters for women who are facing abuse and discrimination, KRG provides them safe place to live just like western countries.

However, as u mentioned earlier in countries like Iran or the rest of Iraq, and other Gulf countries no one dares to address the issue. That's why we Kurds are on the top of the list!

I know we have a long way to overcome this issue but still trying :)

Touta said...

at least you are trying!

the other day i heard that its very very easy for a man to divorce in Iraq, but almost impossible for a woman to get a divorce from the man if he doesn;t want it.

despite everything, the villages do have a lot of power and tradition, and i think we should keep a lot of the traditions alive, just not the bad ones. :)

JG said...


With regard to womens' rights, do you know how your candidate got on in the election? I can't remember her name now!

Touta said...

the candidate i liked did particularly well, but she remains just a vocalist, rather than an activist (women in iraqi politicians tend to get stuck in the position of spokesperson- there duties include speaking)
there was another candidate i also liked, she's in Maliki's list, but she was educated in the west and very academic, she did okay too, but hasn't been promoted in her role in maliki's party (yet).

Douja said...

Your days seem to be filled with so much light and excitement, a mere stranger can lead you on a journey...Mashalla you are such a gifted writer!

Touta said...

thanks! :D
the world is how we see it, i suppose.
best wishes.