My Life Outside Syria: Diary Entry 72 – by Marah
Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria’s besieged cities, recently arrived in Switzerland as a refugee, where she is struggling with her first pregnancy and the potential breakup of her family.
THE ARRIVAL OF the holy month of Ramadan renews many pains and reopens many wounds. This month used to be one filled with religious and popular traditions practiced in homes, markets and mosques. The month of Ramadan was a time of love, family bonding and gatherings. Our house used to be the place where the extended family would gather. My mother and my grandmother used to prepare a variety of delicious food. Our dining table used to look like a colorful painting.
What I miss most is the tradition of exchanging special dishes with neighbors. My siblings and I used to take samples of what we had cooked to our neighbors and bring back whatever they had cooked. We loved this tradition. It felt like we were carrying presents to our neighbors. Oh, we were very innocent!
I have many good memories of this holy month. I used to go with my grandfather to the Umayyad mosque in Damascus for Friday prayers. After prayers we would walk around the historical market of al-Hamidiyya, and buy special Ramadan sweets, like date and grape syrup bread. We would also buy delicious Ramadan drinks like licorice and tamarind juice.
Our life before the crisis was simple and wonderful. This is why, even though I am far away from my home country, I cannot forget those days. I miss them like a little child misses her mother. I truly hope that one day I will be able to see my relatives, who are now scattered across many countries.
I sometimes voice this longing to my husband, Karam, hoping that we might break the fast with his parents. I wonder if being around his family might help – but how on earth would that fill the gap of my own family?
I do not know why I am so devastated. Is it because of how far away I am from my home country? Is it because I miss my mother and my father? Is it because I cannot fulfill my religious duty and fast this year? My doctor prohibited me from fasting because of the pregnancy and told to me to take good care of my baby and myself, as I have not gained enough weight during my pregnancy.
Being pregnant does make me feel tired. My daily classes, as well as the commute, make things even more difficult for me. I have not mentioned this to Karam, because I worry that he might ask me to take precious days off, even though I am in a hurry to learn this language. I know the baby will occupy my time, so I want to learn as much as I can and as fast as I can, before the baby arrives. I also really love going to school. It is the place where I see my friends and where we can talk, laugh and enjoy our time.
Despite our different languages and nationalities, we have been able to get to know each other, and each other’s traditions. Sometimes we talk about our studies, and other times we talk about Switzerland and Swiss people. Most of my conversations with my friends are in English, since my German is not yet good enough. But sometimes, we switch to German so we can practice. The sentences we form are grammatically embarrassing, but it does not matter, because we are learning and it is normal that we make many mistakes. My biggest issue with German is that I often need time to remember the meanings of words, and I ask people to repeat what they say many times. My teacher told me that this is completely normal for beginner students.
My teacher is another reason why I love my school. He believes that I am too young to be married and to have a child, so he keeps checking on me and provides me with all the resources I need. He is a great teacher and friend.
To be honest with you, my teacher’s care and support makes my husband jealous, and I love that. I sometimes even try to escalate his jealousy by tossing out some ambiguous, joking comments. As an Arab man, Karam is very easy to make jealous – he is hardwired to be protective of his wife, his sister or any female relative. Karam’s jealousy does not bother me, because it does not prevent me from doing what I want, and it does not cause any troubles between us.
Despite being old-school sometimes, Karam is the one who keeps me balanced in this new place. I still cannot believe that I live here, and sometimes I wonder how I ended up here; how one decision can change a person’s entire life.
I never thought of leaving Syria, or of getting married, but destiny leads us in directions we never imagined taking. Finally, even though I am far away, I never stop thinking of my people in Syria, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. I keep thinking of all of the families who fast, but cannot afford to buy enough food to break their fast. I pray for them, and I pray that one day I will be able to help them.
Marah (a pen name) is a teenage girl who lived in one of Syria’s besieged neighborhoods before fleeing the country in 2016. She now lives in Switzerland.