A WONDERFUL LUNCH
We had no idea what to expect but as my mom always told me, always bring chocolate cake with you. Everybody loves it and if the food is not good, well at least you can always count on it.
We entered the room and for the first time met his parents, his father speaks a little of English and was a taxi driver back in Iraq. His mother raised 6 kids and does not speak much but smiles a lot. She waited until her son left the room to turn to me and ask “is Sirwan good?”
Typical mother concern.
To show us that they are the best family they made us eat tons of pasta, rice, chicken, vegetables and chickpies, while asking every minute: “Why don’t you eat this, why don’t you eat that.” We only ate with Sirwan and his brother Sahlem in a room on the ground. The rest of the family ate in another room.
In between Pauline an I started to feel uncomfortable because we thought all the food was for the whole family and while we were eating all the other members were waiting for us to eat the leftovers in the end. But after a while Sirwan could explain that they had more food.
As well Pauline and I were confused because Sirwan and Sahlem barely ate anything. They didn’t like chicken they said and they were not hungry. But we had to eat. And we did appreciate their hospitality. But honestly I had no problems at all to eat because it was so delicious!
The meal itself was so nice but the talks we had were even better. First of all, we asked them if they knew how to cook, as only the women seemed to be active in the preparation of the meal. They laughed and did not seem to fully understand the purpose of the question. So I asked again: “Do you know how to cook”? Sirwan answered “No, of course, if I cooked my friends would make fun of me”.
So I added “do you know that in France and in Germany, both men and women cooks from themselves and their families?”. They seemed pretty amused by it.
We continued asking them if women were allowed to work in Iraq, they answered that there are not even jobs for men there, so why should women have one? Besides, they are too busy having babies and raising huge families anyway.
Sirwan added that men, if they want, can marry several women “of course, no problems” he said. But of course its problematic for woman who would like to marry several men…
As for the next question “Do you think men and women should be equal in rights?” it will stay without answer as translation issues still get in the way of very specifics topics…
But what they were sure about was that they both only want to marry one woman. Their dad only has one wife too. Sahlems “big Love” is already waiting in Germany for him he told us.
After having this great lunch, we really needed to go to the family of Zaid to finally start our real project, which was why we actually came to visit them. But – it is not as easy as you might think to escape out of the “empire of family Sirwan”. Before leaving, we could not say "no" to another Tsai with the family and a cigarette they wanted to offer us and to talk about the religion of Yazidis with the father. Of course we just could have said no to it, but they were already so nice to us, so I didn’t want them to be sad if we directly would leave…
We stayed more time talking about the Yazidis, Lalesh and had to drink some juices until it really was time to move to Zaids room. When we went outside the mom of Sirwan came inside to bring us plastic bags filled with a lot of stuff. She pointed to us saying one bag was for Pauline and the other me. We first started to discuss with her asking why they as refugees should give us presents, and in addition to that so many…we didn’t know yet what was inside of them, but it looked like a lot. But quickly we understood that this must be part of their culture, giving guests presents and not the other way round like we would do it in Europe. So, a little bit confused, we took the two bags and we left the room promising to come back to say goodbye later.
The work we did with Zaid’s family is another story we will tell you another day. And concerning what was inside the bags, well lets just say we do not need to tell you everything, do we?
A text by Pauline C. and Charlotte S.
And a big thanks to Sirwan and Zaid families