Tuesday, July 31, 2007

peace.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Remnants of Hell. Glimpses of Heaven.



The other day, the photographers I mentioned earlier went with us to one of Saddam's old prisons just down the street from where I live. It carried the title of a "security building" but I think it did anything BUT provide security for the Kurds here. We took a bunch of photos on the prison grounds using the left overs of Saddam's Russian made tanks and anti-aircraft guns to help us out. The whole thing was so odd. We were climbing all over the tanks, sitting and talking, taking pictures, laughing. It was when the photos were being taken that I just sat there on one of the tanks just looking at everything around me trying to realize where I was.

These towering brown buildings full of prison cells riddled with bullets surrounded me, along with mortars, tanks, ground artillery, anti-aircraft guns, and huge trucks for carrying Saddam's men. All these things were scattered all over this small field...awaiting orders but receiving none.

I tried to comprehend what these machines had done to people but I couldn't. I looked at the thousands of bullet holes in the walls and tried to picture the faces of the men who fired them but none came to mind. We packed up our bags and went on our way.

I didn't like leaving like that. So the next day I walked down to the prison by myself to try to finish my thoughts from earlier. I pounded on the gate and a guard came and let me in. I walked and stood in front of each tank and weapon just looking down the barrel of each one. How many other people had done the same thing but never lived to tell about it? I climbed inside a tank and sat in the chair looking out the cracked window right next to all the gears and switches. Who had sat there last? What were they looking through the window at?



I walked inside the buildings and walked to each room. Several had bullet holes all over and another one, I could have sworn had finger nail markings down the side. I went downstairs to the basement and saw a large room lit by an eerie red light hanging from the ceiling. I walked through room after room, hallway after hallway trying to comprehend everything.

This had been Saddam's prison. His men would fan out and drag innocent Kurds back behind these walls. Countless men, women, and children were tortured in these rooms. Whole families were drug down these hallways. It's right in the heart of the city so it's surrounded by homes. No doubt to make sure the other Kurds could hear the screaming of their friends and family.

If I have ever been in a place that had been fashioned after Hell, this had to be it.

Just a few hours later.

I was packed in a tea house full of Iraqi's. I say "Iraqi's" because everyone there was an Iraqi that day. They were all crowded around the television cheering and screaming for the Iraqi football (soccer) team. It was Iraq versus Saudi Arabia. This was the championship game of the Asian cup. Earlier someone had told me that if they were playing Japan or another team...they would be fine with being in second place, that's still a great accomplishment for their team. But since it's Saudi Arabia...they CAN NOT lose. The Saudis have never been a friend of the Kurds or the Iraqis he said. So this was so much more than a game to them.

Iraq went on to win the game, causing the place to erupt with screams and cheers. People were dancing everywhere. Arabs were embracing Kurds...Kurds were dancing along side of the Arabs. It was beautiful. People poured into the streets celebrating, blowing horns, shooting guns, piling into trucks. Children ran to the walls and ripped off the posters to change them into hundreds of pieces of confetti to throw at people.

There was so much joy everywhere. It was a stark contrast between my morning in the prison. This game...this simple black and white ball had accomplished amazing things. Things politicians and wars have failed to do. Things arm deals and covert missions have never done.




I grasped hands with the owner of the tea house and he bought me a drink to celebrate. He sat me down and asked me if I was a reporter. I told him no. He seemed not to hear and said, "If you ever write an article about this day...tell the Parliament that we want them to play football."

He seemed to see what was going on too. Maybe instead of more politicians we just need more coaches. Instead of more weapons and arms deals, maybe a just a couple more stadiums. You see this Iraqi team was full of Arabs and Kurds...Sunnis and Shiites. And yet they worked together and showed the world what can be accomplished with a thing called unity.

So a lot of credit goes to this Iraqi team. They went from being coached by Saddam's son, being forced to practice with a concrete ball, being tortured for making mistakes, beaten and forced to shave their heads but they stuck together and now they're the best team in Asia!

Pictures of the...uh.....year?



These are two AMAZING pictures taken by one of the photographers yesterday. So all credit goes to him. I fell in love with these pictures though. (All other photographs on this site (except the header and the first picture I posted of the border) you can assume are taken by me, if not though I'll let you know.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pinch Me.



