Challenging days, and hot and stuffy nights at the border of Turkey and Syria contributed to my disturbed and nightmare filled sleep.
Just over one month, here, in this city, with its deep and complex culture, destitute but strong people; witnesses to horrors but holding onto ideals with their confronting war injuries serving as constant reminders of where they came from, an arduous time and an ongoing struggle.
Living here on this dry and strangely flat land, with a lack of nutritional food (or food in general) meant that I was ill every day. Every day. I was lucky though because I could flush out my system with the 8 gallon water bottles I could purchase from the supermarkets. Money… Everyone knew about the tap water and warned you against it. It was only used to wash things that were dirty. Money… Here, the disparity between rich and poor was painstakingly obvious and accepted with an unshakeable belief in fate.
Having just woken up from a nightmare, memories of the day pushed themselves into the forefront of my mind and I was quickly very conscious at 2am though my tired eyes, drained body and exhausted mind begged to sleep.. Today I visited another orphanage, this one had an inbuilt trauma and rehabilitation centre with 30 kids, all whose father’s had been killed and whose mother’s unable to care for their children or having unknown whereabouts. Unknown whereabouts usually meant that they were dead. But people here had unfathomable hope.
I held, in my arms for nearly two hours, this 7 month old boy. The boy did not smile or make a sound, except to cry, the entire time. Psychological research shows that new born babies barely 6 days old can smile; this baby didn’t smile. I’ve never seen a baby not smile for 2 hours. He had on his face this look of wide-eyed shock that refused to be replaced with a softer face, a smile, gentler eyes. I’ve never seen this look on a baby before. Any sound would startle him and he would quickly turn towards it, fists clenched, eyes wide. I’ve never seen such a hyperactive startle response in a child before. I put my finger to his hand. It doesn’t take a genius to know what securely attached babies do when you do this. Babies have an innate reflex to latch on, but this baby did not grasp my finger, he pushed my finger away with an open palm. This boy didn’t once touch me or hold onto me. No matter how tightly I wrapped his little body in the cosiest hug I could, no matter how large my smile, no matter how warm and playful I was, no matter how much love I felt towards him and showered him with, I received no reaction.
Suddenly, my fierce protective nature that refused to accept this little boy’s behaviour, kicked into action in the hope of instigating change. So I held him for two hours, speaking and singing to him in a sweet, strange language he didn’t understand….