These People Amaze Me

It was another interesting day at BFI where I take my German classes. Some sadness and some joy.

During one of the exercising in class this morning, I was paired with Sarmad, who is from Iraq. We finished our exercise and I thought he looked quite sad, so I asked how he was and we chatted for a bit.

I know a little bit about Sarmad from the questions we answer in class. I know that he has 3 children, including twin boys and a little girl. I have heard their names, but I have to say I can’t remember them right now. I know that he is hoping to bring them from Syria to Innsbruck soon to live, but is having trouble getting an official stamp to finish off the process. Waiting and waiting and waiting. One more week, two more weeks. And I know that back in Iraq he was a civil engineer, but isn’t working here in Innsbruck.

Sarmad said he was thinking about his family, and that was making him sad. I asked how long since he had last seen them. I thought maybe three months. No. Two years. Two years? Can I even imagine not seeing Annie for 2 years? I try but can’t even get my head around it, it seems so impossible…and so soul-wrenchingly sad. I chat about Annie quite a bit in class, talking about her little funny things that remind me of something we are learning. Is that hard to hear about other people and their children? I hadn’t even thought about it before.

Two years. And then he went on to tell me that he had to escape from Iraq. He was tortured, (toenails pulled off and god knows what else) and then scraped together enough money to pay to escape. What do you say to this? It is so out of the realm of my safe little world I was speechless. And I still am…so since I can’t really even process this information, let’s move on.

After class Amal invited a few of us to her apartment for lunch. She lives in a tiny place (basically one room divided with curtains and a bookshelf to make a kitchen and bedroom) with her 11 year old daughter. She isn’t working right now but is able to get by with a small pension that her husband left her when he died 11 years ago (her daughter was only 3 months old and her sons were 11 and 13).

Amal is from Egypt but speaks a bit of English. At this point, though, we can definitely get by with our  pieced-together our German. She had been cooking all day yesterday, I guess, since out of her little kitchen came macaroni beshemal, stuffed duck, chicken with potatoes, flavoured rice and two kinds of dessert. Incredibly delicious. I could barely move after lunch. Except that we had to start dancing. Canan (pronouced ‘Channon’) brought her computer so we listened to some Turkish music and learned a bit more Turkish dancing, which is a combination of belly dancing and very fast foot work. Crazy but lots of fun.

Amal and Canan dancing

Amal and Canan dancing

And Fatma too!

And Fatma too!

One of the women there was Fatma, who is a real firecracker and clearly very smart. Her issue is that she lives with her husband, her overbearing and controlling mother-in-law, as well as her husband’s father and 2 sisters in an apartment with 4 rooms, a kitchen and bathroom. That is 3 bedrooms (the sisters share) and one small area for TV and living. I think she is going a little bit crazy. We were doing an exercise where we stated with whom and where we would want to go on a trip. Fatma said she would go with her Mother-in-law. To Bagdad. So that maybe her MIL would be blown up. Hmmmmm.

Everyone shows up to class every day. Does there homework. Laughs and learns and contributes. I think I’m going to make a real effort to complain less and appreciate my life more. I’m so very lucky.

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