Stories poured over coffee
As a field photographer on assignment in the Middle East, I don’t need to look too far for stories.
This week, I rode down bumpy mountain roads and noticed the uniqueness of each Arabic coffee service truck. These trucks dot the sides of the road throughout the Middle East, offering Nescafé, espresso, water, cigarettes and often times, thick, dark Arabic coffee. I suggested to my videographer friend that we should capture the story of these coffee trucks.
Little did I know that the story wouldn’t be about the coffee.
As my friend and I ordered our coffee, we began to talk with the men hanging around the truck. I quickly learned that these men were all Syrian refugees.
Refugees, who are in transition and have been fleeing for their life, ask me, "Why are you here [in the Middle East]? Where you come from must be much better."
I explain that I love Arab people and that I tell stories through photography; I would love to have the honour of telling their story to others, so that I may be a voice for them.
John*, a Syrian refugee, leaned back in a chair and talked among the men at the coffee truck.
Because of the war in Syria, John has lived as a refugee in this neighbouring country for almost three years now. His father is in jail, still in Syria, and his mother is dead. His brother has traveled to Holland as a refugee. John was not able to accompany his brother because of his age. He explained that it was either to be forced in the Syrian army or flee.
With emotion, he shared, “I am so tired and scared. I only want to see my brother, but I must work for eight years to earn $5000 to travel to Europe to find my brother. I am broken after only three years. How can I wait till I have been here eight?”
John explained that, at home in Syria, he was happy and loved living there. He had plenty of money, games, a big TV, and many other things. Now, because of the war, he is a refugee living in only a small room that he shares with seven other people. The room has a concrete floor and electricity, nothing else, not even a refrigerator. The electricity is not even constant, coming on and off throughout the day. He lives in constant fear of being evicted and thrown out on the street. He only holds onto the hope of one day seeing his brother again.
One thing John said that I had not yet heard a refugee say was that he extends grace to those who don’t understand. He forgives them, that they are scared and must be informed of the truth.
This is just one of many stories poured over a cup of coffee, while sitting on the curb of a busy street. As we left, we tried to pay for our coffee, only having the truck owner refuse.
I find that, often, those who have so little give so much.