I can’t remember the last time I barely fit under a desk. Was it during the brevet exams, six years ago? Yeah, maybe. It was like trying to fit inside a tuna can except I had no circus training. Back to the story.
I sat behind two young girls. They turned and waved at me.
“أهلا و سهلا” (Welcome)
The teacher entered the class and everyone stood up.
– Good morning! How are you today?
– Good morning teacher! Very well, thank you, the girls chanted.
– You want your exams back?
Silence in the classroom.
The teacher called out the names. The girls walked over to her desk, grabbed their paper. “Good job!” “Well done!”
To be honest, I’m kind of allergic to grades. I get anxious every time I’m about to find out my test score. Fortunately though, my name wasn’t going to be called out. Because I didn’t take the exam.
Plot twist: I was at Malala’s school for Syrian refugee girls.
They proceeded to correcting their exams.
“It is her birthday. She is six years old. She looks at the birthday cake. It has white icing. There are six candles on top. Her mom and dad sing happy birthday. Her mom and dad clap their hands.”
I was in the classroom along with three AUB psychology students. I’ll explain later, in details. The teacher wanted to include us so she asked us to either read one of the questions or give an answer.
“Lama, can you please read #4?”
F. wanted to read it. She wanted to answer it too.
We shared. I read the question. She answered it (with a complete sentence) and then we walked to the white board together and both wrote down the answer. Then F. walked me back to my desk (which was right behind hers)
“شكراً” (Thank you)
“Hello! What is your name?”
There were three of them. They multiplied. Six. Ten.
Soon enough, we were sitting in circle on the big red carpet, sharing stories.
“أنا كتير كتير كتير كتير بحب سوريا. بدي تخلص الحرب لإرجع ” (I really really really really love Syria. I want the war to end so I go back home)
“أنا بدي اتعلم كاراتي و اتعلم ياباني وزور اليابان لما أكبر ” (I want to learn karate, and learn Japanese and visit Japan when I grow up)
“أنا بدي كون استاذة عربي لما أكبر ” (I want to become an Arabic teacher when I grow up)
“أنا بحب ضحك رفقاتي. بعرف كتير نكت. سمعي ” (I like to make my friends laugh. I know a lot of jokes. Listen to this one) – by the way she’s really, really funny
Time flew so fast. The bell rang.
You read about refugees in the newspapers. You watch them on TV. You think you have an idea of what’s going on. But you really don’t. You’re thinking refugee. Ok. But you forget they’re people.
The oldest girl in the group was 14 years old. They knew they had a lot to live and they had dreams and plans. They weren’t sure if they were going to come true but they hoped they would. I can’t imagine what they went through. They saw blood, heard cascades of bullets, walked until their feet went numb. Some of them lost family members or their home, or both. You might even go ahead and say that they lost everything they had. And yet, they knew it wasn’t over for them.
If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.
During their psycho-social session, they brainstormed Peace.
They said: self-defense, safety, shelter.
Then someone said: love.
So they said: friendship, loyalty, hope, family
They all drew homes, schools, green trees and happy butterflies, suns with smiley faces. They drew their brothers, their sisters, their mothers, their fathers, the whole family. One of them drew a big umbrella under a rainy sky – it kept her house from getting wet. Another drew herself and her sister, holding hands, with hearts all around them.
Think about it. Refugees or not, don’t we all want the same things?
Sorry, let me rephrase that.
Humans, don’t we all want the same things?