Sunday, May 26, 2013

Late Autumn in Sydney

My good friend Chris was visiting from New Zealand.

I always enjoyed catching up with him.  It was incredible to think that we had managed to stay in touch after having first met in Aleppo all those years ago.

We caught up for breakfast at a Norwegian style cafe near King's Cross and reminisced about our days traveling and the painful realities that now faced the people of Syria.  We couldn't help but think of those people who had been so kind to us when we had been there and the torture that they must now be facing.

After breakfast, we returned to Coogee for a walk.

It was late Autumn in Sydney.  It was meant to be getting "cold".
Walking along the south of the beach, it was difficult to believe that winter was only days away.  It was an outrageously beautiful day.  The sun was shining and there were people on the beach and in the water swimming.
During these lovely days, it's difficult not to lose a bit of general life ambition.  Why work hard and why subject yourself to any hassles when you can just stare out into the water and enjoy the sun?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Tears to my eyes

Looking at the computer screen, I could feel tears slowly building up behind my eyes.

I blinked them away and recomposed myself.

I had just watched as the minaret in the central mosque of Aleppo had been demolished by a tank shell.  It had proved too effective a spot for snipers and so it had clearly been decided that it had to go.

It had only been a few years ago that I had walked around its courtyard and had one of my most eye opening experiences of my life.  Guy and I had been walking and chatting, marveling at the beauty of the place.  In one corner of the courtyard, a young Syrian man was seated but looking intently at the both of us.  His eyes clearly followed us as we walked and it was an intense stare that he was giving us.  As we walked past him, I turned, smiled and greeted him with a "salam alaikum".  He immediately pulled back, shook his head, then smiled back and responded with a "wa alaikum salam".  Any hostility that may have been interpreted in his face disappeared and we were given instead his warm welcome.  He clearly hadn't felt any hostility or anger towards us, but had merely been confused as to why a tall Australian man and a Chinese guy had been wandering around in downtown Aleppo.  I couldn't help but wonder how many instances of conflict in history had been caused by simple misunderstandings or situations where people had misinterpreted something said or done by another.

This mosque had survived for centuries.  Now it was gone.  It was the victim of the interaction between extremism, totalitarianism and global power struggles far removed from the place of quiet contemplation it had once been and that it was meant to be.

I will try and remember it as it the beautiful place it once was.