My second story apartment sits above a wide street that hasn’t been finished. From what I assume, it’s a result of the
downturn in development that happened about a half year before I arrived. As such my street feels a little backwater and is
out of the way for most things. It’s already on the edge of Ankawa and looking to the west. I see only open fields as far as
the murky sky lets me. Out in those fields are the several landing strips of the Erbil Airport. As close as I am to the airport-
maybe a ten minute straight jog to those very runways- I’ve seldom heard anything come and go.
That’s why it was such a surprise to start hearing so much when I came back from the holiday break. My bedroom has a
balcony door that opens up towards the runway and although I can’t actually see them, nothing obstructs the line of sight or
the path of sound. At first it was surprising just to hear it at night, and then it was surprising to what frequency I was hearing
it and what I was hearing. Not the throaty roar of jet engines. But rather the whirr of propellers. What I suspected, and then
confirmed was C-130s, Ospreys, and Blackhawks. I hear landings and takeoffs almost every night. Some nights I hear
dozens. I don’t know why; if it’s troop movements, equipment, recon or what else, but it has been constant for over a month
and tells much of what has been happening recently and will happen in the near future.
It’s imperative here to have some sort of a backup plan here, just in case. I really doubt anything would ever come of it. It’s
not wishful thinking; as much as western media might or might not like to find the words to put Erbil in the middle of harms
way, that simply isn’t the case. Still, for the sake of personal responsibility, I do have to keep a proverbial red line, a certain
case of circumstances, that if they did occur, would lead me to leave. There have been some small scares, but none of
them have been too serious. There was a car bomb in the city center in November, but there have been none since. If car
bombs became a pattern, that would be a red line. Kirkuk, an immensely important city to the south was attacked in the
middle of the night ten days ago in a surprise fog-aided raid. The attack was repulsed, but had Kirkuk fallen, that would be
a red line.
This is a new situation for me. I’ve never been in a position where war and serious danger are so figuratively and literally
just beyond the horizon. If the air quality was ever good enough I’d probably see it. But war has been, and remains, beyond
that said horizon. Erbil is a safe city. My nighttime wake ups remind me that the terrible conflict being broadcast to media
stations and markets across the globe is still very close to me. Every plane, helicopter, or turboprop that lands or takes off
keeps me ever so slightly on edge, wondering what is going on, beyond that horizon, and each one helps reaffirm the
safety of the city that I have now called home. To some degree this is a bubble I live in, but I am happy to say it’s been a
strong one, with enough durability to outlast the things that want to pop it, and I hope, and do believe it will stay that way.