my favorite tailor

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It always impresses me how Picasso’s “La guernica” portraits me, and almost all of my close friends who have been through the same path more or less, except we look normal from the outside, the mess is only from the inside. I recognise how fragile my balance is when I can not engage in a conversation about how difficult it is to have your mother visit you over Easter while you have too much to study… my mom can’t visit me, that nice old lady will not see the beautiful red London buses or the stunning architecture. So yeah, I have more time to study; I will not have to be her tour guide in London, I will not take her to the Thames or London Eye. She will not see my room or the garden where I read my books.

My colleague was complaining how she doesn’t have time for her mom’s visit, while all I said was “Yeah, I know it must be difficult”, I showed a fake smile of sympathy and thought to myself, is it my fault that I don’t sympathise or that I get angry at this type of problems? I know that everyone is fighting their own battle, but why should my battle be this difficult? Why can’t I worry about my food not being organic enough or not having my vacation in the best island in Greece or even spending my birthday alone! These are the kind of problems my colleagues complain about on a daily basis, while I stay silent fearing if I talk about what worries me, I will hurt their feelings or ruin their evening. It worries me not to have a place to go to after I finish my masters because my country is not accommodating and is not a “pleasant” place to live in. It worries me not to ever see my mom again. It worries me that I don’t have a place to call home, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the exile of everything and everyone I love, death worries me… life too does… I wish I can just worry about global warming, then I would go every day to protest in front of Westminster with those nice people, but I am too broken to worry about the Earth. I wish I am that sane and sweet, but I am neither. If I am given the choice, I would probably choose to complain about the amount of field work I have to do, that I have to travel 70% of my time despite being paid three times more like that guy I met today, but I know I would be grateful to get a job unlike these people who would seize every opportunity to complain. I am not like them, I am broken. I would like to believe that I am unique because I left my pieces behind and tried to stitch myself nicely. I stitch myself on my own, I am not a good tailor, but I do my best. I do my best to be nice, to sympathise, to understand, and appreciate. I am not always a good tailor, but I am my favourite tailor.

I am sure that to other people in my country, I am like my colleagues who complain about spending their birthday alone. I live in London and I share nice photos on Instagram, oh God! We are all broken, but do I want to be fixed?

No, I don’t…

How do wars end?

It has been eight years since the nightmare started. Does it mean we were living the dream before that? No, but ignorance is a bliss almost always. In eight years, I have changed five cities, seven homes, countless skins, two hair colours, and two souls. I lost the track of time and the sense of place, and I most importantly I lost the sense of belonging somewhere.

It has been more than a year I haven’t visited Damascus. The strange thing is that I was haunted by this city; I was in love with its old stones and narrow roads.  I thought I will always have it as my home despite the destruction and the tears I dropped there. I left my home in 2015 with a lingering wish in my heart “I will come back someday when the madness evaporates, and men come back to their senses”. This never happened… Not yet, and never will apparently.

Despite the glamourous new year’s celebrations in London, I decided to spend the holidays in Damascus. Although was not excited to visit Damascus again, However, I wanted to find solace with mom who is the only reason I would always want to go there. My mom is 63 years old, she has that smile that makes me feel safe and loved. She is the elastic bond that ties me to my country, wherever I go I find myself going back for her. Also because London with all its glamour and its nine million people still makes me feel like the loneliest person on Earth.

I travelled from London to Istanbul, then from Istanbul to Beirut, then Beirut to Damascus. The car in which I came from Beirut left me near a small shopping mall, and the other car that was supposed to drive me home was late. So, I went inside the shopping mall until the driver arrives. The shopping mall was full of goods that no body bought, because people there can’t afford to buy “luxurious” things, and by luxurious, I mean new clothes. Outside there was a checkpoint where two men check IDs. I don’t remember that I was this intimidated by guns like this before, rifles were “silly” and normal. Now is when I realized I became a “white Syrian” somehow. I learned at the age of 13 how to assemble and reassemble a gun and a rifle, but now I can’t even look at them.

