A week ago I got a call from Peace Corps asking me to evacuate from my village within four hours. There have been ongoing riots and increasing violence near the Syrian border for the past month; every day the number of refugees in bordering cities gets larger and community resources become more and more scarce. Because there’s a border crossing located in my city, things have become increasingly tense at my site. There are now three refugee camps in my city alone, and all three of them are packed to capacity. With these conditions and the added strain of Ramadan fasting and extreme heat, it’s no surprise that fights and riots have broken out several times within the camps and among local Jordanians. In the past few months it’s become a regular occurrence for me and my landlady’s family to wake in the night to the sound of gunshots and heavy shelling on the other side of the border. Last Saturday the Free Syrian Army attempted to seize control of my city’s border crossing. The fighting broke out around noon and continued for several hours, the sounds of shouting and gunshots echoing through the afternoon. The rebels did not manage to take control of the border, but they have been successful at multiple other locations bordering Iraq and Turkey. It seems likely that they will try again. So last week I packed a week’s worth of clothes and my ukulele and headed to a friend’s house further south.
No one seems sure how long I’ll be away from my site or even if I’ll be allowed to go back at all. We’re all hoping the situation in Syria will become less violent- for the sake of the Syrian people, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been displaced from their homes, and the neighboring countries who are now experiencing strained resources and violence as a result. Even now when I am further removed from the border I see Syrian children at the bus stations and on street corners, begging for money and food, tugging at my hands or my purse and crying “masaari, money.” It’s hard for me to be away from home right now. I miss my bed, my fields to run in, my work, and my community. I don’t like being uprooted this way, with no knowledge of when I’ll be allowed to return. But if it’s hard for me to be here- safe, well-fed, and comfortable in the home of one of my closest friends, I can only imagine how it feels to be a refugee right now. I can only imagine how it must feel to awake in the night to the sound of gunshots from the north and to hope every day for news of resolution, for the chance to return home once again.