My Last Turkish Coffee

It isn’t just coffee for me, Turkish coffee. It reminds me of a morning in my country, Syria. Five years ago, I sat in my garden under the olive tree beside the orange tree and the white rose bushes. I was listening to music from a Lebanese singer, Fayroz, whose name represents the mornings to Arab people. Today, in Chicago, I wake up each morning, sit, and have my coffee, I feel like I am still in Altaibah, the village on the outskirts of Damascus where I used to live. I take a deep breath quietly, and only then I can go on with my day. 

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Friday – June/2012. In Altaibah – the outskirts of Damascus. I was in my garden, late morning, and drank my last Turkish Coffee before I left Syria. That day was sunny, and the sound of explosions had gradually increased. My school friends and I sat in my garden, in front of the rose bush. I can remember our childhood memories. We listened to Fayroz, and we had the last cup of Turkish coffee we’d ever have together. I remember the garden where we sat, and the clothes we wore. There were the plastic chairs we sat on. I can hear the voices of our clatter. 

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May/2009, three years before we left Syria, it was a busy day like many others. I woke up at 7 to get ready to go to school. I wore that gray uniform, and I ran to catch the school bus. It was my last year of high school. When I returned home from school, my mother and our neighbor were sitting in our garden in front of the orange tree. They were drinking coffee and talking about what they wanted to cook and how their kids were doing in school. My family and I used to go to Bit-jan forest on the weekends. It was the nicest place to go because of its cool weather, fresh fruit, and the very cold water that trickled down from the mountains between the rocks. After I graduated from high school, my uncles and aunts, who lived in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, came to Syria to enjoy their summer vacation with us. They and their children crammed in our house – six families, each family with at least six to seven members. We traveled to different places each day. One day we went to a farm for a barbecue. The next day we went to Bit-jan, and after that we traveled to the beach. 

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On Jan/10/2011, I heard about the first demonstrations against Assad’s regime. My family watched the news about protests in Egypt and Tunisia a year earlier. On the broadcast, there was an old bald man who was a deportee in France. He claimed that similar events would happen soon in Syria. Two months later, people in Syria began their own protests.

 

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On June 12th 2011, I had my final exams in high school, which would determine whether and what I could study at college. If I did not pass, I would not be able to continue to attend college for at least another year, when I could retake the test. The morning of the first day of exams, my classmates and I gathered in front of a mosque and waited for the bus to take us to the exam center. As I got off the bus and began walking down the street to the exam’s center, I saw a dead body of a man in his fifties. He had bullet holes in his chest, and he was drowned in his own blood in the middle of the street. Nobody dared to touch him. I wasn’t sure what to do.  I couldn’t forget what I saw. I left him and kept going to take my exam. My whole body was shivering. I didn’t know how I survived that day. For the next several months, we heard explosions, saw dead bodies, and displaced people. We couldn’t help stopping that situation. The only thing we were able to do was opening our doors to families who lost their homes.

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Months later when we were in our garden drinking tea with a family that we were hosting while hearing the blast of shells and bombs falling on nearby villages. Then the bombs started falling on houses in Altaibah – my town. People’s screams increased. Neighbors ran out of their homes without knowing where a safe place could be for their children. In total that day, two people died and four were severely injured. All of the families, including mine, left Altaibah. My family immediately went to my aunt’s home. It was a day that I will never forget– the children’s cries, screaming mothers, and the darkness mixed with blood and death. 

A few days later we left Syria. Initially, we moved to many different countries: Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and finally we have arrived in the US. I don’t know if this is the last stop. The war is not over in Syria, and my life is no longer as it was. I’ve decided to complete my education. I have had hard times, and I have learned a lot of things from this new life. I am able to depend on myself. I won’t give up on achieving my dream even if it takes a long time. I pray every single night to return to a safe Syria, and for my family to stay in good health and to remain together. I pray one day that I’ll wear a cap and gown and graduate. 

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