As I was going through the highway that leads to my home (the picture), I saw the destruction, the dust, and ghosts of people who died there, or whose dreams died there just like me. Everything changed, only the sun still visits the place every day to show us the fiasco and disappointment we should feel for what happened.

The question in my head was; What will happen after the war to these places? This road will be built again, high rise office buildings will attract businesses, those same businesses that funded the war and destroyed these homes to forever displace the land owners and start a new era… the era of the war nouveaux riche.

For eight years we thought that war is ugly, but the realization of this trip was that post war will be uglier.

damascus

 

in a parallel universe

Lately, I have watched so many videos about the Syrian crisis..

Seriously that was just five years but I feel it has taken forever. I don’t remember how my life was like before war started.  I don’t remember who my friends were or how I went so easily to university.

In a 60 second film for Unicef they say

Five years is enough time to build a family

Five years is enough time to build a career

Five years is enough time to graduate from university

I wonder how my life would be like in a parallel universe where there is no war in Syria, maybe I would have been married and I would have a kid, or maybe I would have had my own design studio working in the domain I love the most. In a parallel universe I wouldn’t meet the people I know now, and I wouldn’t live where I live now.

In a parallel universe, I want to be who I am now but without the pain and loss I suffered. I want to know the people I know, but I also don’t want to lose the people I lost.

In a parallel universe I want to have this small of my own I have now, and I want to be able to cry openly  when I listen to a touching song, or when an emotional thing happen to me. I want to visit new places and meet nice people. I don’t want to waste years of my life waiting for something good to happen watching my life fall apart not able to do anything about it. I want to be a successful person.

In that parallel universe there are million possibilities for who I would be and what I would be doing. I always wanted to leave Syria even before the war, I thought I could be more free anywhere but home, and I always wanted to disappear somewhere in this world and cut all my roots, but what really happens when we have the opportunity to do that! We don’t do it, or at least I myself don’t do it.

If I can create a series of one day of my life in a parallel universe, I don’t know if I would choose to live this or not. it is hard to imagine how much you can bear until you live it.

I can’t focus on one idea related to the possibilities, because this takes me between my past and my present back and forth like the needle of a sewing machine. I feel now we are two separated people, I can’t relate to that girl.

The problem is, after five years people in my country still care who was wrong and who was right. I wish I can scream like a thunder and let them all remember it is their life they are losing. I wish I can remind them that our lives are more precious.

I was watching a great short film you must see as well, it made me think of parallel universes and me.

 

Can’t we be who we are without the pain?

I would love to answer this as yes, but that is not right.

 

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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

a post that has no title, and no meaning

I am leaving this country as soon as possible…

A thought that filled my mind for moments. I don’t remember how many seconds or minuets or maybe hours I heard this sentence swinging between my ears,  In that place where I used to have a clear brain and smart ideas while now it looks exactly like Damascus; a complex of unfitting elements and colorless buildings.8f0471c7185d925a4d9326426cc3dd04

I am leaving… somehow somewhere. I only have this will now that is not figured out. It hit me just when I was running down the street of Babtooma (the old city) praying to god despite my agnostic belief to live one more day. I heard the noise of mortars near, I held my breath and held my friend’s hand. She told me that’s normal don’t worry it always happens here. I looked around, the streets were not crowded as always and there were that girl wearing a summer hat and walking slowly like nothing is wrong and talking on her cell phone. we were about to go to the main street when a soldier ordered us to walk through another way and stay near the wall… that is when my knees became weaker … why near the wall, because it’s safer. My friend kept telling me “that’s normal, why are you afraid?” … I knew that was normal, I mean for god’s sake we are in war and you never know when things can get crazy for five minutes and then it gets normal for the rest of the day… just five minutes that don’t matter in a normal day, but it can make a lot of change in a country like mine. It’s not that we make a big deal out of our time; we are people who can live ten years without changing our breakfast meal or the road we take to work, but seriously five minutes can matter more than ten years here.

While walking near the wall I told my friend “I don’t want to die today, or any soon” she smiled, then we reached the main square, ran to a taxi and got away of this place. My friend laughed at me and said I am a rabbit.I thought to myself, seriously why was I scared! I wasn’t like this before, it was just an ordinary mortar shelling like the normal days, but I am not the same anymore.

