Things aren’t going well in the Middle East, needless to say. ISIS is on the move bringing a violent political situation that could be more extreme than any we’ve seen in the last century. Palestine death tolls rolled over 1,000 today, many of them children. Syrian refugee numbers are beyond a million, a number we can never fully appreciate. The city of Milwaukee displaced? Whatever the excuses, the explanations, the analysis of each of these situations, the bottom line is children are being killed. It troubles me that people can make excuses for that. On our recent trip through Southeastern Turkey, my wife and I saw a guy go ballistic on his kid. Syrian refugee? We weren’t sure. Was there a back story to this guy? Could be. But it’s a kid. I won’t wade into the politics of it all, but today as I scrolled through some old photos, I was reminded of my “Spring Break” trip the year I lived in Turkey. It’s the only part of my book The Yogurt Man Cometh that does not take place in Turkey.
I have few photos from that trip — I was using a Pentax K-1000 and limited rolls of film back in 1998 — but I see that many of them include children. The children of Syria came running when the camera came out. It seemed none of them was shy about it and it wasn’t the old “take my photo now you owe me a dollar” routine either. Most of these were from my visit to Palmyra, a desert oasis that was once a powerful city and caravan stop (Tadmur in the Bible). The ruins of Palmyra at that time weren’t even gated and other than the Temple of Bel, there was no admission charged. But everywhere we went there were children, playing in the streets, running up to us to say hello. This was over 16 years ago. I wonder about their own children now.
Amid a street scene of children running around and playing, this little girl sat reading a book and doing some homework. I wanted that photo so badly but the minute the camera came out, the rest of the children ran to pose with her.
Children shyly peaking down at us from a rooftop in Tadmur
Kids offering some of their fuul (beans)
Simple pleasures: a hand-powered sort of Ferris wheel.
Inside a temple in Damascus.
A couple of boys carrying baked goods back from the neighborhood oven likely to be sold at a nearby shop.
My manuscript, based on travels in Egypt and Syria during the year I lived and wrote The Yogurt Man Cometh, is nearly ready for an editor but is standing in line behind a completed book about a year in southern Italy, currently in an editor’s hands.