photo: Eddy van Wessel


Monday, July 22, 2013

Planning or no planning Ramadan, everything stops in Kurdistan. And even a few weeks before it starts, it is already hard to convince people to plan anything. “Let’s wait until after Ramadan”, is the much heard advice.

Not that it is so much easier in the rest of the year to plan things. In Kurdistan people hardly have an agenda, or if they do, they do not use it. They go by the day.

What a difference with my life before Kurdistan! My agenda would be filled with appointments as far as a month ahead. A dinner with a girlfriend would be planned a week before. An interview perhaps even two weeks. A course or workshop could be planned even further ahead, and an appointment with the dentist even up to a year before.

Some weeks I had every evening fixed: dinners, work, theater, and cinema. I was used to it, and having gaps in the agenda made me nervous.

Now look at my agenda: more gaps than appointments, because only those with Westerners usually end up in there. And if I make appointments ahead of time with Kurdish friends, I always confirm a day before. An appointment that is not confirmed, is considered non-existent.

It is a lesson that I learned the hard way. When I was still organizing workshops for journalists in Kurdistan, I had a double-sided planning. I had to plan the event and hire the (Western) trainer months ahead. But inviting and confirming the Kurdish participants would be done only a short time before the workshop.

I got used to it, and now live in the system. Yet sometimes it still makes me nervous. When a Dutch TV crew asks me to organize their trip, how can I explain to them that this can only be done a short time before the date? Because if you do try to do it earlier, people will not let themselves be pinned down. Even renting a car in Kurdistan is a last-minute thing.

I had thought that with more and more foreign businessmen coming in, planning would become easier in Kurdistan. But Kurds do not want to change this habit, because it gives them freedom. that is also the positive thing, I found. If you want to speak to a minister, a governor and someone else in a high position, you just phone the day before and you can usually be fitted in without too much of a waiting time. In Holland, I would have to get it fixed weeks before. Or, the other solution: you walk in and wait with the secretary. But I hate it when people do that to me, as it destroys the schedule of my day.

Not planning gives you freedom. But planning is globally the norm. And with Kurdistan joining the world, it will have to adapt. Although somehow it will never do so completely.

This blog was published in Kurdish in the newspaper Kurdistani Nwe.

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