Kirkuk, Iraq Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Kirkuk, Iraq

Kirkuk, Iraq 03/23/07

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Better then the two years that I spent in Moscow.

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2. How long have you lived here?

8 months.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

State Department employee.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

14 hours from DC to Kuwait City. And God knows how long from there, as you are at the mercy of the military C-130's at that point.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Two minute commute from my upstairs bedroom to my downstairs office. We live in a building versus a trailer like in Baghdad.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Food is free. All you can eat. Yum Yum.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell at the military base. And KBR finest at the REO.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Free to me and there everyday.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are none.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None. Unless you're on the KRAB airbase.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Satellite TV available along with AFN. Stars and Stripes over at the KRAB.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. The locals that we employ speak some English.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot of difficulty. I have not noticed any wheelchair ramps as we've sped around the city.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Both sides of the road as needed.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We usually run taxis off the road so I don't think they're that safe.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Fully Armored Suburban.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Free and unlimited.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You don't need one. You can shout down the hall to whomever you need to talk too.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

VOIP phone at my desk or in my room.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Stray animals are killed as they may carry rabies. So pet care is poor for the pet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

None that I would try.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual, very casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Burning oil wells at times. Pretty good the rest of the time.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Actually pretty quiet, as we live in a Christian neighborhood, but the rest of the city is a different story.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Getting blownup while driving around town is my only health concern.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot all summer like in HELL, wet and chilly in the winter, much like the southeast during the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

One is in the planning stages for 2012 or so.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Many of our Security PSD's could be special needs kids. Just kidding they are great guys.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Needed for most employees here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Can't say. I'd have to kill you if I did.

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2. Morale among expats:

Great. We are all gettin rich.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

TV, Internet, pirated DVDs and websites to download from.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles yes. Couples and kids NO.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, they kill each other. Actually it's more of a mafia/gang issue in Kirkuk versus Shia/Sunni.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Work, read, workout, internet, work some more, go to sleep.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing. As we don't have the chance to browse the stores when driving by them at 60 miles an hour.

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9. Can you save money?

YES. I only spend money when I get a chance to escape to the airbase for a cappucino and pizza.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Heck Yeah.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Everything.

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3. But don't forget your:

Helmet and vest.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Shock and Awe, March 2003, Any news outlet.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This place sure beats Basra.

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