I realized that I want to live more and experience life… real life not this one I am living. I want to know how it feels to wake up and go to work not worried about which road has less snipers or less mortars.

How it feels to walk in a city that has no check points or soldiers.

How it feels to plan your vacation.

How it feels to stay out late in the night and be able to get back home without being worried?

How it feels to sit in a park and talk to a stranger without him wanting to know about your religion or your political views?

How it feels to take a photograph anywhere any time.

How it feels to be free, to be fearless, and to be light…

How to be happy… really happy without that deep deep feeling inside that something wrong may happen in any moment.

I always said; If you can’t be happy here, you can’t be happy anywhere, but everyone who ever knew me knows that I was never a sure person, never. But for now I want to leave and also I am not sure about that, not sure how, not sure when…

if you don’t see them then they don’t exist.

295094_3636763367495_2039168322_nRaqqa, Aleppo, Idlib, Palmyra … and then maybe Qalamoon .. everytime i talk to someone or I check my facebook account i see people are freaked out because “DAESH” or ISIS is getting closer and closer. but I’m not worried. when I look there all I see is ugliness so I’d rather close my eyes… but I am not afraid maybe because I lack the imagination, I don’t imagine how I will be chopped if they arrived here, or how the texture of soil that is mixed with blood feels. I don’t imagine my self wearing burqo or forced to marry a Jihadi.
I am not afraid because I lack the vision, I don’t look at maps and see how ISIS is expanding, I don’t read strategic or logistic analyses or wait for the news broadcast that is read by handsome men with ties about the unfortunate people of Syria. I know what happens where I live after ten days or maybe a month only when I talk to a foreign friend or someone who is abroad. I am not worried because I don’t see.
I am not worried because I am not smart enough, I don’t read history books or learn from the past. I don’t know what happened in Spain civil war nor in Serbia or Poland. I am not worried because I am not old enough, I don’t remember what happened in Iraq. I don’t know what happened before the American invasion or after. I don’t know what is happening now in Yemen.
I am not afraid because I am irresponsible. I don’t think of my family or my self.
I am not afraid because I don’t have my important connections to know that only today 400 people were slaughtered in Palmyra.
I am not worried so don’t make me open my eyes, don’t make me be smart, or responsible or important.
when I was a little girl, I used to wake up at night afraid and told Mom that there are monsters and i could hear them. then Mom always said to me, habibti (my baby) if you don’t see them then they don’t exist.
I am neither worried nor afraid… when I look there all I feel is I am disgusted, I am tired, so I close my eyes…

our sky knows it all…

  • Today I am sharing a post of a brave, sincere, beautiful soul from Syria. she had to stand face to face with her past and memories in the ruins of what used to be her home and her city Al-Hasakah which is located in the far north-east corner of Syria. A city where you used to find all Syrian colors and had a mixed population with the majority being Assyrians/Syriacs and Arabs , Armenians and Kurds.

    On her way back to Damascus, she only told that sky she was fascinated by about those days and how she felt…

    I am leaving you now with her words :

