When is a refugee no longer a refugee? Six months ago a Syrian family of five stood wide eyed at a Canadian airport. Syrian refugees in Canada. Overwhelmed and exhausted from their lengthy and first ever airplane journey.
With gigantic smiles, weary faces and profuse thank yous they entrust our group to open the new chapter of their life.
Syrian refugees in Canada no more
We marvel at the resilience of this family. Their determination, their work ethic and their joy.
The past six months have been jammed with learning. Public transit, grocery shopping, banking and oh yes learning English. The enormity of their transition impossible for us to imagine.
Much has changed in this half year. Google Translate initially buzzed constantly in conversation with the five. Today the app sleeps quietly while the family tells of their day and their family members left behind.
Spending 2 years and 10 months in a refugee camp in Jordan after leaving Syria, their journey to refugee in Canada has been a long one. Mom, who initially spoke no more than two words of English, tells me of her sister and family waiting to go to Australia. The grandparents remain in Syria. In this past year they have spoken only once for a few minutes.
What they love to talk about most is how Canada is their home. Mom proudly shows me her permanent resident card. As though it is made of precious jewels she gently strokes the laminated identification.
She jokes that Dad who graduated a the top of their English class only beat her because she does the cooking. He had more time to study. Fair enough.
But the biggest joy of all for Mom today is watching her children play in the shallows of the river. It is as if we have brought them to Disneyland. They chase small fish in hopes of catching minnow to show their Dad.
Dad, who also recently got his driver’s license, takes extra computer training classes on Saturday.
Another Dad, who we do not know, offers the boys his son’s little fishing net. I can’t help but tear up at the generosity of the stranger. The children are thrilled beyond their wildest dreams at the gesture.
Sure enough we drive home with a container full of minnows to show Dad.
Once back at the family’s home we must come in for Syrian coffee and home baked treats. Mom is only happy when we have consumed the entire plate.
Finally we bid farewell to our family. Mom puts her hand to her chest and with a smile that would surely melt a heart, “That was such a good day! Such a good day.”
A good day indeed dear friend. So glad you are home.