Khaled sighed and nodded sadly. The merchant smiled broadly as he extended his palm to receive all that Khaled had and effusively expressed, "I am so very sorry for all of you refugees. My dear boy, I will lose a lot by accepting your offer. But I feel so sorry for you. I will suffer the loss to make a poor refugee happy."
Khaled ran and danced his way home, proudly carrying the scrap of wool high above his head. The young family danced with joy on top of their new rug until a booming knock on their door startled them into silence. Khaled opened the door and in popped their landlady, "Just what is all the commotion about? I thought you were coming through the ceiling; you all made so much noise," she complained.
Khaled proudly pointed to the rug and told of the excellent bargain he had made. The landlady stood upon the scrap and sniffed twice. She spoke through a smirk, "Oh, I have the same rug and paid only nineteen Syrian liras for it."
One month after fleeing their comfortable home in Majd Al Krum the
family traveled on bus and train for the two day journey to Khaled's new job as
a math teacher in the town of Hasaka, Syria.
The train was unheated, and the bus carried people, goats, sheep, and chickens that spilled out from all sides. They traveled on rocky dirt roads and saw only homes made of mud. By midnight, they arrived at the town of Hasaka and checked into the nearest hotel. Khaled was aghast when he opened his thin wallet and handed over the first night's rent. They were now out of money.
Their senses were assaulted by the damp, musky smell that permeated the tattered building on the way to their room furnished with only four thin mattresses on a wooden floor, a chipped table, a cracked water pitcher, and a naked light bulb set in an old wine bottle. The three fell asleep immediately, but Khaled remained wide awake engulfed by dark, tormenting thoughts of suicide and homicide in those last few hours before he reported to his first day on the job.
At three AM, the door shot open, and in charged two Syrian policemen. The girls screamed and the police accused them of prostitution. In fear and trembling, Khaled recounted the events of the past month as the police examined their papers and it was nearly dawn before the police were satisfied and left.
Khaled's dark mood turned more bitter with every step towards the school building on that frigid damp morning. He sighed and fumed as he waited for the Principal, Mr. Hamza to arrive. When he did, Khaled could barely mumble a greeting and followed the regal Kurd in a daze, to his classroom where Mr. Hamza introduced him to the students, waved and left.
Khaled looked into the eyes of thirty adolescent boys, picked up the math book and demanded to know just what they did and did not know. The bravest boy in the class blurted out indignantly, "What is your problem? We just want to learn, not fight with you."
Khaled retorted, "You all may be too stupid to learn anything, but I will try."
At the end of the school day, the students cut and ran from Khaled and descended upon Mr.Hamza's office demanding he fire the new math teacher. After hearing them out, Mr. Hamza found a trembling Khaled sitting in the darkened classroom and softly inquired, "What happened in here? Is it money? Do you need money?"
Without waiting for a reply, Mr. Hamza opened his wallet, took out a month's worth of wages, and handed it to Khaled. "Now Khaled, go home, feed your family, and get some sleep. And make sure you report back to work tomorrow morning. Don't thank me, but help another whenever you can."
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