A near constant reminder of the foreignness of Kurdistan is the Kurdish script that adorns shops, signposts and newspapers. Words and information that would usually be processed and appear in consciousness automatically in my mother script are now present in a code that must be unravelled letter by letter, each letter needing to be searched for in memory for the corresponding sound, in the hope that the word that slowly becomes clearer will be part of my limited Kurdish lexicon. While this process is much more effortful than the equivalent in my mother tongue, there is a certain satisfaction when you crack the code, but an occurrence that continues to bring a smile to my face and a flash of joy to my heart is when after a minute of staring at alien letters the word that appears is actually remarkably familiar, and phonetically belongs to my mother tongue.  This week, while scanning a Kurdish newspaper I came across this example:

It reads ‘Jon Mkkein’ or John McCain.  Indeed, Kurdistan had an American visitor in its midst this week.

I also enjoy the way that brand names are transformed through the use of looping script:

Coca cola (light) suddenly becomes wonderfully exotic,  and ‘ Quality street ‘ could suddenly be full of middle eastern charm;

But my personal favourite is my ‘Oxford’ Kurdish dictionary…

There is something about the mingling of the traditional Kurdish script and western culture that I find I can identify with, having invested time in attempting to understand and integrate, learning language to an almost passable level, there is certainly some mingling occurring. However, somehow the intermingling, while increasing understanding, somehow has the almost ironic effect of highlighting discontinuity without being able to bridge the gap. While  learning increases, so does the awareness that I am very much a product of my own, incredibly unkurdish culture. But there is much delight in those moments of  discontinuity, and contrast in cultures is the very thing that conjures curiosity.

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