Saturday, September 21, 2013

Syrian refugees: It's in the details.

"God make it easier not harder" (photo taken in Syria in 2000 by myself)

I always get asked about Syrian refugees here.... Specifically by my international friends. How they are doing, where they are, what is being done to help them and so on and so forth. Before going further, let me assure you I am not one of those "they-are-taking-our-jobs-from-us" kind of person, after all, if we allow ourselves to ship our so-called and never proven Phoenician expertise to all the countries of the world, why not accept that there are Syrians who are very good at what they do?
Syrian refugees are painted as a lump mass, monochrome and indistinguishable - not as people, individuals, and humans. They're always plural, nameless, and faceless until you stumble upon them or they stumble upon you. I live in a place where a new influx of such refugees has come - mostly because there were already Syrian workers here we actually got their families as the crisis started to escalate. Also, do note that there are very wealthy Syrians who have come here, rented luxury apartments, got their children to international schools which follow the same curriculum as those which had been offered by their counterpart in Syria.
Hence the idea that they are people, and different, and each has their own set of values and character. My trusted handyman, and God knows trusted handymen are hard to come by, is Syrian. He does a great job, is training his sons now in Lebanon bringing them to the job and showing them how do to things. He is affable, genuine, and it does help that I pay him fairly and right at the end of each job. An old microwave I had and a huge closet which did not fit any longer now that the house got remodeled have made way to his adobe along with rarely worn clothes, old carpets, and God knows what else I decided to cull from storage because these were things that accumulated throughout the years.
Do note that the lion's share of leftovers from men in the family, went to a Syrian who was painting the house. Bags upon bags of high quality wear made it to him at the end of his job. His reaction? Looking at one incredible bomber jacket I gave him was "do you have this in navy blue?"
And let me tell you this: Today, I get a knock on the door at 8 A.M. - a Syrian woman refugee wants shoes. I give her a couple of very good quality pairs I stopped wearing. Now she wants two OTHER shoes. For God's sake, I only own 6 pairs including those I gave her - and the other 4 are for everyday wear and formal occasions. Then she knocks again - now she wants clothes. Good, I give her some t-shirts and shirts in excellent condition (since I am a minimalist that would be a third of my stock).
She wants MORE......... Now I am pissed. I really want to feel for Syrian refugees but frankly it is such experiences that get one upset. Nothing is enough on a humanitarian basis but on the other hand I am not a factory!
See? It's all in the details. And now let the backlash start!
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