Syria, a country I was fortunate to travel to in 2010, has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m sad about what’s going on there…worried about the people I met and their loved ones, as well as the general population. Like everyone else, I’m wondering when the hellish civil war is finally going to end.
A Special Bond with My Syrian Students
I teach ESL at a 2-year college in New Jersey, so I’ve had many Syrian students over the years (which partially explains why I traveled there). Current and former ones have been coming to my office and telling me about how their friends and families have been suffering. Many of the stories are horrific and are usually accompanied by tears.
One woman’s husband and father are in Damascus and all she wants is for them to be able to escape. Another student said there are 20 people, friends and family who lost their homes, living in her house near Aleppo. Others tell me about family members who have been killed or who have ‘disappeared.’
And I feel quite shaken up about it all. I’ve never been to a country that was peaceful and safe that destabilized months later. It’s surreal. Despite the special connection I have with my students, I can’t truly imagine how they feel. All I can do is listen, sympathize, and tell them how much I liked their country, with its kind people and incredibly rich history. And together, we discuss our hope for when the war is over–that the citizens can recover and rebuild as quickly as possible.
But they know and I know that it will take a very long time.
As you can see, there are a few reasons why Syria holds a special place in my heart. When I first started this blog, the first post I wrote was about Syria. Over the next few months (during which time the war will hopefully end)—and beyond—I’m going to share the photos I never got around to posting when I started this blog. I may also write mini stories about the people I met, too, and put it all together into a series (or just post randomly).
Keeping the Syrian Spirit Alive
While I think that living in the moment is ideal, I also believe there is positive energy in the past that one can tap into to find strength in the present and future. My plan to write about the country again, whether it’s a series or not, is a small contribution, but I hope that doing so can help keep the Syrian spirit alive in some way. At the very least, I’d like for my students to benefit by seeing some positive images of their country.
Would you be most interested in seeing photos of places, people or both? Are you interested in learning about my encounters with the everyday people and what they were like? Anything else you’re curious about?
Do you think I should make this a real series with an actual name like ‘Remembering Syria’? Or should I just keep it informal and simply post as part of other categories I already have, such as Random Travel Moments and Photo of the Day, and then link back to this post as the background/explanation?
Next part of the series: Peacetime Reflections: a Photo Journey Through the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus.