Found this interesting fellow hitchhiking at the edge of my town, and knowing that there wouldn’t be any taxis and that it would be a long way through a poorly luminated valley to get to the highway. I decided to stop and give him a lift.
He was surprised and immensely grateful for my deed, saying that he’d been standing there for quite a while. It was natural for me to stop, considering that not long ago I too had my share of waiting on that exact same spot, and often ended up walking to the highway. To his delight, our routes turned out to be the same. He then introduced himself as Mohammad from Damascus and thanked me again. I shared with him the fact that I have many friends from Damascus in Moscow and Beirut, And that’s when he started reminiscing about the prewar good old days: he said that he’d been living in Jounieh for the past 3 years and that he loved that town as though it were his own, but his heart still lay in Damascus. He also mentioned that he had a brother in Germany, one in Turkey and a Sister in Jordan. When I asked him “why don’t you join your family in Germany?” his reply was brief but meaningful. Mohammad said, “I would like my kids to be born in a somewhat similar culture to the one in which I grew up, but at the same time I would like them to be a bit more occidental, while retaining their Oriental values, and from what I’ve seen so far, Jounieh seems like a great candidate for that.”. I was honestly surprised: while most Lebanese were leaving the country in hopes of finding a better future somewhere in the world, this guy migrated to Lebanon even though he had the chance to go to the heart of Europe. I asked if he would consider returning to Damascus, and this was his reply: “My dream is to go back to Damascus, I played in its streets as a kid, I worked in its shops as a teenager, I fell in love for the first time in Damascus, I lost a friend for the first time in Damascus.” so I naturally asked him what was keeping him from returning, and he said: “You’re asking the wrong question, you should be asking what made me leave in first place.. I had to leave, you see, my home was destroyed, what’s left of it are debris and a bunch of hanging doors. My friends died, some family members did as well. I would love to go back to Damascus, but right now I have to earn enough money to be able to build my home again.” I told him that I understood his agony, although I honestly do not, but I could feel it shivering in his voice. His timbre then switched to a happy tone once he started sharing his quotidian activities in Jounieh. He said: “I would wake up everyday at around 5 a.m., head to work and finish at around 4 p.m., then came the fun part, I would call my Syrian friends, we’d go to the seaside, install our rods and hookahs and spend whatever time we could together, talking about the past and sharing work stories, talking about Lebanese women and some other stuff, if you know what I mean, haha.” I laughed and humored him with some stories of my own.
Just before arriving at our destination, Mohammad turned to me and thanked me dearly, then he added that if I was ever in need of any furniture or wood work, I should pass by his workshop and he’d give me a handsome discount. I thanked him myself and wished him luck.
Mohammad is one of many Syrians suffering in Syria and around the world. Just 4 hours earlier, I was nagging at my brother about the situation in my country, thinking about every possible way of leaving and then I meet him… and I remember that just because I’m not in direct contact with refugees every day, it doesn’t mean that those people aren’t suffering. But what is more important is that even though they’re suffering, they’re still trying to create a good life, and happiness is most appreciated when you’ve tasted the true bitterness of sadness.
Good luck Mohammed, If I ever need any furniture I know who to turn to first.
Future posts will be accompanied by a photo of the narrator if he agrees on letting me take one.