Iraq Continued

We left off a couple posts ago with me heading out on my flight to Iraqi Kurdistan. The flight alone was adventurous, and included:

- us having to postpone take off because a lady who couldn't speak English -- or Turkish (which is what the flight crew spoke) -- was apparently having some sort of mysterious health issue.

-she finally got off the plane altogether, causing suspicion which created another delay while the flight crew looked in every overhead compartment during a "security check"

-during the flight - a man was caught smoking in the bathroom (seriously didn't know people actually tried to do that...)

-later, that same man YELLED across two sets of aisles -- in the middle of the flight, when everything was dark and everyone was sleeping -- because he wanted water from the flight attendant.

However, we did get to fly over "Batman," which just makes the 13 year old in my head giggle.


Our in-flight map showing us totally taking out Batman, but apparently missing a Van....

In any case, by the time we got to our layover in Turkey, the last thing we needed to hear was "oh just wait until the next flight"- but that's basically what I did hear from one of our trip leaders who had been to Kurdistan before. She wouldn't tell me what she meant, and instead said "I'll tell you once we land in Erbil."

Awesome! I'll just sit here and relax then, that doesn't sound ominous at all!

My fears of seeing some decrepit prop plane were allayed as we boarded the next flight and it seemed nice and safe. Turns out, her story had to do with weather she encountered - specifically: a sand storm.

And thus began one of the worst flight stories I've ever heard a first-hand account of. The only reason it's not the worse is because I know someone who was actually in a plane crash....

She began telling us about how there was a giant sandstorm sweeping across the middle east and all the flights had been grounded for hours. Then, in what seemed to be a tiny break -- her flight decides to be the Brave Little Toaster and takes off.

She describes the next two hours as the worst turbulence she's ever been in and said people were bawling and expecting to die. THEN! The plane tries to land not once, but twice! to no avail!! No one could see anything, apparenlty including the runway, and each time the plane dove to try to land, the pilots realized they missed!! and would jerk the plane back up last minute and head back into the sky.

Right?!? Right?? I don't know if I could ever fly after that. She said she absolutey believed that's how she was going to be taken out of this world, but then - third time's a charm! - they finally landed.

Good. Grief.

Thankfully we had already safely arrived in Kurdistan when I heard this and we never experienced a sandstorm while we were there (although one swept through just a few days after we left).

Anyway, we get to Erbil (or "Irbil," the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq), meet some of our hosts, get a couple hours of sleep (we'd been travelling for two days straight, with both flights leaving around 1 a.m. - needless to say, I was glad this country has instant coffee everywhere) and then jump in a shuttle bus and ride 5 hours away to Sulaimaniya (or  Slemani or Sulaimaniyah or any number of other spellings. One thing we found - spelling is not the most consistent thing in Kurdistan.)

It was in the hotel there that I began my comical train of varying degrees of infrastructure failure that would continue through the trip. At different points:

-My electrical adapter would not physically fit into the outlet by my bed.

-someone else's adapter would fit near their bed... but then it shut the entire electricity off in the room

-I finally got my adapter to work in the living room, but then my phone/camera cord kept falling out of the adapter, leaving me to finally redneck-rig a strange contraption of my neck pillow on top of my backpack with tape holding all the plugs together. Even then, sometimes my phone still wouldn't charge.

-the handle was broken off the hot water side of the shower, leaving us to use the end of a spoon as a makeshift screwdriver to turn it with (which I needed help with and that help came into the shower not realizing I was standing there sans clothes. Given all my naked public bath situations, I was fine with this but they were not....sorry!)

And you remember all the glasses problems I had leaving for Japan HERE? Well, wouldn't you know, after all the shower and cord debaucles, I finally exited the shower and stepped direclty on --

you guessed it! My glasses. Which I had foolishly laid on the floor.

Un. believable.

Thank goodness they didn't break, but they did get bent out of shape a bit...as did I.

We continued to have random little issues with each new place -- electricity deciding just to shut off, various shower surprises -- which is all a part of travel adventures, but all this coupled with a horrendous cough/head cold situation I had through the entire trip made for an even train-wrecky-er Dana than usual, but it didn't matter. We were about to have some incredible experiences - that I'll launch into next post.