This is a post about friendship. I need to process the things we have seen today, and think about the people we have met before I fall asleep and of all the stories we have heard today the overwhelming thread to is all is friendship.
Two different families hosted us today, in an area in the north of Jordan called Ajloun. It’s on the tourist route as Ajloun castle is a “must see”. Except for us. If there had been time we might have visited this afternoon but with all these sorts of visits there is no schedule and you can’t say you will only be there for an hour.
Our second family this afternoon consisted of mum, Kawthar, her five children, and her dad, Fares, who lived just down the street. It was actually to his house that we went first and he then took us to meet Kawthar. To be honest we weren’t really sure who anybody was to start with, but the welcome was warm and enthusastic. Another lady, Sharifa, was there and we assumed she and Kawthar were sisters as they whispered and giggled to each other. Sharifa’s face was veiled but you could see her smile in her eyes as she shook our hands and as I mumbled my “Sala ma lakum” she looked surprised I knew the Arabic greeting and immediately replied with “alaikum salaam” . Kawthar was not veiled and I was slightly puzzled why one sister might be and one wasn’t.
The introductions soon made it clear that the ladies were in fact friends. Both Syrians, both from the Daraa region but they had met in Jordan and had formed a firm friendship. They meet most days and whilst they don’t generally eat together they might share food if they have something extra.
As the afternoon wore on more people arrived, another gentleman, Ibrahim, a similar age to Fares, and two other ladies, also both veiled.
Ibrahim and Fares we found out were old friends. From back in Daraa. They had grown up together in fact and had arrived in Jordan on the same day. They had played in the streets together and at 70 and 75 were the best of friends. All of their talking was directly to Elias our translator and local expert and much of it was not translated in full to us. Elias would occasionally lean over and share the gist of what the guys were discussing. Stories of the old days. Of friends and relatives sadly no longer around. Occasionally leaning over and playing with the children, or sharing his bag of crisps with one of them.
We wondered where Kawthar’s husband, Suleiman, might be and she shared with us that he has cancer. Treatment is too expensive in Jordan so he has gone to Turkey and hopes to make it to Germany where the treatment would be free. They arrived as a family from Syria and spent 40 days in the Zataari camp before leaving because the children were getting sick before arriving into Ajloun and this flat. That was three years ago. And they have been here ever since.
It was two months ago that Suleiman left and understandably Kawther is worried that she won’t see him again. It is all the children want, to see their father. When we asked them what they like to do or what they want to do in the future their only response is to see him. They can think of nothing else.
As we took photos of them whilst they talked, Tasmeen, 7 did the same with her mum’s phone, maybe to share with her dad one day.
It’s Whatsapp that keeps them in touch. Most days they get to exchange messages with him using the same app that I am using to keep in touch with Mr B and my teens.
It is funny how there are connections, these crossovers. Having shared hot sweet coffee we started to make our way out and whilst taking lots of photos I noticed that Salam aged 11 (who just loved having his photo taken) had a hoodie on that said “Rowing / River Thames”. I asked Elias if he could explain to Salam that my son went to a school on the River Thames and also rowed. Ibrahim and Fares thought this was hysterical and it suddenly felt as though we had known them forever.
This family that had welcomed us to our home, made us comfortable by getting cushions from another room, ensured we had coffee and insisted we come back for lunch next time and had expected nothing in return. They had fled their homes and their livelihoods with nothing, and yet once again the hand of friendship was being extended to us, their limited coffee and sugar supplies shared.
It brings things into perspective and reinforces how important friendship really is. That with friends life can be just a little bit easier.