Last Night in Iraq! / by Janet Eckles

Remember when I tried to keep a weekly blog about my time in Iraq, and how that only lasted for approximately 2 seconds before I gave up?

Yeah, me too.

Time here is weird. As my roommate mentioned, the days are long, but the weeks fly by. I’m not sure how that even works. It feels like I just got here yesterday, but also that I’ve been here for so long. And now I’m leaving tomorrow. What.

Basically, this summer has been crazy and I still can’t wrap my head around it. Since my last update:
-I picnicked at a waterfall near the border of Iran for the Fourth of July. Remember when those American hikers got arrested a few years ago for crossing the Iranian border? Yeah, that’s the same area where we were. Except we stayed within the border, so don’t worry, Mom. The waterfall was gorgeous, and the water was clear and freezing, which was the perfect way to spend a 120 degree day.
-I hung out with IDPs who fled their villages on Mount Sinjar when ISIS attacked. There are multiple families living in shipping containers near Suli. Their stories are heartbreaking, and just more reminders of how privileged I am not to have to personally experience the horrors of war.
-I learned what Minecraft is. Kind of.
-I exhausted the limited Kurdish I know, but also learned how to say chicken sandwich. So I’m practically ready to move here permanently.
-And yes, I got so sick that I crapped my pants. While Skyping my boyfriend. #noregrets

Interning with Preemptive Love, which is why I’m in Iraq in the first place, has also been an incredible learning experience. I’m leaving my internship with some new portfolio pieces that I’m proud of and still a little star-struck by the amazing people I got to work with (seriously, they’re all so cool and I’m really lame). The work PLC is doing is tough and messy, but it’s absolutely necessary. In a world where we’re clearly taught who poses a threat to our way of life and how to respond to said threat, PLC promotes a radically different message–what happens if we choose to love those that we’re told to hate and fear? The answer doesn’t always look how we want it to, but people can surprise you if you let them. It’s truly been an honor to use my video skills to serve an organization I so strongly admire.

I’ve dreamt about going to the Middle East for years, and now I have to say goodbye. I’m sad and nostalgic, but I’m hopeful that this isn’t a permanent parting, just a brief break until I can return. And after being here, how could I possibly not come back? The people here are beautiful, kind, and strong. This country itself is beautiful in a way that I can only describe as rugged and wild. Yes, I have a feeling I’ll be back. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

-July 19, 2015