A voice of a voiceless

An internal monologue for a refugee, a simple woman who faces discrimination, hatred, and cruelty of humans everywhere…

In this part of this city, in these 200 m2 specifically, you stand in a miniature of Syria. You move around and you can easily hear Syria in different ways and accents, smell it from the carriages of street hawkers selling beans or Sahlep, even taste it; taste the poor part of it… even the dust in the street tries to resemble that in the streets of old destroyed cities.

Wherever you look you will see women in black, Brown, or whatever dark colors they find. Yes this is who we are; we are scared of colors, we feel exposed, Black helps us disguise and keeps us as invisible as we have always been.

It is very noisy in here but I can get myself out of this noise whenever I want. I learnt this technique when I was a child; every time my father would shout or beat my mom I would sit in the corner and sing in my head a song I used to hear from those children who went to school. The song says “those chicks! How cute they are! They are turning around their mom” so that I don’t hear my mom cry, and in times like this I do the same thing but with different songs, I don’t hear any of these women complaining about waiting for several days or since the early morning, I can only hear the song in my head and think of my own problems. I have enough of them!

I hear other women saying that you have to know how to write your name in order to get your assistance. I wish my father (RIP) hears this, he always thought he was protecting us by not sending us to school. He thought I will be more useful in my husband’s house; if only he sees the look on people’s faces when I say I am forty and I don’t know how to write my name! They look at me as if I was a savage coming from some forest. I don’t have the urge to change that look they have. I can’t read or write, I wasn’t sent to school, it is not my fault but then it is my father’s my village’s my people’s fault. What change does this make! In their mind it is either I am a savage or my people are! I don’t care as long as I will find a way to convince them that whatever I write is my name, I would cry, I would beg, I would even act dead, I will not go back home empty handed.

Oh look at my toes, they look funny. I had to take off my socks because we didn’t expect it to rain while waiting. They were wet, they made me cold. I put this nail polish four weeks ago when Ahmad (my little son) slept for thirty minutes during the day. I thought of impressing my husband but he didn’t even notice. Every day when he gets back from his work in construction I feel that another part of him is dying. I hope that seeing his five children growing up creates a strong motivation for him to go on… I can’t help the idea of being alone, I was never allowed to depend on myself, it is even weird that this assistance was sent under my name! I don’t understand why they would give it to the woman while there is a man in the house… they are usually in charge of everything outside the house.

Again I wish my father was alive to see where we are now and see how different life would be if I was sent to school or learnt to do anything to make a living. Will I repeat the same mistake with my daughters? I will try not to!! Probably to a level…  For different reasons; because we are refugees, because we are poor because I can’t afford food on the table. Maybe it is our destiny to be the invisible.

The security guards are annoyed of this number of people; maybe five hundred people are waiting. They count us and give us numbers, perhaps they don’t know that each one of has a story, a life, maybe a love, and a home that were left behind … this is not something we have chosen…

Enough! I have a headache… I need to stop thinking and go back to the song in my head… to the silence there… to being someone in the crowd, someone insignificant, meanwhile I will only imagine the smile on my children’s faces when I come home full handed, this will keep my knees stronger, to stand for the next eight hours.

refugees

 

 

A little man

Is the world a good place to stay in?

I’d say Yes without hesitation, I don’t know how it works but I try to see the potentials in every situation I see. I don’t know why I was born in an educated family which believes in women rights and why other people were not. I do not understand its logic but it is our job to spread the word and change the world somehow.

Today I was with a friend in a business trip in a remote city, where there are few Syrian refugees. We were having tea after a long day in a café when he saw a boy he knew when he worked in a camp. The boy rushed to him and hugged him, he was very happy to see him. “Why don’t you come anymore!” he said “I missed you very much”. He was speaking in a very fluent Turkish with the local accent, if you hear him you would think he came from a village nearby. We invited the boy to our table to have tea with us, he was glad to join.

