Raving in Kurdistan | March 2019

Charlene journal

Late March 2019: Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq (Kurdistan) I had a bit of a difficult start in Iraq. A couple of weeks into my moving there this past March, I was in a car accident, while on a trip for work. To this day, neither I nor the colleague driving know what happened. One second we were cruising down a mostly empty, flat stretch of highway, and the next, we were careening through the field next to the highway, windshield cracked, airbags deployed, the front of the car smashed. Miraculously, neither of us were hurt beyond cuts and bruises. I did get whipkash and bang my ribs up though (passenger airbag hit me full in the sternum), and for the next 5 or 6 weeks, inevitable …

On Loving, Preemptively

Charlene journal

Singapore Today, I am officially a staff member of Preemptive Love Coalition!  Preemptive Love and I have been talking about this for a while now, with my recent month in Kurdistan being a part of that conversation. It’s great to finally be able to say it 🙂 I’ll be photographing, writing and making video as a part of the Communications team in Iraq. All of my work will be about, and for, the people we serve in the region. I write this at the end of my first work day. I’m still in Singapore, working remotely while waiting to head over. Today’s been about catching up with my team on video chat, and getting into the flow of how we speak about the lives of the …

Through the veil

Charlene journal 10 Comments

Remember this epic sandstorm from the last post? Well, that was just a taster of what we (Erin at the wheel, Ashley and me passenging) were in for, the rest of the ride in. The 8 hour journey from Dohuk to Sulaymaniyah was made half in the dark, through windy mountain roads, and a great sea of dust. The dust, thick and persistent as it was, enveloped us in a shroud that made everything outside the car completely surreal, straight out of an episode of the X-Files. Pictures, for your viewing pleasure.

[Fujilove] Night Lights: Iraq

Charlene journal

Originally written for the Fujilove website, published on 28 October 2018 I’ve just returned from a month in northern Iraq, doing some work for an organization called Preemptive Love Coalition. This piece, though, is not about the work but my after-hours in Sulaymaniyah, the city nestled in the mountains of Iraq’s Kurdish region, where I was based. Aside from long-haul transits in plush airports, I’d not been anywhere in the Middle East before this. The impressions I had of Iraq were exclusively news-driven: burning oil fields, military-armed and flak-jacketed to the teeth, faraway plumes of destruction, decimated cities, a despairing population and ISIS, all against the scorching backdrop of desert. But I knew that was only one side of the story, not only because I …

Mountains, deserts and lights

Charlene journal 10 Comments

The title of this post says it all really. I stayed in Sulaymaniyah for the majority of the month I was in Iraq, but there were a few trips outside the city. One of those was an epic 3-day round trip from Sulaymaniyah to Erbil and Dohuk. There were mountains the entire way, and rain storms, and dust storms, and all kinds of crazy drivers. I have about 962 mountain pictures from that one trip alone, since I was in the passenger seat, with nothing to do but take pictures while Erin drove. I filled a memory card with mountains, roads and dust. Most of my shots were crap, but this handful do a decent job of showing what it felt like to look at …

Finding Familiar in Iraq

Charlene journal

Iraqi Kurdistan, October 2018 It threatened to storm as we breakfasted in Erbil. Instead of grey though, the world faded to a dull orange in the Iraqi Kurdish capital. Flat topped buildings stretch to the edge of the desert, ending in the reddish murk. I wasn’t sure if the storm was bringing dust or rain. Some incredible weather followed Erin and I from Sulaymaniyah (Suli for short) to Dohuk, stopping at Erbil in between. We’d taken smaller roads to stay inside Kurdish boundaries, as my visa didn’t allow me to enter the rest of Iraq. The relentless sunshine of the first day gave way to this brooding gloom on the second. By the time Erin and I were out of Erbil’s plains and into the …

Snapshots from Sulaymaniyah

Charlene journal 6 Comments

Sulaymaniyah, Iraq Whatever ideas I might have had about Iraq, they were always set against a stark desert background, like the one in the above picture. There is some truth to that, but as in most cases of roads travelled behind a screen, that is a thread in the fabric. I’ve been in Iraq now for 4.5 days as I write this post. I’m here in the city of Sulaymaniyah, in Kurdistan, working with Preemptive Love Coalition for a month. This is a dream opportunity, and between “omg I’m in Iraq” and “omg I’m here with the Preemptive Love people” you’ve got the bulk of what’s been happening in my head. In the last half-week or so I’ve just been absorbing as many inputs as …