Monday, November 16, 2015

Welcome to America, My Syrian Friend

I don't know you yet, but welcome to America, my friend! I am glad you're here. We are an immigrant nation, and you are our newest members.

In my travels in different parts of the world, whenever I ran into people who'd visited Syria, they told me how warmly you embraced them, how good they felt while in your company, and in your country. I thought, I must visit Syria some day!

But horrible events intervened, smashing your communities, your livelihoods, your families. You were forced to become rootless, wrenched from your homes, but lucky enough to be alive.

I wish we weren't meeting under such circumstances. But I'm happy we were able to make a place for you here.

A fellow blogger, Wandering Earl, was one of the folks who shared how he loved your country. Here are a couple of his posts about Syria:

From which I borrowed the title to my post today: Welcome to Syria My Friend (2010). An excerpt:
.... from the moment I crossed the border into Syria, just about every single person I’ve met, from the hotel manager to the falafel vendors to the shop owners to the strangers I’ve passed in the street to ‘Tony’, the old man who sits in a chair on the sidewalk every night puffing away on his shisha, has welcomed me with nothing but a cheerful smile and open arms. I am simply unable to recall any other country that I’ve visited where I’ve been so instantly and warmly welcomed and I still cannot believe how many people have approached me in the streets just to literally say the words “Welcome to Syria my friend!” (I’m not sure if they learn that line in school but even those who don’t speak English know these words.)

The Most Important Word in the World (2010). An excerpt:

Finally, I had found a town in Syria that was not as ridiculously super-friendly as all the rest. I had been expecting it to happen at some point, because, after all, it would be impossible for every single city, town and village in this country to maintain such a high standard of hospitality. ... 

And so, on my third day, while I was wandering the streets of [Palmyra] in search of a local place to eat lunch, I was no longer surprised by the lack of assistance I received. At one point, I simply gave up, stood on a street corner with hands on my hips and made the decision to buy some bananas from a shop near my hotel instead.
Of course, as most travelers would learn to expect, that’s also the very same moment that I heard a voice, in English, say “Hello.”
I turned around and found a middle-aged local man standing before me with a huge smile on his face and so I naturally returned his greeting, although all I could muster was a quick, mumbled “Salaam”. He then asked me if I was lost and when I explained that I was simply looking for some good local food, he didn’t hesitate for even one second before patting me on the back and stating, “Let’s go!”.  He then led me to his minivan which was parked across the street.
The next thing I knew we were speeding through the backstreets of Palmyra. ....

Welcome to America, my Syrian friend.

Credit: Refugees Welcome Music

Other posts related to Syria here.


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