A Third Hope. The taxi filled with cigarette smoke came to an abrupt stop, as my eyes glazed outside to see the broken landscape. Quickly, I paid the driver with crooked rotted smile a hundred Syrian Pounds, over double the amount he would charge a normal resident, and got out. I made my way through the small market to the front gate of the heavily guarded school. For the next month I would be teaching English classes at the Iraqi summer School. Compared to the cozy, regular American life I was used to living, my summer teaching and living experience in Syria would be like nothing I had ever emerged myself in before.
“Do you like it in Syria?” asked Merina as she twirled her dark black hair. Merina was entering the 9th grade and was one of the exceptional English students. I smiled, not knowing what to say. Truthfully, I loved it in Syria. I had meet my cousins and family that I had not seen in years. I also treasured walking the beautiful old streets of Damascus in the cool evenings. And as I travlled around Syria the diverse landscape constantly amazed me rom the green country side to the arid deserts. It was all a new world to me. But I knew to her, Syria was something else. “Do you like it here?” I replied. “I wish I could.” she answered, and her small tears in her eyes held the reasons she could not fully speak.
I knew her story was common. Merina and her family were Iraqi refuges and had now lived in Syria for three years. Like many others, her family would not go back. She had explained that there was nothing left in Iraq, even if it was “home”. Syria was not “home“ either. It could not be, the shattered environment it offered Iraqi from the lack of jobs to segregated broken neighborhoods was devastating.
One day, Merina’s dad picked her up from school. I was completely in shock when he came up and personally thanked me. “For what?“ I asked in Arabic, “You not only teach her, but give her hope of maybe something better,” he replied. I looked down with embarrassment. I did not deserve those kinds of words. That night all I could do was think about Merina and her family. Her dad. His words. I thought about their situation in Syria. How they were stuck. Her father was not allow to hold a job, Merina and her brother could not enroll during the year in the school, her mother had no social life. They had one hope, I remembered, to relocate to a third country, where they would be able to start a real life again. Toronto, Canada, where the family had distant family was their third hope.
A few days before I would be traveling back to America, I spent the day in the old city of Bamb Toma with Merina and a few of the other girls from the middle grade class. All of us, who had been chatting about the latest Tamer Housny songs eating at out favorite ice cream store, finally stood there silent for a minute. “Well, I guess I’ll see you in Toronto!” Merina finally said half heartily. I smiled, I could only hope.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.