Coyote part 12 'The village with no food'
From the Author
Sorry that I've been away from the writing for a few weeks, a few things have been going on here that required my attention, but now we're back and finding out some of the things that happened to Samir and Sara in their journey to the west.
As you're probably aware, theirs wasn't a 'straight forward' one, they never are, but with each piece a new thing happened that changed the way he looked at the world, and even though he lived in a hard, brutal world, he chose not to be a 'hard and brutal man'
Enjoy the story
Enjoy the story
“I’m not sure what we can do” Tariq replied to the two men squatting there with him, they were in the ‘reception room’ in Op Mercy’s office. Jamila had made tea and a couple of slices of Baklava as soon as she’d seen Samir and Father Boutros enter the office, they were just finishing the first glass, as soon as they put the glasses down Tariq reached over and taking the teapot she’d left, began filling the glasses again, that was despite the customary and weak protests of the two men. “But what I can do is we can meet with the people at the World Food Programme tomorrow and talk to them about what’s happened at the village, does that sound good?”
“But Mr Tariq” Samir began, “We wouldn’t want to cause you any inconvenience, we just wanted to ask what we can do?”
They all knew that was total BS, it even brought a smile to Tariq’s face, all three of them, and even Luka who was through the door in the Kitchen with Jamila knew that was exactly the reason they’d come, to see if Tariq could help them with the UN, but it was shameful to ask directly for help, you more ‘mentioned’ the problem and let the person come to the decision themselves.
“And what we can do” Tariq gently cut in, “is go and ask them directly!” he reached for the plate of Baklava and passed it round again, each took a piece, “Azeem and I are going over to Dohuk tomorrow, I’d like you to come along so we can call in and ask the WFP people (World Food Programme is the UN arm responsible to help recovering areas to get back to producing their own food after a war or famine) directly, and you can hear what they say, I’ll do the talking, but I’d like you to be there, is eight o’clock okay?”
They were both there by seven forty five, Tariq was driving and Azeem had the AK 47, not that they’d need it, but the UN had rules for foreign workers, and that involved armed guards. Samir and Father Boutros climbed into the back of the Landcruiser.
The drive normally took about an hour, but the Landcruiser is just about the best four wheel drive on the market, and she could fly, as soon as they got through the ravine that took them through the hills on the eastern edge of the valley, Tariq put the accelerator down, she was soon flying along at seventy miles an hour, they hardly felt the broken seal in the roads.
It was only eight in the morning, and already the temperatures were in the low nineties (fahrenheit) so all the windows were already open as the one thing she didn’t have was airconditioning, but otherwise they were comfortable, they made Dohuk in forty five minutes, just in time to grab something to eat at a roadside restaurant, Tariq paid.
“We’ve got the meeting with the UNHCR first” spoke up as the food was served, ‘That should be finished about eleven, then we can go see the people at ‘WFP’, you’re welcome to come to the first meeting”
“Actually Mr Tariq” Samir spoke up, “I want to go see Hamid’s family, they came to me a few weeks ago with a plan for helping them repay the money, they’re selling their houses”
“Oh” Tariq wasn’t sure what to say, selling the houses,even the best houses in Dohuk would raise some money, but nowhere near enough for the debt, he looked at Azeem who was just as confused as he was.
“No” Samir was smiling, “I’m not throwing them out on the streets, they’ll sell me their houses, they’ve got two, and pay me a rent until they’ve paid me as much as they can, but they stay in the houses!” he took a bite of the food, then continued, “selling the houses was their idea, and the Magistrate agreed to it, “getting them to stay in the houses, and returning them after the debt is paid is mine, that way they keep a roof over their heads, Hamid doesn’t die in that rat infested hole and hopefully I’ll at least get some of the money back, but even if I don’t at least my conscience will be clear!”
“But how’ll you get them to pay?”
“The Haj, Mahmoud, he insisted that they pay at least one thousand dinars every month, that’s the condition, otherwise Hamid gets arrested and the family lose their homes, I also want Father Boutros there as a priest as he can verify everything!”
Samir lived in a harsh world, one that wasn’t very forgiving, yet he chose not to be a harsh man in that world.
At the UN
“We’re aware of the place” the official replied to Tariq’s question as they drank tea in the UN offices, both Samir and Father Boutros were with him, but their natural reluctance to speak to anything that even smelled like the government took over, ever concerned that what they said might somehow get back to the Mukhabarat and come back later to ‘bite’ they kept silent. “We did have an organization that was delivering supplies there, but they just didn’t turn up one time, we assumed it was just a mistake, but they haven’t been back for three or so months, we still have the rations in the warehouse!”
