My new morning routine, which has been going on for months now, involves passing by a foreign embassy.
Every day as I pass by, I immediately say I am so going to blog about this. But time runs, life happens and I forget about it. Today, however, I am ready. I am ready to express the thoughts I get when I see the people crossing the street into the embassy. I see hope, I see light, I see dreams, I see aspirations, I see goals, I see new beginnings, I see trauma, I see hardships, I see tragedies..and I see despair.
The embassy is one of the embassies that declared its willingness to interview applicants coming from Syria and Iraq to assess their eligibility of being “refugees”. Their stories might not be as I describe them here, they might be the complete opposite. My post is my own reading of their faces and their eyes. It might be as faulty as ever, but I know that somewhere in here, there is truth..don’t ask me how and why. I just know. And as you are reading this, you will know there is, too.
Scene 1: A woman, probably in her early thirties, carrying a baby covered with a very thick blanket (it’s 3 degrees) with two little boys accompanying her. The boys are not older than 7 or 8 years, each carrying a backpack and running with joy as they cross the street. The woman’s walking pace is slower, not because of the baby she is carrying, but because of the heaviness that weighs her heart. As they enter the embassy, I imagine the boys have been told a lot about living in the West, about playing football in green fields, schools with huge playgrounds, freedom, education and bomb-free nights. The woman however knows how tough it might be. A new country, a new language, a new society, a new house, a new school, a new grocery store, a new system, a new everything. She knows that, on her own, as a single mum, she is crossing into the unknown. That moment, I wished I could stop the world for one second, go back a couple of years ago, and see the life this family had. Then I fast-forward, to the moment those boys carried their backpacks and left their home. I want to tell the officer at the embassy what this means to this family, what this interview is doing to their nervous system, what their country could offer. This family’s application might have been accepted, they might be on a plane right now. But also, it might have also been rejected. I don’t want to see those boys’ faces when they know they will not be traveling, when they know that they must go back to where they came from, to go back home, but home is no longer home. I pray for you lady, for your babies and your family, wherever you are.
Scene 2: A man, probably in his late 40s, with his wife and two, probably teenage girls. I sense this family is incomplete. There is a brother out there. But maybe his age is above the maximum age to apply with his family (21 years). I sense there is sadness in the man’s eyes. The way he looks at his wife and daughters every part of the second makes me feel his over-protectiveness. Who blames him, with the sights this man might have seen, he has every right to fear for their lives and his own. Maybe he heard of other females being abducted, raped and kidnapped for life. With sadness, comes hope. I see hope. His wife and daughters, as they enter the embassy, look at it with happiness. I think they see their future. Their freedom of leaving the house without the fear of being killed. Or what’s worse than murder, abduction. I wonder if they know that life is not as easy as they think in the West. Or if they do not mind adjusting to a new country as the place they, their parents, their grandparents, their great grandparents called home, is no longer home. I can sense they are wishing the embassy accepts their son. The son they left back home. The thing with different cultures is that the West do not understand that even if we, children of Arabs, become married adults, we are forever related to our families, especially parents. We live in the same country, if not the same city, we see them almost everyday. If we are not married, we live with our parents. Yes, this might seem weird and strange to foreigners, but to us, it’s not. It is the norm. Therefore, you see how hard it might be for this family to leave their only son behind….I pray for you kind man, I hope the sadness and worry in your eyes turn into happiness. I pray for a soon safe reunion of your family..not in countries welcoming ‘refugees’, but in your home. The peaceful home you built, the home you belong to.
Scene 3: Two elderly couple, walking on canes. The cars behind me honk. It’s rush hour I understand, but you can’t just not stop for these two humans. Their clothes, their walk, their head scarves, their canes, everything about them summarizes the whole point of this blog. They have stories to tell. Their eyes have seen so much happiness and despair..their lives have been long but filled with memories in their comfortable lands. As I see them crossing, I know they know they are not going to the unknown. They know where they are heading. Their lives have been full of experiences, witnessing the fall and rise of multiple countries..but they know that they do not understand it. They do not understand why, in the last years of their lives, they have to leave their couch, their favourite garden bench, their mosque, their church, their kitchen, the walls of the house that they built with every drop of sweat..they do not understand why they have to be away from their children and grandchildren..why they have to worry every single night about the whereabouts of their sons and daughters..why they cannot play with their baby grandchild..But as they walk on their canes, every step of the way, I see hope. Hope despite the misery they feel, hope that one day, their grandchildren will return to their land..to their house. Hope that their city will be peaceful again, that the cafe the man played chess at will survive, that the neighbours the woman drank coffee with in the morning will still be there..hope that one day, the next generation will understand the meaning of peace and diversity. Their eyes teach me a lesson..not to ever take anything for granted, to always be thankful for God’s blessings, to stand up for what I believe in, to defend my land, to continuously defeat the enemy living within us, to appreciate the blessing of a safe drive to work, and to remind myself that at any time, any day, any year, we might also cross into the unknown.
There are many many many more scenes that I can write about, but everything needs to end. For those wondering why I call the above stories “scenes” as if I am watching a movie, it is exactly because of that. It is really like a film, a horror movie, something from fiction. I always think that it must not be true that these stories are too daunting to be realistic. But I have to remind myself that there is no ending here, there is no director to shout CUT from behind..
After these people cross into the unknown and the doors of the embassy close, I can no longer see them. All I am certain of is that they will face more of the unknown: the embassies’ decisions are unknown, the progression of their lives is unknown and the future of their homelands remain unknown..till further notice.