    It’s been a year and about three months since I’ve been here… And I can’t believe that the first thing i did the morning I woke up in Kamishli was to fix my flight reservation to go back ASAP. Today I woke up and I had plans to go home to visit nana (nana means grandma ) .. Seba and Elias (my friends) decided to join me so I don’t travel alone! They really didn’t have to, but it was so kind and generous of them to budge in. I didn’t want to go hadn’t my mom called nana and told her I was in Kamishli. When we got the station.. People started talking to us in Kurdish assuming and expecting us to answer back in Kurdish too.. I remembered that the same thing happened to us at the airport when we landed and wanted to take a cab to Seba’s office. I didn’t know what to feel or how to react. I didn’t understand what the man was trying to tell us and he refused to answer or explain in Arabic! That happened to me last time I was there too.. It still feels weird and uncomfortable.. And it feels like you’re a stranger in your own home. Seba found her way to get tickets for us to Hasake and we hopped on the bus while trying to joke about it.. When deep inside we were all puzzled with our feelings and thoughts. I was going home. I am going home; I kept repeating for myself, in a failure attempt to calm down and not be nervous about it. I knew the city was somewhat a wreck and I’ve read the news, saw the pictures and had myself ready to what I might be seeing. I had made my own expectations and tried to make them the worst. I closed my eyes. The weather was nice, a cool breezing was playing with the three clouds up in the blue sky. It was green all around. The yellow and white flowers were still shy and were gathered next to each others getting ready to fully blossom. My shuffled music system played “you can never hold back spring” a smile then started to make its way to my lips. After a little bit less than two hours ride, on a bumpy road and with exactly 11 checkpoints, only one of them for the regime and the rest were equally divided between the PYD and the YPG. Here we were 1km away from the city entrance. My heart started beating so fast and I forgot to breath for several seconds and when I sighed at the site of the kurdish flag covering what used to be the Syrian flag I noticed that I was frowning and holding my hands so tight together and pressing them against each others. The city looked so dusty, rusty, deserted.. Like an old man.. So tired of his fucked up life waiting in vain for his delayed death.. A call of mercy.. Or maybe waiting for a tender touch of a hand.. I passed by my old school.. The streets I grew up between its walls.. Here I laughed with my friends and talked endlessly.. And there I bumped my car when I was still learning to drive.. And there.. And there.. Shhhhhh stop!! I forced my self to! Seba held my hand.. She knew what I was thinking and feeling.. Our street had been mostly damaged after the last fight between the kurds and ISIS and the national defense force!! When we got to our block.. We both stopped.. And couldn’t look at each others faces for more than a second.. A couple of the people we grew up around were still there and surviving, they welcomed us and stopped to catch up.. I felt nothing!!! I got home and at the entrance I asked seba and elias to go walk around and i was suppose to see nana. I walked into the building.. It was dark.. I though i smelled my mom’s carrots cake! She used to make that every time I came home from Aleppo. I thought I heard her steps down to welcome me. I thought I felt my dad’s touch trying to carry my bag for me. I thought I heard Sara crying for me from above “allousheee my lovely what did you get me this time!!! “. I didn’t smell any cake, I heard nothing, I felt nothing.. And I didn’t even had a bag on me! I noticed that i had forgotten to breath again.. And that with each step up my heart beat faster. Nana was waiting on her door; when I saw her I felt a little better. She hugged me and cried. After sitting down with her and after seeing my aunt I asked them if I can go up another level to my home. Mom wanted shoes from her locker. The place was so cold. White sheets all over the furniture. The decoration was so different. My hands touched the walls and I pulled them back so quickly. I went into my room and didn’t find the cushions I had set with seba. I went into all the rooms. I wanted to cry and I couldn’t. I ran my fingers on the piano and It felt like touching a hand of an old friend only that friend didn’t remember me. I reached for my phone to call my mom but without thinking I called my precious. That voice was comforting and when I hanged off I closed the door and got down to eat kabab with nana and my aunt. It was the quickest lunch of my life and then I made an excuse to leave so soon saying that seba wants my help in translating few papers for the office. I decided to walk a little before I met Seba and Elias. Walking around Hasake i felt like a stranger. I knew no body and no body

    at last ... the way back to Damascus

    at last … the way back to Damascus

    knew me. I didn’t feel safe. And for a minute there I though I was walking in the set of “The Book of Eli” or “I Am Legend”. The face of the city has grown different as if it has sold its soul to the devil. I met my friends by our moms’ friend house. We had decided to visit her and have coffee with her. I live tant Entwanet she is the sweetest, but she too was tired and different. “I am not coming back soon” is all I could think of through out our visit. When we went back to the station to go to Kamishli I learned that I had dropped my wallet with my ID in it and that I am going to have to make another trip back here to get an alternative… That trip back, was even worse than the first one! Hasake for me now is a memory of a place that once made me the person I am today. For that I will always be thankful. But it is

    nothing more than that!!