His name is Raafat, and he is 13. He looks like a little man and he acts like a little man as well. He was proud to tell me that he helped my friend in being his Arabic Turkish translator in the camp. He learned Turkish on his own God knows how! the waiter came and gave him a glass of tea, he added one small spoon of sugar, and explained to me that sugar is not good for health so he is trying to reduce his consumption

He told me he has two sisters who are older than he is and one brother who is taller than he is but he does not know who is older. And he is working in a car wash place to be “independent”, he earns 8$ a day which is “great”.

“And what about your school?” I asked

“I don’t want to go anymore; they beat me at school because I don’t know how to read. The teacher once shouted at me and hit me so I stood and looked in his eyes and said: no body shouts at me! Not even my father! Then I left school. I actually lied to him because my dad also beats me, like every day! Sometimes I don’t understand why, so I decided to get off his face and leave the camp so I can work and support my mom and sisters. At least now I am a king!”

“Why don’t you wash your car it is dirty?” he asked

“We don’t have enough money,” I said smiling

“I will wash it for you for free,” he offered with a very proud look. I smiled

He is a boy who loves to talk in a very hyperactive way.

“And what do you do with the money you earn?” my friend asked.

“I am trying to collect a lot of money, maybe 3000 liras (1000$) so I can get married!”

“OH REALLY!” we were both surprised and we laughed at his dream, he is just a child and he is not supposed to be thinking of this now!

“I will marry a girl I know but she is older than me, this will take me maybe two or three years or who knows how long to collect enough money. I was in love with a girl at my school but I was not able to offer her a house so we get married, someone else was. They married her off to that man, but men marry and divorce too many times, some of them even marry two or three women at the same time, but I believe that man should marry only one woman” Raafat said.

I was speechless with the issues this boy is discussing! It showed on my face.

“Aren’t you too young to talk about marriage?” I asked him.

He was too proud to admit that, so he gave me that funny big fat lie “I was older in Syria, but here I am young” I didn’t understand what is this supposed to mean.

Some boys are meant to be men too early. He was speaking openly like these are normal things in life and then suddenly smiled and said like a wise old man “hayat cok zor ya” which means “life is too hard”

The three of us burst laughing! Ironic.

I go back to my first question; is the world a good place to stay in?

I would still say yes it is.

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Raafat

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First thing you get to learn through crisis is to let go To let go of your memories … you start to forget your old friends, the faces of your neighbors, the phone number of your first love, the promises you have made for them…
If you are lucky enough you then let go of the memory of your pain. You look back and just see vague images in your mind… like a gathering you and your friends have had in a cheap restaurant back in the days when you were all students. An image of the person you were. But with no pain.
To let go of your friends, of your beloved ones. To let go of your lovely things, of your properties.
To let go is a virtue, that can make one understand the abstract meaning of being one. We most of the times have a misunderstanding with our own selves about the meaning of being.. are we the things we have ? are we our pain? Are we our memories? Our hope ? our love? Our friends ? or are we the things we created ? I have no clue actually what am I and it always thrills me in any job interview that question “please, tell us about yourself” Letting go of everything may get you closer to who you really are. But I know one thing , that through this journey, Never let go of your dreams, and your smile.
In this occasion, I am letting go of these 2 paintings that really mean a lot to me and that I always refused to sell. I always thought that these paintings are me, the image of the inner me. Now I am letting go of that old me. I think I am free now. I am unattached. If anyone is interested contact me on my Email: btoolzalkha@gmail.com
name of the painting: me and my city

   name of the painting: me and my city

oil on canvas

oil on canvas

hope is:

I was hesitated about posting any article in the last few weeks. 

there’s a lot to speak about but I’m to shy to write! should I speak about the thirst of Aleppo? 

how could I speak up about people’s pain after having my hot shower! would I really feel it and speak from the heart with a glass of juice and a laptop on my desk! that’s not enough. if I have to speak about thirst when I’m and doing nothing but speaking, then I’d better shut up. 

could I speak about the hunger of Yarmouk camp and throw away the old food next moment? how could I! 

could I speak about Homs ! the damaged city ? could I speak about my friend’s pain when she got back home in Homs and all was found were few walls and nothing else… 

I still have my home, my memories and my room … she doesn’t have any of them now … 

yes, Basically I can write.. but it’s not fair to write about hunger with a full stomach, or to write about homelessness from your bed! 

