6. The things they left behind: An audio adventure, from Nashville to Kurdish Iraq.

From the journal:

24 November 2017: After their Thanksgiving Day meal, Nazar Sharanshi’s family crowded into their living room in south Nashville, women and children along with the men – which in my experience is uncommon in traditional Muslim households (at least outside the United States). Everyone began telling funny stories, loud stories. Eventually all of their stories ended up in one place: the story of what they’d left behind.

“I miss Kurdistan,” one brother said. Everyone agreed and said it, “Me too.” The men shared photos on their phones, of rivers and big fish, lush mountain meadows lifetimes away from here. “The pears from a tree in our home are four pounds! The taste… You will never forget it. Like honey,” another brother said. Their patriarch left his home in 1988, his son said. “My father… I was thirteen. We lived five years in Turkey. But when we knew we could not return because of the war, we filed the paperwork and came here to the United States, to Nashville.”

They did not speak as people frustrated with their new life. But like people longing for what they remember–longing for home.

A line of young women in flowing, embroidered, ankle-link dresses and wearing sandals dance side by side holding hands in a grass and dirt field in the daytime. The women all have dark hair and similar facial features. One woman holds two smart phones in her hand while gripping another's fingers. Black and white photograph.

Women in traditional Kurdish dress dance during the Kurdish Newroz (new year) festival in Lebanon just east of Nashville, March 2018.

On this day Nazar Sharanshi stood with his young wife (who would die unexpectedly within a year) and joined in singing and dancing in their traditional outfits, picnicking with traditional foods. An enormous family reunion.

As a group of women danced past, moving in circles, adorned in silver, I wondered if they too dreamed of the places they left behind? And I wondered what they have found here in Nashville.

Kurdish women dance in the traditional circle formation during the Newroz Festival in Nashville.

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