24 years old
I like being in Greece. I like the climate, the sun and the people. Before coming here, I lived for some time in Turkey and I wasn’t able to adapt so well as here. In Greece, people are open and warm, like in Syria. Moreover, Athens is vibrant until late at night. Whenever you go out, you will meet people and that makes me feel beautiful. I’m not a morning type; I like to wake up late, to start my day late and go to bed late. That’s why sometimes I go walking in the evening. If I had a bicycle here, as I had in Syria, I would take long rides to see more places in the city.
I like walking around Athens. The neighbourhood around the building where I live reminds me of Damascus: the square, the cafés, the green spaces, the old buildings. Turkey gave me the impression that it is evolving very quickly and thus losing its traditional colour, while in Greece this colour is still maintained. I also like the area around Monastiraki. I visit it quite often. I like the archaeological sites there. I have found a little café where I go often because it plays music which sounds traditional and is pretty much like what we listen to in Syria. That’s why I’ve come to love Greece. I don’t feel like a stranger. The air, the faces, the people, everything seems very familiar to me. Others want to leave and go to another country where it is easier to find a job. I want to stay here.
Although I prefer to be out, I have decorated my room in such a way that I feel comfortable and I enjoy spending time there, too. During the last month-and-a-half I have been living on my own, without a roommate, which is better. I’ve set up a small office in a little corner, where I often watch movies on my cell phone, especially at night before going to sleep. It is very good that there is Wi-Fi in the building, so I can watch movies, listen to music, and also communicate with other people.
In my room I have somehow ‘transferred’ the profession I had back home. In Syria I was working on computers and repairing mobile phones. So here, too, the other building residents have got to know me, and when they have a problem with their mobile, they ask me to fix it for them. I have applied for a job at several shops repairing cell phones because the truth is that I’d rather have a normal job. But, although I still haven’t received any positive feedback, I think that this, too, will happen soon.
I was glad to have the opportunity to participate in the Museum1 programme and the meetings we had there. In the beginning, when I was informed about the programme, I thought that we would go to a museum to see ancient artefacts. I liked the idea because, as I said before, I like the ancient past, history and tradition. But at the Museum2, we saw contemporary art. For me, it was something completely new, and I was happy to have the chance to see and learn new things. From the works I saw, my favourite one was created by a Greek artist, Alexandros Georgiou3, which is connected in some way to ancient Greece; it depicts the Parthenon. When I saw it, I thought of a Greek song, which always touches me. I barely understand the lyrics, but the melody is traditional, as if coming from the old times, which I really like. I was told that it is traditional from Crete, and I recognize that there are many common musical instruments between this song and the traditional music of Syria. I’ve heard so many things about Crete, its music and generally the tradition of the island and I’d like some day to go there and get to know the place and its people.
The song which Georgiou’s work brought to mind, performed by Nikos Xilouris, is the following:
Have you learned, dear Aretousa, of my mournful fate?
Your Lord has exiled me to tread the earth of a foreign land.
He gave me but four days before I must depart
And make my way to a far and distant land.
But how can I bid farewell and from your side absent myself?
How can I live without you, how shall I endure this exile? […]
My dear Lady, I ask you grant me but one favor
And given this, glad at heart I will meet my end.
The hour you are betrothed, breathe a deep and heavy sigh
And when you don your bridal garments and another man’s wife become,
Utter this tearful cry:
“Poor Erotocritos, what I have pledged to you is now forgotten,
And what you hoped for shall never be.”
And in your chambers once each month
Remember what I endured for you and the pain my heart now feels.
And take out the sketch inside your chest,
And the songs I sang for you that you so loved.
And gaze upon them, and read them and remember me
And think upon my banishment in that far and distant land. […]
I would also like to learn how to play music. I feel I express myself more easily through music than with words. But I don’t listen to traditional music only. Therefore, I’ll tell you about a rap song, by a famous rapper from Syria, Ismaïl Tamer, written about the situation in Syria today. The video of the song starts with a strong image: the minaret of a mosque and a Christian church, one opposite the other. It goes on with pictures of everyday life in Damascus today.
Some of the lyrics go:
When you say you are a Syrian, say it loud, […] My Syrian brother, grab my hand, enough with the tragedies […] I’m thirsty, there is no water, so I drink my tears. .. The solutions are prohibited and the voice of the law is gagged … Just take a step forward, do another ten back, [… ] Go back as you were in Damascus, I do not want to die […] The scent of jasmine together with that of blood, tears of a father shuffled together with those of a mother [… ] Brainwashing molds most people, my dreams are big, when you say you are a Syrian, say it loud […]
1 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
2 Refers to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.
3 Refers to Athens, Parthenon, 2007- 2008.
4 Part of Erotocritos, lyrics by Vincenzo Cornaros, music composed by Christodoulos Chalaris.