Day 5: Shame

A couple of us are working on setting up a library in the camp, one that would be serving adult refugees. I got very excited and straightaway told them

“Show me the place, show me the books”.

“We don’t have any Arabic books!”

A library without books are you sure this can work!? We’ve been waiting for some book donations coming from Palestine and Saudi Arabia, but that’s been taking forever because it’s part of a container not a small parcel via mail.

I thought of opening a call for individual book donation where people donate their new or used books by mail, which would take much less time because it wouldn’t go through customs. If this happens, you can send a book or two to make this library happen. I then posted a spreadsheet for residents to write down their preferred books; a wish list. I went around encouraging them to fill it with their preferences. They’re very demotivated though. They’ve been promised a lot and disappointed a lot. They’ve been through a lot, too much to still have the motive to wish for books maybe.

On another note, we don’t read. This I know. We’re people who don’t read. So I’m not expecting many people, even in their best of states to go crazy about a library project. I still want to carry on with it. If only one person loves reading and this library helps them, it’s worth it. And I’m sure when it’s open more people will carry themselves there and explore it.

Neda and Cindie were chatting with 3 Syrian ladies in sign language, when one the ladies felt a bit ill. They called me quickly to understand from her whether it’s serious or not. The lady, Om Batoul, only had neck and back ache. Neda, who’s a yoga instructor, gave the lady some massage guessing this must be stress. She then requested that I ask Om Batoul “if something has been stressing her out recently”. I laughed. I truly laughed, like it was a joke!

Me: “Are you sure you want me to ask her so!?”
Neda: do you think it’s personal to ask her so?
Me: not personal but a lot must be wrong with her and stressing her out not recently but over the last years!
Neda: it’s alright, I want her to open up

So I translate the question, and Om Batoul confirms nothing has been wrong recently, same same… but so soon the question brings about all the stories of all three ladies.

They all have lost their husbands during the war. Their husbands died. Two women came with their children only. Each of them has crossed the Mediterranean carrying her children all by herself after the tragic loss of her husband. The third started the journey, after losing her husband in Syria, with her parents and children. She lost her both parents in the sea, and one of her children too.

I almost forgot those people had beloved ones that died! I got overwhelmed discussing and working on hot water and food distribution that I forgot that many of those very people have just lost their beloved ones. I remember this quote: “one death is a tragedy. Thousand deaths is statistic”.

At this moment, Cindie was all in tears, crying so hard, you hear it loudly in the background. The three ladies telling their stories, crying. You see their tears, but you don’t hear them. I guess they learned by now how to cry in silence. Or maybe this is the 100th time they’re telling their stories. It cannot be the case that they break out in tears every time, could it be!? It was an awkward moment where even hugging would be pointless, and I couldn’t get close to hugging any of them.

I’m shamed and mad. What would hugging return to any of them. I felt even ashamed of crying in front of them. How could I be so cruel that I cry over their stories just because I heard it? What does it leave to them, when they’re the ones who’ve lived it.

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