Life here is so surreal sometimes. I guess most of the time.

Some days I'll wake up and have to remind myself where I am. Then there are days like yesterday where I was fully awake and still had a hard time believing what was going on.

Yesterday morning a friend and I met up with three photo journalists at a local hotel. They had heard about Buy Shoes. Save Lives. and offered their services to us. They were three very close friends, barely over twenty yet they all had so much experience and had gone through things I can't even imagine. Being photographers they were on call every minute...ready to head out to any neighborhood or city to cover the war or any other event that affected their country. Their pictures were all over the paper that day along with their articles, so I was so looking forward to having them at our side with Buy Shoes. Save Lives.



We piled in the car and took off on our adventures for the day. One thing I love about going out with Kurds, is that you have no clue what's gonna happen. You may have a plan or schedule but here those count for very little. You may expect to be gone for an hour and not come back 'till the next day, life is so ad-libbed and spontaneous. So I started driving just wondering what the day was gonna hold in store.

We drove to where the Klash's all started, the place where the people here first started making them. We had heard of this guy who said that his Klash's were the best there are so we wanted to see if he was telling the truth. We ended up having an incredible lunch at one of the photographer's friends house while we waited for the heat to retreat a bit and then we met up with this "master klash maker." We walked into one of his rooms and the entire room was covered with Klashs. Each one neatly lined up next to its partner, just waiting for someone to put them on and walk out. We weren't expecting to see this much. That whole room of Klashs had taken him one year to make. We quickly counted the pairs and realized that this is how much it would take to save a kid's life.




We sat down and talked with him about his shoes, what it would take to buy all of those shoes, what it would cost, etc. It was such a profitable time and he agreed on a price that would save us 13 dollars on each pair, which means that's 13 more dollars that can essentially be put towards heart surgery! As his little daughter slept on a mat in the other room, we shared with him how his shoes would help fund heart surgeries for other Iraqi children who needed it and he was honored to play a part in that.

We definitely put the photographers to use as they took hundreds of pictures, at several locations, doing their best to communicate through the pictures they were taking. I was blown away at everything that was going on. These three new friends were spending a whole day with us, running with ideas we were giving them, giving us new and better ideas. The pictures were incredible and each one seemed to come packed with meaning and symbolism.

We drove all around, through the mountains, through tiny villages, past check point after check point, taking pictures, meeting people left and right.




It was a good day.

I keep thinking of the pictures of the children who are waiting to have heart surgery. I think that's what excited me most about that day. We were taking hundreds of pictures so that maybe...just maybe one of their pictures could be taken off the list of kids who need heart surgery.

Seems like a good trade to me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Maid in Kurdistan.


July 25th...2 month anniversary!

I think now it's maybe time to tell you about our crazy maid.

Her name is Draxshan. We love her so much, we really do...she's just crazy. She's the lady who's husband was beaten by the Sheik, if you remember me talking about that a while ago. But with Draxshan in the house, there's really never a dull moment.

She loves to clean. But her way of cleaning is probably different than yours. At least I hope it is. Yesterday we caught her upstairs with a hose...hosing down...everything. So the stairs turn into a miniature cascading water fall. Water is the magic cleaner here. If you ask her to clean the refrigerator...she fills a bucket with water and just heaves it at the refrigerator. If the oven needs cleaning, a bucket of water goes flying into the oven. Bathroom? You guessed it.

This keeps us on our toes, literally, as we do our best to avoid the stagnant puddles of water all over the office. Is this just our crazy maid? Nope, it seems to be a steady trend here in Kurdistan. The other day I was in a restaurant when all of a sudden I noticed my pant legs were soaked. It turns out they were cleaning the restaurant so that involved just flooding the place with water, customers and all.

A funny thing happened yesterday and it had nothing to do with water. Draxshan was working on boiling potatoes for our lunch when she realized that she had been soaking the potatoes in the floor cleaner detergent instead of oil! (yellow oil....looks kind of like yellow floor cleaner.) I just heard about another time when she was boiling tea and she realized that she had used poppy seeds instead of tea. (not sure what the connection is there...) And she always thinks of us when she brings us small clumps of mint ever day, that she pulls out of her bra to give to us!

