Guest Post by Alexandra Levit
It was Saturday afternoon, time for another visit with our Syrian friends, the Almadanis. After texting with Talal, we headed up to their neighborhood in Rogers Park about 3PM.
Everyone was very happy to see each other. We started by celebrating Baian’s birthday, which had taken place mid-week. Mohamed expertly lit the candles and we sang in English. Baian opened her gifts from us, which included an English picture dictionary and a game called Crazy As. All of the kids plus Stew played a basic version of the game, which involved matching vowel sounds of different English words.
Next, we talked about Valentine’s Day. The children have apparently been exposed to it at school already. We passed out some kids’ cards and tried to point out what the “To” and “From” meant. We also ate some heart cookies and explained that sweets are an important part of this holiday. Like Joy, we were fairly amazed at Baian’s English vocabulary! She knows all of her English animals and colors.
The kids then went down to the basement to play, and Nawar served us some delicious tea that seemed very sweet already, and she still encouraged us to take it with sugar and also had us try some Syrian spices and nuts. Jonah (our 8-year-old) played chess with Mohamed and the girls (Serena, our five-year-old, Baian, and Esraa) drew pictures and read some books we’d brought.
The adults talked, still with more help from Google Translate than we’d like. Talal has passed his driver’s test and has a car! He will look for work as a driver after he has completed a series of doctor’s appointments for Alaa at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. We asked Talal and Nawar how they were feeling being in the US. They expressed fear of Trump’s America and the fact that they also miss their families. We looked at photos on Nawar’s phone. Most of the family is still in Syria, but some are in refugee camps in Turkey.
However, they love being in Chicago. Nawar commented that it’s so strange to walk down the street and have people greet her with an enthusiastic “Hello” and open smiles. She said people in Syria are not as welcoming of strangers. We talked about fun things to do when the weather gets warmer. We plan to meet the family at Maggie Daley Park during one of our spring or summer visits.
Around 6pm, we got ready to head home. We checked on how things were functioning in the apartment. It seems that all is in order, except the dishwasher is still not working. It’s truly amazing how well this family is adjusting to their new life, and we are so grateful to be a part of it!