My first full day in Howler was much better than the travel day. I awakened feeling quite good and ready to see some sights. I referred to this city as Howler, though it’s also known as Erbil, Irbil and Arbil. Howler, however is what the Kurds call it. It is the seat of the Kurdish Government. Everywhere you turn there are government buildings . . . each surrounded by a concrete wall to thwart any plans of suicide bombers. Our hotel is quite nice . . . especially compared to the last one. The last one, in Slemani, was not that bad, really. Our rooms didn’t have windows and the bathrooms were rather primitive (not as primitive as the bathrooms at the place where we taught, though–there the bathroom was a stall with a hole in the floor.). I do miss Shakar, though, the little boy that used to get me tea in the mornings. The other hotel, Sharham, was much more personal feeling. All the staff knew us, called us by name and we felt like a part of their family. Here, at the Chwar Chra Hotel, it has a more impersonal feel. Lots of foreigners here, too. Many Europeans and some Americans.
Marc and I decided if we were going to see any of the city, today would probably have to be the day. We set out on foot from the hotel and found, of all things, a mall. It was fun to look around and see what sort of things they had there. We ate some lunch at a restaurant across from the hotel, went back to the hotel, picked up Andrew and grabbed a taxi to go the New City Supermarket. It’s an odd place. It’s quite large with everything from food to jewelry to clothes. I got cookies! CHOCOLATE cookies! I got about 6 packages to keep in my hotel room. We took everything back to the hotel and headed for the bazaar. I didn’t find it as interesting as the bazaaar in Slemani. In fact, this city has a very different feel from Slemani. There, if you walked down the street, passed a total stranger and smiled, the smile would be returned and you’d probably also get a wave. Here, people don’t even acknowledge you when you smile at them. It was a fun day. You have no idea how exhausting it is, though, to walk around in 117 degree weather.
Our first day of the academy was somewhat slow. Marc and I spent most of it listening to the 80+ string players, trying to place them into the three orchestras. Many of the students here are at very beginning stages of the music studies. There are many students from Bazra. A city name you probably know from news reports. In Bazra, students don’t begin learning to play until they are 18 years old. The other issue with the Bazra students is that they don’t speak Kurdish, of course. So now our translators have to take everything we say and translate it into Kurdish, then translate it again into Arabic. Even the most simple direction I give in a orchestra rehearsal takes quite some time to communicate. We brought some students with us from Suli. It’s nice to have them here. It keeps this place from seeming to new and strange when you see familiar faces. I brought Awder and Shelon. These two young ladies are wonderful players and a great deal of fun. I’m so glad to have them here. I wish I could have brought more.
Today marks the end of day two of the second academy and I lived to tell about it . . . but just barely. From 9-11 I taught private lessons, 11-1 was a rehearsal for one of the orchestras, 2-3, another orchestra-3-4, another orchestra, 4-5 cello class, 5-6 teacher training. After changing clothes, John, Marc, Andrew, Michael and I went to a television station, along with Serwan, an Iraqi violinist that’s been living in the US, and we taped a number of musical performances for future broadcast. In addition to playing continuo for Serwan and Marc’s performance of the Bach Double, John and I played The Swan. Hopefully I’ll get a dvd of the recording.