But that's a small glimpse of our Draxshan. Don't be intimidated by the picture...she's always laughing and has a smile on her face but just like every other Kurd, whenever a camera's taken out, on goes their stern face.

We love you Draxshan. Here's to you always keeping us clean and delivering delicious meal after meal every day. It's been a good two months.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Night on the Red Carpet

There's been a lot of talk lately about this new Kurdish movie that is just coming out. It's been in the paper, there's been posters everywhere and every Kurd I've talked to has known about it. We heard about it premiering in a theater here and so we got really excited and wanted to go check it out. The movie sounded really good but we were just as excited about the fact that we have the chance to go to a movie theater in Iraq, a premiere none the less!

So we were literally getting in the car to go to the premiere when we heard from a friend who was already there that tonight was a special night just for VIPs or "responsibilities" as a Kurd told us so no one else is allowed in. We were all bummed but we decided it was a good idea to just go anyways and get tickets for the next night.

We ended up having to park down the street because of security and walk in to the theater. We had a Kurdish friend with us and he went on a quest to go find the tickets. Meanwhile we just leaned up against a car and watched all of the activity going on around the theater. Land Rover after Land Rover sped up to the entrance, unloaded a car full of guards loaded with guns as these very important people were whisked away into the building. Cameras and reporters were everywhere so it was pretty exciting to just sit and watch everything unfold.

We must have waited half an hour when our Kurdish friend appeared again and waved us into the entrance. We hesitantly walked past the security and met up with our friend and we found out that we had seats saved for us in the theater! We were taken to a room downstairs that looked like it was meant to entertain the finest of guests, something none of us were expecting, nor dressed for at the moment.

Then a man came in and told us, "The Theater is full...but you HAVE to watch it." And we were taken to our seats in the theater.

It was a great movie, at least from what I could understand of it, and afterwards we were able to meet the famous Kurdish director who had made the film and then we met and got our picture taken with Mam Jalal Talabani's wife! (The first lady of Iraq.)

So it was a great night, pretty funny though because we just wanted some tickets for the next night but instead we felt like movie stars and ended up meeting some pretty important people!

What did our Kurdish friend do to get us in? Good question!

He told the people in charge that he had these American friends that he had invited to the movie, and that it's shameful for him to have them standing out in the sun right now not able to watch the movie.

The power of shame. In America we have a magic word. "Please" right? Here the magic word is "Iba" or "Shameful." There are many things that can bring you shame in this society, too many to write about today. But it's very important that you do not do anything that brings you shame. A little bit of shame can go a long way. Our Kurdish friend understands that and so did the people in charge of who was allowed in the movie theater that night. Would we have put shame on him? Of course not...but he would have been shamed none the less. So shame is a powerful thing here. It's part of the reason why I've never been able to buy one of my friend's here a meal. They simply say it's "Iba" and that's it. What can I do against that? I can't insist to pay if it will bring shame upon them. One day I tried to do exactly that, to pay no matter what. Then my friend grabbed my hand...and quietly told me that everybody in the restaurant will notice if I pay. And so even if he is not shamed...everybody watching him will put shame on him for allowing his guest to pay. I put my money back in my pocket.

So I just wanted to let you know about our exciting night at the movies! I'll try to talk more about what "shame" is like in this culture later...and how some believe it's worth killing your own family members for.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Donations

Several people have asked me how they can donate to Buy Shoes. Save Lives.

We finally have a good answer!

Just go to our website, www.buyshoessavelives.com and go to the store page.

If you scroll down to the bottom you'll be able to make a donation of any size that you want.

Thanks so much for all of your support and encouragement!

We just sent a suitcase full of 32 pairs of shoes that people have ordered back to the States!

You guys rock.

My First Funeral.

Yesterday I went to my first Kurdish funeral.

It was a funeral for one of our friend's Great Uncle. He had died the day before and so this was the second day out of three for their whole funeral process. The whole process is so different than what people do in the West.

For example, when someone dies here they bury them the same day. The family washes and cleans the body, puts nice clothes on them (unless they're a martyr...then they leave them the way they are.) Then the men in the family take the body out to the graveyard, usually an entire cemetery dedicated to Muslims, and they bury the body on its right side facing Mecca. Usually they don't use coffins I guess unless there are laws in the area making that illegal.

