Written by :
Shahed Hmmal

I once read that “everything in life happens for a reason, and life is the most important school that a person can learn from, but it never gives its lessons for free, there is always a price must be paid sooner or later.

I was twelve years old then, I did not understand the meaning of this saying because I was young, but today I totally understand it.

In high school about ten years ago, life seemed easy to me, and I had made plans, which university should I go to, what would I study, where would I live, and what would I do at the end of this phase, I was so naive that I thought everything we wanted will come true.

There is no doubt that being separated from my family, friends and my city was one of the most difficult things I had to experience, since I have not been separated from them for more than a week in my life, so how could I live many years away from them and in another city that I do not know? 

Especially since the war made matters worse, because the terrestrial and cellular communications network stops working frequently, leaving the city completely out of coverage area, and there was no internet either.

High school results were declared a few days ago, I achieved an advanced place at the governate, it was pure happiness, it was the beginning of achieving my first dream, studying at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Aleppo, unfortunately, Aleppo was going through one of the most difficult stages in its history, and living in it is impossible, I had to change the plan and travel to Latakia instead, living there was more stable and quite compared to other cities.

My first attempt to travel was unsuccessful, because the conflicts reached their climax on the international road that connects Al-Hasakah governorate with other governorates, because the refuges were too many and crossing was not possible, so we went back.

After years, transport companies found alternative routes to travel, in an attempt to escape from dangerous places.

Today, after several years, I still remember my first day in Lattakia, the feeling of loneliness and fear from the first moment, how come not, and I am the one who is used to meet friends and relatives on daily basis, I was attached to my grandfather’s house, which was the place of our gatherings and activities, and witnessed all our joys and sorrows.

One-store house, with two fronts and back yards, the back yard is planted with olives, pistachios and oranges, while the front yard overlooks the street directly.

My grandmother, may God have mercy on her, used to clean the front yard every afternoon preparing for visitors and family, after cleaning, she would enter the kitchen and start preparing the Assyrian tea and the “Dishlama” it is a kind of sweets that she used to make herself every week, and so the days goes by… 

I packed my bags and my guitar for my trip, and listened to my family and friends’ advices: ” Shahad, Latakia is a city full of troubles”, “you watch out for yourself and do not go with strangers”, ” how lucky you are, to swim at the sea whenever you want”, ” I heard that there was a crime there”, and many other instructions and stories I had to listen for them.

When I arrived at Latakia, the sea was the first thing I expected to see, I wandered around the nearby neighborhoods looking for it, but I did not find anything, I asked my neighbor: Where is the sea? I was expecting to see it when I arrive, she answered me: “dear, we live in a neighborhood far from the sea, also, the beach for swimming is far from the city, and this was my first shock, I need a fifteen-minute transportation to get to the sea, and in case I wanted to swim, the distance is much further.

The hardest thing was to integrate with Latakia’s society and its residents, I carried with me the customs of Al-Hasakah and the conservative nature of its girls, it was not easy to understand the lifestyle in this city that is full of young people who is living their lives in a noisy strange way to me, yes, everything seemed odd to me, their dress, their speeches, and their parties, I forbade myself from joining any group of friends lest I make a mistake or misbehavior and blame myself for it, this made me stay in my room for long times, but this problem was solved with days passing by, I began to adapt and get to know the city and its neighborhoods, and I started getting used to it and its people, I made many friends and colleagues from the city and its countryside, as well as from the rest of the provinces, they were more courageous than me in introducing themselves, their origins, and their religious backgrounds, the diversity in Latakia of religions and sects, in addition, the number of students studying at the university from all governorates was numerous and amazed me, when I could understand and love them, all these people entered my heart so quickly and easily, my loneliness vanished, I became more understanding for different temperaments and new lifestyles, this diversity later had the greatest credit for building and enriching the personality that I have today, every human I knew carried with him the ideas, customs and traditions of the environment which he came from, and so did I.

The differences that I experienced as a girl coming from Al-Jazira Region, an environment completely different from the coastal environment, it was a motive for me to be the link between these two environments, over the past years, I tried to deliver the right messages and information of the two cities and to build bridges of communication between them.

Life has shown me a different path than I had planned, it was difficult and challenging at times, easy and simple at other times, and this is the true meaning of life.  

My loneliness is over.

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Shahed Hmmal