I haven’t had any time to be active online but have been writing down my days every evening so will start posting them.
It’s 2am, I’ve been in Lebanon for 2-3h. Call time at 8am. im trying to fall asleep in this cold room that I found a bed in, sharing it with two strangers who were already asleep when I got here. The feelings and thoughts keep me awake. I’m excited for tomorrow, while at the same time questioning everything- why do I think my project will go through? What am I doing here? Why did I decide to come here? Why do I think I’m capable of making life better for these people?….I naively thought I know people but the truth is I don’t know anything about their culture, I don’t know what their journey has really been like etc. I’m used to having no answers and going with the flow yet now not knowing what tomorrow brings makes me uneasy. Im in a land I’ve never been before. I’m about to experience life as I’ve never known it. How has anyone ever been able to judge the life of refugees?! I’m someone who has kept herself, she thought, well informed of the situation, yet now that I have to close my eyes in order to face tomorrow to get answers, I understand how little we really know even if we spent hours everyday watching a screen for news. I also understand why so many with a comfortable and safe life haven’t cared for the war victims, haven’t shown compassion. We really have no idea until we experience it. And it’s easier for most to avoid the thought even. I’ll close my eyes now.
My first day spent in lebanon. I met bunch of strangers all around, who are not really strangers, I met the people running the center, we walked around our neighborhood which is a project area, there was roosters, sheep, wires everywhere, women carrying their babies, men fixing cars, smoking hookah. We were getting to know the center in Beirut and in Saida.
The people.. I experience love in my soul that I haven’t experienced yet. I am no longer feeling uneasy rather thinking why there’s so few of us trying to help these people, why even my own people haven’t given shit about this. I try really hard not to blame and to understand that you don’t have a clue but I do wonder how we spend 400€ or just 40€ on a bag and not think for a second.. I’m just trying to paint you a picture.
The kids I met today, they are full of so much love, their smiles make my existence worth it.
Ask them to draw a home and they draw guns that are bloody, burning houses with their families inside. I was shown a picture by a 6 year old who drew an eye that was red like blood and underneath was written in Arabic ” would you want to feel what I feel”. The way these little innocent children of the universe draw guns.. I can’t even picture one so clearly. Ohh these precious angels.. we were dancing, we were singing, they are all so happy to see their teachers, we barely understand one another by speech but I’ve never felt this love.. they are so curious, excited, they play like I grew up playing - finding sticks in mud, playing chefs with bricks, grass and pieces of glass. At one point I had about 30kids around me asking for my name, telling me theirs, teaching me numbers in Arabic, dancing with me.
I also met this Syrian lady, she is like Syrian Frida Kahlo, her art work that she paints is breathtaking and hurts my heart as I can translate her world from these. Her sisters are spread around the world, she lost her brothers in a fire, her dad is still in Aleppo. I love her personality, the way she speaks, the courage she has and how much she is working on bettering the life for the ones around her and herself. I shortly started understanding everyone I’m surrounded by have lost so much but as a team, as a family, they are helping each other day and night. Perhaps put it in your language- it’s like you’re freaking out about your boyfriend cause you don’t dare to talk to him and then you meet up with your girlfriends and as a team you analyze and analyze and analyze. Just that their problems are real and you made one up cause you lack of courage, self worth and all other problems you created in your head. Again, I try hard not to feel bitterness towards our regular problems. And I try to understand that the way a lot of you speak of these people is that you’re not well informed blabla but i hate it and you should feel shame.
Anyway, the night ended with the whole team having dinner and drinks. I have Ana here. It’s very exhausting but I love every moment of it.
Day 2. I spent half of my day with Feda, she’s this awesome woman who’s teaching arts to the youth here in Beirut so I also met some of the girls I’ll be teaching. We tried out just introducing a bit of my project to get the feel, I took two dresses with me and they L.O.V.E.D. them, tried them on, took selfies (they love selfies), gave a little fashion show, if I could I would share some images with you but it’s not allowed so you gotta wait for my final project images. The second they saw my camera, some of the girls wanted sooo many pictures to be taken of them, many wanted to try out the camera themselves, but there was also girls who even if the camera wasn’t on but lens pointed somewhat towards them didn’t like it at all and didn’t allow any photos to be taken. I am still trying to understand more of their cultures, backgrounds, upbringings. Besides the photo project I will be teaching English to the teenagers and women.. first thought when going through material was “daaaamn I gotta learn English” and got a bit scared for a moment thinking if I’m really the right person for this. I know it’s just something out of my comfort zone and once I start, once I get to know my students, I’ll know more. My classes have girls from different levels, some don’t even know how to write in Arabic not mentioning English as they can’t go to school here and have missed out a whole lot. I was also told to notice any marks that indicate violence on the girls.. they are so young, so sweet, I wish this wouldn’t be the reality but many of them are abused.
We follow some rules here for example if we hear gunshots, we have to sit them out in the hallway that has no windows. You have to understand this area is the camp built by Palestinian refugees who came here 40 years ago. The Syrian refugees got here 4 years ago. Inside the camp there is gang wars happening. Today apparently people were killed as well. It’s not on the streets but more inside the neighborhood so we basically hide just in case warning shots are shot to the air as maaaaaaybee something would fall inside from the window or sth. To understand more of the area I’m living google Shatila camp, I’m basically a few blocks from there.
The electricity here goes out everyday a few times.
The days are very long. I feel like I’ve been here for 2months instead of 2days. By the end of the day I felt like I’m already understanding stuff, the fellow volunteers are great, i don’t feel alone. We had a date night with Ana.. the food here is so so good and everything is so so cheap.
Besides my project, I will be teaching english to 4 groups of teenage girls, 2 groups of women and a few private lessons.
It’s been a good day. I love every moment I’m here.
If you want to contribute for art supplies for the kids, go to https://www.gofundme.com/anrikevolunteerlebanon
And any help, donation straight to the organization is highly appreciated http://sboverseas.org/ They are doing such a great job, everyone is working very hard day and night. They have the kindest and biggest hearts I’ve met.