A leader from one of the mosques prays over the body and then that's it for the ceremony. Graveyards here are so interesting to me...just because it looks like no one takes care of them or visits the tombs. The graves are raised above the ground and every grave yard I see is overgrown with weeds and brush. It's ridiculous, sometimes you'd have to know there was a cemetery there otherwise you wouldn't notice it. I've seen entire trees coming out of one tomb.

Gives me the heebie jeebies.

So the men go to the graveside, and then after that they all go to the mosque. This is the closest thing to what Western funerals look like. And this is what I went to. We entered the mosque and there were men from the family by the entrance and we entered raising our right hand and saying "Selamu 'Eleykum" ("Peace be with you.") And then we found a seat in a room that would probably hold about 250 people. There was maybe 30 people there sitting and they just sat in silence staring in front of them. Then randomly one of the men would stand up and say "Xwahafika" (A good bye to the person who died.) And the members of the family would raise their right hands and respond to him graciously.

This lasts all day, and men come and go to pay their regards. Meanwhile the women are cooking meals to last them 3 days. They meet in the street or at someone's home and all the women come and mourn there since they're not allowed in the Mosque.

So this is just the ceremony part. The mourning of the family goes on for a really long time. I heard forty days from someone. Forty days of no television or any parties or anything that brings any joy. They aren't allowed to dance so when this mourning period ends, they literally go from mourning to dancing.

It was such a sad funeral though. I was looking around at the men's faces in the Mosque and they all kind of had the same look on them. The kind of look you see on someone in a hospital as they're waiting to hear news of how a surgery went or something. It was a look of extreme nervousness and uncertainty. But when you look at death through their eyes, I'd be uncertain too. Even the Prophet Muhammad was unsure what was going to happen to him when he died. No good Muslim has any idea what God will do. He may take the person to Paradise or may not. There's no knowing. When they say God is greater than everything...they literally mean everything, including any promise or hope that he may have given them.

So a funeral of a friend is a stressful time. Who knows where they went. If they went to Paradise then you might see them again, depending on if God accepts you or not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Not really sure.

It's much harder than you think to post a blog every day. The past few days I've sat down to write but I end up just staring at the blinking cursor having no clue what to write. The minutes pass by and I can't figure out how to put certain things into words so I just get up and work on something else.

That's how it's been recently. Well I guess that's how it is right now...I'm just determined to break through.

Some days in Iraq are really good. I see huge progress, have great conversations, see hope everywhere...and other days are the complete opposite. You hear about car bombs and suicide attacks and see the death toll in the hundreds and you just kneel and wonder if this is ever going to end.

A couple days ago there was a truck bomb that went off in Kirkuk that killed at least 85 people and wounded over two times that amount. The bomb went off when the driver could get as close as he could to the Kurdish political office. Later another bomb went off at a Kurdish bus stop. Later...another bomb. I talked with someone who got there right after and he just looked at me with glazed eyes and said, "bring your wheel barrel."

Days like that seem to suck the hope out of everything you do.

Last night I went to my first Kurdish play. It was such a good time...it was a play about a play on Romeo and Juliet (if that makes any sense.) It was a comedy and I've never sat in a theater full of people that laughed that hard before. It was ridiculous. I was laughing so hard, having no clue for the most part what was going on, but it was so well acted out and I couldn't help but laugh when everybody else did. I sat there in the theater just in awe of these people. Their lives go on. They keep laughing. They keep producing plays.

Tonight I went and visited one of my students from our English class. He's actually a teacher of a class of about 35 teenagers who are learning English. He wanted so badly to have me and whoever I could bring to come in and just speak in English to his class and encourage them to keep learning. We had such a fun time asking them questions and answering their questions. They were so full of joy and laughter, and it made me realize how much I miss spending time with youth. A news reporter came from the local station and interviewed us and filmed our interactions with the kids. Afterwards I ate dinner with the teacher and he must have told me a hundred times how extremely happy he was. "You don't understand...this has been one of my dreams, to have people like you come to my class and speak with my students." He was so giddy I had to hold back just laughing...he wants us to come back and present diplomas at their graduation.

