• Chapter 101: An Iraqi Child’s Perspective, Part 4

    May 9, 2016
  • After a few hours of waiting inside another shelter that was about a ten-minute walk from the demolished building, we decided to resume walking. After about an hour of walking under the rain, we reached the outskirts of the city and the scene changed from buildings and streets to wide, green, and muddy fields. The speed of our footsteps was in tune with the hard rainfall. In an ironic sense, our walking was like a military march in itself. This continued until we glimpsed a few houses in the outskirts of the city. We knocked on the first door and the door opened. A woman of average height, rather overweight, with green eyes, and dark skin asked: “Hello, how may I help you?” My mother briefly told her our story. She told her that we needed any kind of shelter even temporarily and anything edible, because we were starving. At that time, we had not eaten anything for about two days. The woman burst into tears as she started telling her own story which was no less tragic than ours. She told us that her husband was lost and she, too, does not know whether he was living or dead.

    The kind woman let us into her mud-brick house. There was barely any furniture in it. On the floor there was a shabby red carpet. The bed and sheets were unmade on the floor. They looked filthy and smelt badly. There was an old fridge in one corner of the living room. The house was entirely dirty and looked like it had not been cleaned for weeks. There were four young children who looked like they had not had a shower in weeks also. They were playing on the floor unaware of what was going on around them.

    The woman swore that she had little food left: some eggs and a few pieces of flat bread. Yet, she said that she was happy to share half of what she had with us, hoping that we would find a car as soon as possible to take us to our next destination. She also smiled and said, “I can make you some tea, but there is no sugar in the house, and you will have to drink it bitter!” My mother agreed wholeheartedly because she loves tea. The three women laughed as if to let go of a big pain they were carrying in their chests. In such situations, I have learned that laughter is a gift to people, especially in the time of war. Laughter is healing and it defeats some of the horrors of war and destruction.

    The woman prepared scrambled eggs with the little bread she had for us, and made a pot of tea that was served bitter—like our days. The food was gone in a few minutes. I found it hard to eat from the pan in which she cooked the eggs because it looked like it had not been washed since its first use. Perhaps because of the shortage in water, she cooked in it several times without washing it? The kindness of that woman at the most difficult time a human being can go through—a war—is something that this entire humanity should not only recognize, but also learn how to emulate. Her kindness did not end there. She went as far as going out in the village to ask her neighbors whether they knew of anyone who could help us reach our destination to be in a safer place. Eventually, she found a man who had a pickup truck and was driving somewhere near Sulaimani. She begged him to take us with him. He did.

    “In the cherry blossom's shade
    there's no such thing
    as a stranger.”
    ― Kobayashi Issa
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