Every morning at 10:00 AM, I drive through endless tunnels of palm trees to get to work. Almost encountering November, yet the sun still burns on my skin. The crystal clear sea and the sky so vast meet together in the far horizon... You may have guessed that I am describing Los Angeles, but this is no Beverly Hills. This is Mersin, a city in South-East Turkey.
A few weeks ago, I met a person, by chance, who managed to completely flip my views into a different perspective. This multilingual, very intellectual person, upon introducing himself, had no hesitation in telling our group that he was, in fact, Syrian. He escaped to Turkey with his mother a few years ago, where he managed to rebuild his life by attending a Syrian refugee school, however, still remaining jobless due to his nationality. It was a curious matter to me that he talked brightly with so much pride about the numerous obstacles he overcame, but in careful consideration of our groups’ reactions and overall interest in his stories. In all the months that I have lived in Mersin, it was my first time personally becoming friends with a Syrian. Naturally, I could not stop throwing him questions out of curiosity. I was highly intrigued. I asked if it bothered him. Fortunately, he was open about it, told me that he didn’t mind and laughed that there will never be enough time to tell me everything.
“First of all, they say that if you heard the bullet pass by above your head, it means that you are still alive”, he joked.
“And those boats? Yeah, it’s true. They try to fit in as many people as they can on this tiny, inflated boat to make as much money as possible. Your life depends on whether you are a good swimmer or not. My sister survived and now she lives in Germany.”
Seeing me speechless, he kept on going.
“In fact, the building nearby is a home to about 50,000 refugees. Once they arrive, they rarely leave the hotel just in case their names would get called out. You know, two hours is just enough time to pack all your belongings before you depart to Europe,” he would say calmly.
We talked over dinner in an open air restaurant nearby the beach. Just as I was shocked and saddened by the stories, a boy, whom I immediately assumed was Syrian, appeared in front of me pleading for money.
“And those ‘Syrian’ beggars? Sometimes they aren’t even Syrian, but a Turkish deceiver seeking sympathy.”
All I could think about was how I failed to see this reality and what I could possibly do about it. That night, I lied awake on bed thinking hard about this topic. I felt so powerless. Suddenly, I cannot see, in the same way, the beautiful waters in front of my theater. For I know that in these waters, there are so many innocent souls that once had faith and hope in humanity. Suddenly, my issues and struggles in rehearsals and performances seem too small. Suddenly, I realize how blessed I am. And maybe, just maybe, introducing a glimpse of ballet and its’ beauty could give these deprived children a very small moment of happiness and faith.