I spend time with these people though and so many times I don't know whether to just laugh or cry. I see so much in them and then I hear about these bombs going off all around them. Why do they have to live like this? I read an article this week about Iran and how they're basically waging a silent genocide campaign against the Kurds...paying people with Aids to go live among the Kurdish people, producing and shipping in crates of Heroine across the Border.

And then I try to sit down and try to post something on my blog. It's hard.

Last weekend I sat and listened to an old Kurdish man talk about his life and his days of fighting with the Peshmerga. It was so interesting but the thing that caught me was when he started talking about all of the hurting people in the world. He talked about the people in Darfur right now, he talked about the people in East Timur and he just kept going through all the people groups who are hurting and being persecuted today.

This blew me away. How does this man know all of this? I rarely met people in America who knew about these people who are dying every day. But this Kurd, who could write books on the suffering of his people, is more concerned with other people who are suffering. I wonder if you can ever really care about someone's pain or trials unless you're down there with them.

I have so much to learn.

So this is my post...I have no clue what to say. Except to just remember the Kurds. Remember the people in Darfur. Remember the hurting people in the world, the people who have no voice or advocate. If you're led to take action then take action, if you're led to find out more...by all means, find out more about them, if you're led to go there...go, pray if you pray, write if you write...just don't forget.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Just joking Texas.

I really don't hate Texas. I apologize if I offended any of you Texans. Your home is my home. I mean...there's been some great people from Texas...Willie Nelson, Ross Perot, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Eisenhower, and Mary K.

I also apologize for giving Ohio the credit for starting the mullet...I was informed it came from West Virgina. Sorry West Virginia.

And I hope everybody visits our site...regardless of State. We love you all.

_______________________________________________

Today I want to give you guys some movies you can watch if you want. It's really hard to relate to a country thousands of miles away, a blog certainly can't solve that problem, nor the internet...but it helps. One way that can be really good is simply by watching some movies by Kurds about Kurds.

So grab some popcorn, get some friends or your family together and see what you can learn.

Turtles Can Fly: This is a great story following the lives of Kurdish children living near the Iraq-Turkey Border. This is a famous film by a well known Kurdish director and it captures the rawness of their life and what they went through after the fall of Saddam. This film put me in a depression for a few days after I saw it but it really does give you a glimpse of what people have gone through. Be ready to have your eyes opened.

A Time for Drunken Horses
: This is another powerful film about Kurdish children doing whatever it takes to survive. From becoming the head of his household at age 12, it follows the story of a young boy who faces decisions that you can't imagine. (Drunken Horses refers to how he had to basically get his mules drunk to make the trek through the snowy mountains.)

Half Moon: This follows the story of an Iranian Kurd who is trying to make it as a musician. This film, along with the others I mentioned have won several awards and are extremely well known here.

American Films:
Kingdom of Heaven: Why would you watch this movie to learn about Kurdistan? Despite the movie being ridiculously inaccurate I think it's worth watching. First off, Kurds love this movie because it focuses on Saladin, the leader of the Muslim army. Saladin was as Kurdish as they come. Most of his army was Kurdish too...but the film doesn't show one Kurd in the army and instead makes them out to be all Arabs and some Turks. (And if they did show the Kurds...they would have all been wearing Klashi Kurdi...Mohammad even talks about the Kurdish army wearing these shoes in battle.) Saladin is famous for his mercy so the Kurds take great pride in him.

If you have time...and have watched all these other films before, you should watch the Count of Monte Cristo. Why? This is another movie so many Kurds like. I had a good talk with a friend about this a couple days ago. He says that Kurds relate to Edmond Dantes because he was innocent yet thrown in prison and treated unjustly. Then he escaped and had the choice to be consumed with revenge or move on with his life. This is something the Kurds struggle with...if they wanted to they could live their life only seeking revenge on the Arabs and seeking "justice" themselves. Some people here are consumed with hatred for Arabs...others have seen what racism does and want nothing to do with it.

So those are just a couple, there's several other really good Kurdish movies that I can give you later. But seriously...I challenge you to watch these movies. There's a lot of entertaining movies out there I know, but these movies are so worth while. They shake you up, challenge you, inspire you.

I don't think you'll find some of these at Blockbuster but you can check, it wouldn't hurt. Amazon's a great place to get these dvd's though.

