The Middle East is one of those places that has a bit of a stigma. If you haven't been there, you've probably only ever heard not great things about it. I'm here to shout from the roof tops that it is an awesome place, filled with some of the nicest, most generous, gorgeous people you will ever meet in your life. Not everyone is good, not everyone is bad, some are cheeky, some try it on, some are hilarious and some are downright dodgy. Its people. Its life. I haven't been back to the Middle East since 2011, work and life commitments haven't allowed it - but I miss it. When I am there I realise how little I need to live and be happy. I meet wonderful people who don't have much offer to give you the little they have. I always come home with an renewed appreciation of just "rich" I am and how little I need. It is my touch stone for reality. So when I hear people say negative things about Syrian asylum seekers and refugees, I find it really upsetting. I have no doubt these people would rush to feed, clothe and shelter you if the roles were reversed.
Unfortunately, there is only so much I can do all the way over here in Australia. I can donate money to great causes (Salaam Cultural Museum provide first response on-ground support for Syrian refugees in Jordan) and I can tell as many people as I possibly can my stories of Syria. The lovely, but sadly very human side to this disaster; stories of cheeky boys and taxi drivers, the little girls and boys calling out "Marhaba" (hello) and then giggling behind their hands when you respond, the guys roasting nuts who calls out "ahlen wa sahlen" (Welcome). The eye doctor in Damascus who re-opened up his clinic at 9pm after having already gone home so Mum would have new glasses ready for our departure the next day..... ah. so many stories!!
The other thing I can do, is show them my photos of how Syria was, the craziness of the big cities, the normality of the day to day. So, so, so many photos! My plan was always to publish a book of photographs from Syria, its one of the reasons I took so many in 2011. So many people have said to me over the years "wow you take an awful lot of photos!"....but looking back on my catalogue of photos from 2011 - I am so happy I took as many as I did and I wish I could go back and take a heap more. Mainly of those amazing people.
I know this is a bit of a sombre post - and it is likely that no one is even reading this (please comment if you are - I'd love to know your thoughts ), but as someone who has spent some time over "there" (and I have so many friends who have spent even longer in Syria and surely have even more stories!!) I just wanted to share my thoughts and to share a little of the Syria that was before all we remember is the Syria of today.
Thanks for stopping by to read my thoughts!