It’s been more than a year that I’ve sought sanctuary in this little place of mine. It feels a little strange being here to be honest. I’m sure if any of my once regular readers comes by to read what I have to say, they may find it somewhat familiar and yet strange as well. Everything looks the same but so many things have changed. I certainly can’t waltz in and create one of my simple musings. After so long it seems very unfitting. So what do I say to someone with whom I haven’t spoken in so long? What do I say to you? Well, what would you like to know? “Where have you been?”, you might ask, or “What have you been doing?” Well, the simple answer is…I’ve been trying to fit it. This seems to have become a life-long quest.
Those of you who read me from the beginning, back in 2008, might remember that I was filled with mixed emotions about returning back to my homeland, Syria. The most dominant emotion, however, was joy. I couldn’t wait to feel home after being away so many years. I did feel it, to some extent, but never as much as I had dreamed I would. I had been away in Canada almost as long as I had lived in Syria from birth. To my…annoyance almost…I could feel Canada more strongly although at the time, I wanted to reject it completely so I could absorb the full impact of my return home. It was as if Canada was standing in the way.
I was in my beloved Damascus for almost 2 1/2 years before the revolution began. Even with occasional trips back to Canada, I was slowly starting to adapt to life as I had known it. I was starting to feel it again. Of course, as an adult, life is always different from what you knew as a child. Every view, every sound, every scent, is coloured and shaped by experience. So you can never expect anything to be exactly the same, ever, but sometimes you just so desperately need it to be the same. You need Abu Khaled to still be selling shoes at the store down the street where your mother took you every time you needed new shoes. You need your favourite sweets shop to still sell the same ballouryieh as they did in 1980; the kind that was Baba’s favourite. You need the front door of your childhood home to creak as it did when you left the last time. But of course…this is not to be.
Now I am in Bolzano, Italy. I’ve been here for almost a year. I can’t touch it, let alone feel it. Certainly, it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The city is steeped in history and is almost entirely surrounded by mountains and has no less than three rivers flowing into it. I am very fortunate to be able to be in this beautiful place of refuge. But that’s what it is. A refuge. My heart and soul are elsewhere. They are invested in Syria, in its fight for freedom and in a certainty that eventually it will rise again from the ashes. It won’t be the same but it will be Syria. I will have to learn all over again how to feel it. But I know I can and I know I will. For now, being here, in Bolzano, has allowed me to return to my writing and a hope that each small blessing will pave the way home again.