If you watch them, let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Remember the Alamo.

This is a hard post to write.

Being from California...I have come to absolutely love my State. I love the people. I love the mountains. I love the ocean. I love In-N-Out. I love the sports teams. I love the weather. I love the sunsets, the golden hills...I love it's passion, it's recklessness, it's realness. If California were wrapped up in one person...I think we'd be best buds.

Whenever I leave the State I always return so much more proud and happy to claim California as my homeland. But tonight my heart is heavy.

For a long time now...Texas has always rubbed me the wrong way. I never really had any reason to dislike the State...I just got the wrong vibes I guess. Even the shape of the state has always bugged me. Then in 2006, Texas beat USC in the Rose Bowl and from then on I've never thought twice about not liking the State. It's a deep burn inside me and even just talking about it now I feel it starting to strengthen within me. I'd rather work at a McDonalds in California than play for the Texas Rangers.

Texas Schmexas.

So since being in Iraq I've met people from all over the world. They're great people. But the one guy I connect with and work on starting this business together...where is he from? Texas.

I knew Iraq may present some challenges...but come on. Was this necessary?

When you create your own internet site there's this cool little feature that allows you to track how many people visit your site, where they're from, how long they visited, what pages they looked at, what they ate for breakfast, etc. Yes freaky...but pretty cool at the same time.

It was cool until I noticed that they had rankings on the site.

So my friend and I were checking it out the other night and noticed this statistic.

1. Texas....296 visits on July 13th.
2. California....96 visits on July 13th.

Statistics from other days support and back up this evidence.

My "friend" gloated and cheered for Texas and as he laughed at the pitiful state of California at # 2.

I had all these memories from home flash before my eyes...me learning to play volleyball on the beach, eating my first tri-trip, me getting my permit, my high school graduation party, all my friends, all my relatives I love so much, me winning the Science award in High School.

California....96?

So tonight I'm speaking directly to my fellow Californians. Today's the day. This is all we got. We may not have tomorrow. Tell your friends. Tell your cousins. Tell your teachers. Tell your doctors. Don't tell me you're too busy. Go to www.buyshoessavelives.com

w w w . b u y s h o e s s a v e l i v e s . c o m

And while you're at it...buy some shoes.

Let's show Texas what we got.

(Alright alright...this is so much bigger than just proving that California is better than Texas. We all already know that anyways...but seriously. Here's my case though for you California.

#1. California's the trend setter. Living in Ohio while at school I noticed a funny trend where something would be really popular in CA and then it would slowly migrate across the U.S. Except the mullet..I think they came up with that themselves.
#2. Continually checking up on the site is sooo important because we're constantly changing it, posting new stuff. And each time you visit the site it increases our ranking on Google so it makes it more likely that someone will "stumble" across it while surfing the internet.
#3. It's a means to an end. This is a way for us to spread the word about these Iraqi children who need heart disease. The more times people visit the site, the more people know, the more blogs are posted, the more shoes are bought, the more people write articles in their local papers, more lives will be saved!)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Time Flies.

I realized how fast time's going by when I noticed that my last post was on July 9th and today is the 12th. I had no clue it's been a few days!

Things are going extremely well. I'm a little tired but what's new? A little hot but then again...what's new?

This morning I had a really rough 20 minutes or so. The other day I heard a rumor about there being Betty Crocker blueberry muffin mix at the local grocery store and I got so excited! I went down and bought several packages of the mix...because most of the times things appear for a week and then disappear and you'll never know where that supply came from or when it'll come back. So last night I went to bed so excited for my morning...so excited for my Betty Crocker muffins.

I found this random muffin tray around the office and so for a while it looked as if I was meant to enjoy the blessings of Betty Crocker. I looked at the tray and it looked plastic but I kept studying it and realized that there's no way anyone would make a plastic muffin tray. What would be the point of it? The destination of every muffin tray is the oven...so this must be some sort of imitation. Wouldn't be the first time the Iraqi's have imitated something. So I made my muffin mix all the while whistling and on top of the world. Oiled the bottom of each little circle....filled each cup 2/3 full with mix just like Betty says. Placed in the oven.

And then waited 16 minutes until the timer went off....or in this case the loud screams of the guys I live with. "THE OVEN'S ON FIRE!! THE OVEN'S ON FIRE!"