I just want to write about hope! even when I don’t have it! I will still write about it and it’s fair like that… 

today, the collage I graduated from, started an event to use bicycles in the city and called it the green road… ps: (people in my city are not used to ride bikes)

You all know Syria as the main war zone in the headlines now,  but that doesn’t mean we’re sitting here and thinking of our funeral next week. we’re trying to overcome our obstacles on a small scale. we can’t control gas and oil prices but we can use bicycles. 

hope is not sitting on your couch and dreaming only.. it’s getting up and doing something. no matter how small or big this thing is if you just get up and start DOING. 

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the green road even – Damascus University – architecture department

it’s your first last moment … or your last first moment… live it!

This evening I wanted to write

I typed and typed

Nothing sounds as painful as the truth

I delete and delete

My friend who lost a beloved friend of her last week came to visit me today

she told me that the most painful thing in losing someone so close that we don’t usually think of their existence in our life, it’s for granted that it feels so natural and normal so we leave many words unsaid and many feelings unrevealed. And suddenly we find out that we wasted many moments not appreciating the friendship or the love we have, and then every second sounds like a wasted treasure…

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chasing pavements – photo by me

how come we don’t appreciate having a family every second! How come you can let your mom die without letting her know how much you love her.

Why do I have to survive a mortar shell to realize that I love life and I love my family and don’t want to die as I claim when I feel so unhappy!

How come we can wait until it’s too late to tell that close friend that we love them!

How can we feel angry because that old uncle came to visit in the “wrong time”! when all he wanted was to give and receive some love!

How can we not feel grateful for that ceiling over our head before it’s too late! Why does it have to become a ruin to know how much it meant to us!

How can we be so busy to notice the beauty around us even in the worst places!

Dear friends; every moment could be our last moment so please… take it from a fool who lived those war times in Syria;

Don’t waste time

Don’t keep the love words unsaid

Appreciate every person you have in your life

Appreciate your healthy organs 🙂 and your unhealthy organs as well

Be grateful for every relationship you have in your life

Every moment with friends , lovers, and family is a treasure, and it might never come back again… be grateful you had it

I can’t concentrate my thoughts or my writings, and what I wrote might sound horrible and detached but I appreciate that my voice is heard, I appreciate I can express and I’m grateful for the lessons I’m having from life so I’m writing them anyway.. maybe later when I’m more focused I can read these pieces back and write them in a better way, or maybe they must stay like this…

 

 

a year, a tear and a smile …

Two days ago, I typed the word “Levant woman” in google search engine, my blog was the first search result. I clicked on it and noticed an orange cup, it was the first time I get such a notification. I clicked on it and waited for it to tell me what is this cup standing for, the internet doesn’t always help me here. then this sentence appeared “Happy anniversary with wordpress.com!” ….

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yes, It’s been a year since I first tried to speak up my thoughts. That sentence made me smile and go back in time. It sounded a long long time to me, and that depressed sad lady who lost her way seems to have foggy lineaments that makes it hard for me to recognize she was “me” but the truth is, she’s really me, though my hair is longer than hers and my eyes are colder with less tears waiting on my hem. but we’re the same.

a year is a long long time…

In this long time I learnt that time doesn’t heal as we’ve been told.

I learnt that we don’t over come the pain in time unless we decide to.

I learnt that in time, we become the character we choose to play in life theater. if we choose to be the victim, we become what we choose. if we choose to be the hero, here we are , the heroes. it’s all about your attitude.

finally, I learnt that I’m the queen of the universe 🙂 and that was the most precious thing I discovered this year.