Journal - Napló

Days 137-139, Syria

Posted on November 25, 2009 at 12:15 PM

Day 137.

   In the afternoon I said goodbye to Abuseif and set off on foot out of town. After a brief „you’re standing in a bad spot, I’ll take you to a better one” ride, at nightfall I was still at the border of Dayr az Zayr.

   At the other side of the road, there was a little station controlling the weight of lorries and vans. After a while the guy who was working there came to me and we began a conversation. To be more precise, we both said things which usually the other one didn’t understand. Somehow, my tiny Arabian-English book didn’t seem to help. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was good.


   The cold of the night had almost taken control over my body when the boy invited me for a cup of tea. The tea was followed by dinner, then we fell asleep - he slept on his bed, while I on something resembeling a mattrass. That night I woke up several times seeing the guy get up and go check the computer placed near the little window. He would hand the appropriate papers to the driver of some lorry driver and then returned to bed. However, the next morning he looked as if he had had a good night’s rest.

Day 138.


   Early in the morning his brother came to take the next shift. After having breakfast they suggested that I wait until noon for a lorry that, although through Aleppo, was heading for Turkey. I was hitch-hiking unsuccesfully until finally the lorry appeared. The driver said that he could drive me to Aleppo but that he had to stop there for three days. He’ll would continue the journey afterwards. It’s okay, I thought. Leaving the building he noticed my backpack. With an offended look on his face, he let me know that it was too big. Like one escaping, he jumped into the vehicle and drove away.

   I went on walking towards the crossing a couple of kilometres away, or at least so I was told . Soon I got picked up by a multicolored van.


   After about a one-hour ride, I was dropped off in the desert in middle of nowhere, but close to a police station. I was told not to worry as the officers were going to find a car for me. In a very good mood I communicated by gestures with the local authorities. In the meantime, they occasionally stopped a couple of cars under the name of ’control’. A half-hour later, in the company of two ’biscuit-agents’, I was heading for Hasaka, the last fairly big town before the border.

   While I was walking out of the centre of town, many youngsters as well as elderly people said hello to me nicely and invited me for a coffee or a tea. Chatting with four old gentlemen at a vegetable stand, one of them offered to give me a ride to M.


   During our conversation he made it clear and claimed proudly, that he is ’Kurdish, not Arab’, spitting as a sign of confirmation. He explained scornfully that an Arab would kick me off the car and I couldn't expect anything good from them. We glided on in the night, listening to some melancholy and moving Kurdish music.

   Reaching a little town he invited me to his house. I was directed to the spare room decorated with golden stripes. A little boy and a girl hurried to greet their dad. The father had ten children in all. His first wife passed away some years ago and he married again.


   It turned out that the border station is closed in the night so I shouldn’t set off. He suggested that I spend the night there and the next day morning he’d drive me to the border town 30 kilometers away.


   His wife and elder daughters made a plentiful dinner but didn’t eat with us. Only the joyful, fluttering little ones had some bite from the „table”. Then another gentleman showed up with whom the head of the family had worked together in a car workshop. Sitting at the wall with his pearls in his hand, he was looking at me eating, with an inscrutable face. When we were left alone, I turned to him and asked something. His face didn’t tell anything but he answered kindly.

   After dinner the Father led me to the top of the building across the inner, concreted yard. From that place you had view of the town, the flat roofs and the forest of antenna dishes. We went to see a corner, where, as it turned out, the „boxes” under the little roof were containing bees.

   The following morning I had the luck to catch a glimpse of these „urban buzzings” at work. Apart from them, it was only the eldest boy who lived on the second floor occupying a small room. Going in I felt the thick smoke giving it the impression of a gambling-den. The elder brothers and a friend of theirs were all sitting on the ground playing cards. Around them teacups and ash-trays were lying. When I sat down among them, the game got interrupted.

   The „pokerfaced guy” whom I met in the spare room, the Father and some elderly men turned up. The Father showed us card tricks, thus bringing some joy into the evening that had started with poor, often pausing communication. The eldest brother payed particular attention to me or rather to my camera, asking me to record his „beauty” from time to time. If I got it right, he was dreaming about being a European star. He wasn’t really satisfied with the pictures taken in the poor light and he said that the day following we were going to the adjacent mountain where I would take some great photos of him and one of his brothers.


   After the elderly gentlemen had left, the boys were still playing until dawn. In the meantime I was lingering in the corner, making notes in my little note-book. That night I was lodged in the upper room, „under the supervision” of the eldest son. Having had a bath he put some face-cream on his skin, and after the last cigarette the room became quiet.


Day 139.


   In the morning, I came down from the roof. I didn’t manage to get in the spare room, as it was locked and only the father had the key. But soon he appeared and so I got access to my stuff. I was invited to the inner yard where one of the ladies gave me a soap and poured water on my hands from a carafel, so that I could wash before breakfast. When I had finished drying she secretly gave me a little rolled up piece of paper and showed that I should keep (hide) it.

   While I was having breakfast with the Father, the ladies were near, bustling about. In a secret moment, forming a ring round the third finger, the Wife sent an inquisitive look to me and turned her head towards one of the elder girls. Of course, the father was there, and from that minute on, the events got faster and faster. He asked if I had finished breakfast and was ready to leave. As a response to my ’yes’ he stood up and went out to start the engine. In the door, while I was saying goodbye to the ladies, the mother indicated that I should read the letter. In the letter the girl asked me for my help to take her to Europe, i.e. to marry her.

   I was standing there, holding the little letter. The adult women of the house were gazing at me with an inquisitive, one of them rather with a requesting look. Outside the house the running engine indicated that the father would like to have me as far away as possible.


   Using both Arabian and English I stammered that I am not heading for Hungary but in the opposite direction with a long journey ahead of me, Sorry… The mother nodded, the young ladies were staring at the ground.


   The Father gave me a ride to the bus station and in spite of all my opposition, he payed my ticket to the border town. Then he said farewell and left.


   There was a couple of minutes left until the departure, and the local elderly men invited me for a cup of tea in the neighbourhood. An hour later I was at the border, queuing up for paying the departure charge.


Written & experienced by Peter, translated by Toni Galambos and published by Kenneth.

Categories: English, Syria, by Peter

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1 Comment

Reply kaska
1:02 PM on November 29, 2009 
pfff...that was a small shock probably, he?sad but true.... poor girls :(
good luck videre! xxx