I almost fell running over and I turned the oven off, opened the oven with flames shooting out...and dumped water all over until the flames were replaced with billows of smoke.



And this is what remained of my Better Crocker muffins. The plastic tray ended up looking like vanilla icing covering the bottom halves. Only Betty Crocker muffins would still look that good after going through an oven inferno. I managed to pick off the top so it wasn't all a loss.

Some days you're just meant to have cereal for breakfast.

Some exciting news that I thought I'd share with you guys. In the past four days alone...we've sold over 2,000 dollars in shoes! Our site is getting hits from all over the world...China, Turkey, Germany, Italy, America, and Chile among others. We've sold shoes to New Yorkers, Texans, Californians, Arizonians, and Pennsylvanians! We now have advertisements you can download in multiple languages so that we can reach more of the world. We have complete strangers who have stumbled across our site and have been spreading our cause to everyone they know. I wrote someone I met on a plane 2 years ago and she's using all her resources and contacts to help us! We have high schoolers being spokesmen, college art students creating designs and advertisements for us at no cost, people in the military giving us their connections and posting our stuff on their blogs. The list goes on. So I'm so thankful for these past four days. We still need you big time though. We need your help, we need your voice, we need your feet. More than all that though, there's kids here that need you.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. Keep on keeping on.




p.s. J if you're reading this blog. I'm sorry about your muffin tray. I think that was yours.

Monday, July 9, 2007

One Week.

shodyourself3

www.buyshoessavelives.com

No seriously.

Buy some shoes.

Apples.

The other day I found some air freshener in the Bazaar. I got pretty excited...considering that I live in a house full of guys so any chance of freshening the air, I'll take it. The flavor I got was apples. Who doesn't like the smell of apples? I love apples.

About a week ago we were driving through a smaller village and I noticed this pretty unusual sculpture. They have a lot of random art around this area. Some are inspiring and awesome while others leave you wondering what the heck you just drove by. This was one of those.

It was of a giant apple. It was enormous. I took a double take as I drove by and then I even looked in the mirror as we were leaving it in our dust and noticed that there was a big opening on one side of the apple and a body was hanging out of it. Not a real body...this is part of the sculpture. It looked as if the apple had "hatched" but the person didn't make it out entirely. It was a pretty disturbing image...and I had no clue what to think of it. Until today.

I was talking with some friends and I asked them about that sculpture. They knew exactly what I was talking about and they told me that when Saddam would gas the Kurds...he would "flavor" the gas so that it smelled like apples.

Who doesn't like the smell of apples?

So a few shells land in the ground around you...and you notice the smell of apples and don't feel as threatened. You bring your family out, check on your neighbors...and then you're dead.

It's not a movie. Not some made up story. This stuff happened. I've been to mass graves, I can prove it to you. Thousands upon thousands up Kurds have been murdered in your lifetime...with the smell of apples.

I came home and threw away my air freshener.

I read this quote the other day and it's haunted me. I've been haunted by a lot of things lately.

"The silence and inactivity of 'good people' is worse than the actions of 'bad people."


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Have a look.

www.buyshoessavelives.com

www.myspace.com/buyshoessavelives

Facebook: buyshoessavelives

Spread the word.

Friday, July 6, 2007

shoes shoes shoes.

I feel like I've done nothing but look at shoes, take pictures of shoes, watch videos of shoes, and talked about shoes for the past few days!

We went to the dukan (shop) yesterday to look at more shoes and see if we could find out anything more about them. We did. I wish you could see what goes into the process of making one of these shoes. When I first saw them I made it my goal to learn how to make a pair myself so that I could do it at home. Now I just laugh at that idea.

It turns they make these things from scratch. I mean complete scratch. The cloth on the sole's...I thought they just went and bought different colors at the Bazaar. Nope. They get a huge roll of white cloth...cut hundreds of rectangles, dye them themselves and then they're ready to be stitched together.

So that's the soles. The knitted part on top looked complicated enough. I asked him if I could see the string they use to knit with...just to see if he had any other surprises up his sleeve. He did. He pulled out a roll of this incredibly thin thread, and started to wrap it around his big toe and pulled it back to his hand. He kept doing this until a thick loop was made. Then he cut it and started to twist it to make one strong thread. They even hand twist every thread used to go into the shoe.

