I’ve stopped thinking. The last time I stopped to think something out, to parse it, to give it a name, was months ago. The last time I wrote anything in this cheap plastic book was November 7th. Almost three months ago. I mostly use this book for keeping track of my laundry now. HA! How ’bout that.

I haven’t written ‘cos I haven’t stopped for a moment. Almost three months now… damn. What the hell happened?

The whole damned world happened. Influx. Trying to fill bigger shoes. People. Leaving this place for a moment, and being reminded that there’s still a rest of the world out there. Mundane things we do or we see here every day that won’t seem so mundane once I’m able to think about them again. So much has happened.

A few days ago I saw a plane, way up there. Just a graceful white silhouette moving against the blue, no sound, no cloudy trail in its wake. You don’t see them too often here. Growing up in Toronto, right under Pearson’s flight path, there was never a day where you didn’t see or hear a dozen. I was always fascinated by the machinery, the roar of the jets, the way the wheels unfolded from their bellies, the excitement of having its shadow rush over and around you if the sun was in the right place. But it was those other planes, the ones way up, the ones you didn’t know where they were going to or where they were coming from that really got me. Those ones that sometimes left a fragile white wake of exhaust, or that sometimes didn’t. I used to stare at those ones, way up there, wondering where they were going, wondering where those people were headed. I wanted to be up there, moving, moving mostly for the sake of itself.

I saw that plane up there, and that feeling came back to me. I felt that unnamable yearning that has always been so familiar to me. And in that moment, I realized where I was, where I had been for the past five months, where I had come to and forgotten there was any other way of being. I realized I was totally used to shitting in a latrine (Toilets?! What an extravagance waste!). I was totally used to eating boiled goat, lentils and rice for every meal. I was totally used to calling everybody “Kawaja!” all the time (it’s what the little kids in the camps shout at us, while waving their little hands at the wrist, meaning something like “foreigner”). I was totally used to living out of a backpack, sleeping on the ground in a shared tent, two feet away from my former Swedish military sergeant of a lovely tent-mate. Totally used to burning in the sun, swatting the flies away, used to trying to take up smoking. I’d forgotten that there was any other way of being.

And as I remembered that there were other ways of being, I was reminded that I had a home that was not this place. That I had a home to go home to, that I missed if I ever let myself think about it. A reminder that this was a place that I’m just passing through, just as that plane passed through overhead, silently.  This strange, inhospitable, impossible place that is now home for 15,000, 65,000, 115,000 people who had to run here. And from where it seems like they won’t leave for a long time still, for the abode of war still reigns in their hills.

I don’t think about this a lot, because it seems like an impossible thought. To try to understand what it might feel like to have no home to go to anymore. It’s hard to think about, so I don’t really do it. I’m told that the Ingessana are deeply tied to their lands, their hills. Many of the surrounding peoples are pastorialist, nomadic, they move through back and forth. But the Ingessana are of their place, very much so. I can’t see it in the faces or the eyes of the people who I work with here, the people on my team who come from the refugee population. Because I can’t understand them, I can’t ask. My Arabic remains limited to “put this here, there’s no work tomorrow, time for lunch, give me the shovel, bring me that knife”. Strangely, they seem happy, in such good spirits. I’m confused by a lot of my staff actually. If I was bombed out  of my home, I would be shit mad, totally crushed.

But I do have a home to go back to, and soon I will. For now I remain here. When I think of home, I miss it. I think of how I’ve always been moving. For the past ten years, always moving. I feel a pull for the deep relationships – a sense of place and community – that many of my friends who have been at home in Toronto for some time have. I envy that, it seems attractive to me. I want it. But I wonder about myself. That unnamable feeling I have when I see a plane way up there is something that will always pull at me, I think. I can’t resist it, that feeling of incompleteness. Of having to move just for the sake of it. I have a home to go back to and I will go soon, but I wonder how long I’ll keep myself there.

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6 Responses to Pause

  1. Catriona says:

    Imran, thank you for sharing. It has been very interesting following this blog. Whatever you end up doing after this, I’m sure it will be inspirational and worth writing about. Keep writing, you are good at it!

  2. Vanessa says:

    What a beautiful piece on gratitude, comfort, empathy, and introspection. It warms me to know that you are a Torontonian — I find comfort in knowing that people like you stem from here, when sometimes the big-city people can seem a little abrasive.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. Hope you find your way home, wherever that may be.

  3. mary varghese says:

    keep up the good work u are doing there.

  4. Hello Imran, what a beautiful description of your noble work. God bless you for all you do. I am an ardent supporter of MSF but people like you bring their work to life at a personal level. On a different note, I worked in Toronto for about a year, a time I enjoyed, and thought Toronto was a very beautiful city. I hope you get home soon safely.

  5. Susan says:

    Well said! Thank you

  6. Magdalena says:

    I guess its a sense of life, to keep on moving. I heard once that sentence: dont fool yourself, out there you will never find the comfort. Definetely there are some moments you just need to know that at least you have some piece of stability, place you can come back or people you can call. But dont fool yourself, there is no comfort out there. Exactly the way you called it- this incompliteness. It’s bittersweet. Thanks for your piece! It was well spent 5 min of my time 2day!

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