“Any chance we can get them delivered to the village?” Tariq asked, a little surprised the official seemed to know about the situation, then again, he was a local, and they tended to be very efficient. He expected a reply saying ‘maybe in a week or so’
“Can you deliver them?” the question was directed at Tariq, “If you can deliver, then you can pick the supplies up as soon as you like, the warehouse is right next door, I can arrange it this afternoon”
“What do you think Azeem? Can you bring the IFA tomorrow? Both Azeem and Samir began to smile, the smile was the reply, Tariq turned to the official, “Azeem and Samir will be here with our truck, then every month on the first of the month Samir will pick the supplies up for delivery, he may have Father Boutros with him, but they’ll be doing the work for Op Mercy, is that agreeable?”
“It sounds like a good idea” the official replied, “sooner we get the food to the people, the better for everyone!”
The 'Trusty truck'
Two days later the little convoy was ready to roll, Azeem and Samir had picked up the supplies for the village, Rice, flour, sugar, tea and cooking oil, not the kind of thing to cook a gourmet meal, but enough to provide the basics, and along with the vegetables they’d bought in the local market, it would see the village through.
“Mr Tariq” Father Boutros spoke above the noise of the engine as they drove into the village, they were in the Landcruiser, the lead vehicle of the three vehicles they were using, “If you park under the big Oak tree in the middle of the village, that;s where they all congregate, you can distribute the food from there!”
“Oh, is that the village square?”
“And our church” Father Boutros replied, “Maybe you can help us build a new one, seeing as you’re about to”
“Hold on there Father” Tariq was almost laughing at the old priest, admiring him for being bold enough to ask, “You know how much trouble that’ll cause we’ll be accused of only helping you because you let us build the church, you know, and look good to christians in the west!” They both laughed. As the laughter died down Tariq observed, “Mind you, I can’t imagine a more beautiful church, even the good Lord himself took care of the decorating” they scanned the view of the mountains in the distance as the trucks pulled up.
Just as the Dodge, which was supposed to be the last vehicle switched the engine off, two other Landcruisers, much newer, pulled alongside, the occupants climbed out.
“I heard that food was being brought here today! Thought I’d come and pay a visit” it was the official from the other day, he greeted each one in turn, then stepped back towards his vehicle, “and I’ve brought some help with the work, four other men jumped out of the vehicles and set about helping the Op Mercy people unload the supplies.
Crazy fishing method, used by both Kurds and Afghans!
Strange fishing customs
AS soon as the vehicles were parked people started to come, the look of amazement on the faces as so much food was unloaded was priceless.
The Kurds have an unusual way of fishing in their rivers that involves a small generator, bared wires (at the end of well insulated wires) and a long pole, they connect the well insulated part of the wires up to the generator and wrap them round the long poles with two bared ends separating at the end. Then someone starts the generator and wades into the river (good waders are a must). When the fish swims between the two it gets stunned and can be scooped up, it also gives us the expression ‘Stunned mullet’ and that’s what the locals looked like, so much food, and all for them!
A very strange way of saying 'Thank you'
“Thank you so much for all this food” it was the local Mukhtar who spoke up near the end, he’d been there the whole time, organizing the village people and making sure no one stepped out of line, not that it was a problem, “You must stay for food, so we can say thank you!”
“Thank you” Tariq replied, “but I’ve got a lot to do, and I must be getting back to Zakho, maybe next time?” he didn’t really have any intention of coming back to the village, it was nice enough, but he had so much work on, he just couldn’t.
“No!” the Mukhtar was insistent, “You must stay!”
“But I’m busy”
“You must stay, we need to say thank you!”
The exchange went on for some minutes, and it was obvious to all except the big Englishman that the villagers were serious, they were beginning to get angry.
“But I really must” Tariq began again.
“Mr Tariq” both Azeem and Samir cut him off, “can we have a word, in private”
They took him aside and Samir was straight to the point, “Mr Tariq, the village’s honour is at stake, we must stay for a meal!”
“But they’ve got nothing” Tariq protested, “How can I stay and take when they have nothing, I’d be stealing from them” seeing he’d get no support from Samir he turned to Azeem, “what do you think?”
“Mr Tariq” Azeem replied very calmly, “I saw two men walking round with guns, I think if you don’t stay, the Mukhtar might just tell them to shoot us!”