Hand dyed. Hand knit knitted...or something like that.

If someone is really fast...they'll be able to make a pair of shoes in 35 hours. That's working none stop for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Maybe I'm weird...but that really blows my mind. I'm used to buying a pair of rubber shoes that get pumped out of a machine somewhere in China and inspected by number 73.

It changes my outlook on every pair of these shoes I see pass me on the street. Hey that took 4 guys at least 35 hours to make. You take care of those.

Makes me wonder how much I would really appreciate things or people if I even got a glimpse into what went into making them.

Here's some more stuff to check out...hopefully I haven't made you sick of them yet.

The catalogue's up and running! It's a PDF that you can download.

Click here to download our catalogue

Also...if you didn't catch the video I posted before, it's on YouTube now so it'll be easier to watch. (Thanks to our mystery friend who did that for us!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg_8X3nbl6w

Take a glance. We have a shipment of shoes going to the states pretty soon through a friend and we're making it our goal to sell as many as we can! So write us at buyshoessavelives@gmail.com and let us know! Join the movement.

Remember the shoes. Remember the cause.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Coming Summer 2007

...my first full length feature film...in Kurdish.

That's right, I made my first debut in a Kurdish Movie two days ago! I was on the University hanging out with a friend when a guy came up to us and asked us if we wanted to be in a movie. I thought it was just a couple other students filming something for class so I didn't think anything of it.

But we go outside and there's a crew of camera men, a man with a huge fuzzy microphone and everybody with I.D. badges on for the movie. Ha...so I guess they needed a couple guys for a scene.

So here's the scene I'm in.

ACTION!
Me and a few other Kurdish other guys are standing under a tree talking and just hanging out. Then a girl walks by and a couple of the guys point her out and say how pretty she is. That's where I come in. I say, "ZOR juana...." (Very pretty...)And then one of the guys in the group goes and tries to talk with her while we watch and tease him. Then her boyfriend comes and hits the guy talking to her and we all laugh. CUT!

And that's a wrap! They said it'll be on T.V. in a couple months so hopefully I can try to get a copy of it and you won't think I'm just making this all up.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Buy shoes. Save lives.

I'm pretty excited to post this today. It finally gives you a glimpse of our vision with the Klashi Kurdi. We finished our proposal and put our package all together to send to our first company back in the States. So while that's in the waiting process we're going ahead full steam with things here.

To start things off, check out our promo video below to get a better picture of what we're doing.



Click here to watch the promo video Buy Shoes. Save Lives.


So that's it. Pretty simple. We want to sell shoes to bless a ridiculous amount of people.

We want to bless Kurdistan and its economy and encourage its craftsmanship. But it doesn't end there. Iraqi children suffer from the highest rate of heart disease in the world. Combine that with them living in Iraq and having no access to the equipment and the doctors that are needed to save their lives.

The result?

Iraqi children are dying every day from something that can be stopped. So that's why we're partnering with Brother's Together (http://www.shevet.org/) to help save Iraqi children. For every pair of shoes we sell we donate 50 dollars to a child who needs surgery while the other half goes back into the Kurdish economy. There's a lot of feet out there. We think this can add up.

The Shoes Costs You: $100

Heart-surgery costs them: At least $7,000 (several years wage for an Iraqi)

Number of shoes to sell to fund a surgery on their behalf: 140 (we reinvest $50/pair)

So this is our vision. If you would like to place an order PLEASE write us @ buyshoessavelives@gmail.com If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to write us.

American shoes sizes are worthless here so check out this site to get the conversion down. http://www.i18nguy.com/l10n/shoes.html They use the European system.

"Forget the shoes, I just want to help save Iraqi kids." We'd be fools to turn that down too so please just write us if you're interested in doing that.

Buy Shoes. Save lives.

It's simple.

Click here to download our catalogue

www.buyshoessavelives.com coming soon.

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Download the free Quicktime Player here.

Right Click & Save As to download "Buy Shoes. Save Lives." in QT.

Size: 47 MB Music: "Destgahe Segah" by Iranian Tar player Davud Azad. Running Time: 5:45

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I R A Q








Is it what you pictured?