Enlarging our hearts in Ranya ڕانیه

View from our front balcony/sunroom

It’s difficult to believe that we have only been in Kurdistan for 48 hours.

Our flight from Qatar was uneventful. We connected with another new faculty member just before boarding the plane. The fact that she spotted us so easily was a reminder that we are westerners and everything from the way we talk to the way we walk identifies us as such.

We flew into Sulaymaniyah, also called Slemani, a large city two hours from Ranya. The way the plane entered the air landing strip allowed us to see the entire area before landing.

The airport in Sulaymaniyah is small and customs and immigration was easy. We had our pictures and finger prints taken and temporary visas stamped into our passports in record time, then on to retrieve our eight large pieces of luggage on the other side.

A faculty member from the university was there to greet us and load our luggage into a truck and we took off on the two-hour journey to our new home.

Ranya is a town of 230,000, established in 1789. It is surrounded by a mountain range called the Kewa Rash (Black Mountains) and, for lack of a better word or because my thesaurus is not loading properly, nestled by a beautiful lake called Lake Dukan. Driving up a hill, you know you have arrived in Ranya when you see a large concrete statue of the number five. The statue commemorates March 5, 1991 when Ranya boldly rose up against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Though the most notable recent uprising, it is not the only time in Ranya’s history where they defied the ruling authorities. Indeed, this is part of Ranya’s story since the early 1900s. Because of this history, many Kurds refer to the city as Darwaza-I Raparingateway to uprising. It feels particularly important for me as a newcomer and stranger to acknowledge both the history and wounds of this place where we will work and make a home.

The University of Raparin (literally the University of Uprising) is at the edge of the city and we saw the buildings immediately after passing the commemorative statue. Going past the university, we arrived at the apartment complex where we will be living. Our apartment building is one of six buildings built specifically for faculty at the university. We arrived and were graciously welcomed by university staff. They also graciously carried our heavy luggage into the apartment, no small feat!

We walked up three flights of stairs and opening the door crossed over into our new home.

Earlier today I sat in a sun-filled room, listening to Georgian chant in a town in Kurdistan. An hour later I embarked on the task of heating water for a cup of tea for a guest. While this sounds simple, it didn’t feel simple. Still later, we made our first trip alone to the bazaar and the triumphal feeling of shopping in a language I don’t know in a city that is new is akin to giving birth. I, indeed, am Woman! Hear me roar – in Kurdish, no less.

The enormity of all of this converges with how normal it feels and I feel yet again how beautifully complicated Home can be.

But though all of this has expanded our hearts and minds, nothing compares to the conversations, afternoon snacks, and meals we have shared the past days. In just two days our hearts have grown larger and I marvel at the new friendships, primarily with young men and women who are our kids’ age. They are the future of Kurdistan and we are so honored to be with them during this time.

I will write more specifically about some of our new friends later, but for now, I am filled with gratitude and my heart is enlarged in the best way possible.

10 thoughts on “Enlarging our hearts in Ranya ڕانیه

  1. Enjoyed this quick update! You write well. You are following the Father’s leading! I feel like I am right there with you. Huge blessings and G-opportunities be upon you among colleagues as well as the students. Thrilling really to track with you!

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  2. Bravo Bravo Marilyn . Your words, thoughts and heart make it very easy to picture you today. Best wishes for the new adventure, Julie Tave, near Bordeaux France

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  3. Here I sit, reading of your adventures in such a different place and culture, amazed by your interests and courage. And I am facing a different adventure of the day in my home of 32 years, and my parish of 32 years, of the first week of the school, the grandchildren’s new activities. In Christ we are truly one and I fell like I am with you

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  4. I love the fluidity of your writing. What a gift you carry and more importantly share

    Reading today your post, I found myself missing Qatar, a place where I felt at home. Only worked there a month, but forever it will be a part of me. Two places I’d gladly return to live is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany 🥨 🌲 or Doha, Qatar 🐫. I used to say home is where my suitcase is🎒 , but these two countries I’ll forever carry in my heart♥️ as well as Minnesota, USA🌲.
    🐾🐶🐱🐾🌍♥️

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  5. I am so grateful for being pulled into this adventure with you both! You have this incredible ability to describe your world in such a way that it becomes real for the reader. I miss you, but I am also so happy to hear your joy of doing what you longed to do!

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