Esther Ng , Chinese
As I ate my man’oushe for the lunch break, a teacher sat opposite me asked, ‘Are any of the volunteers this year from Germany?’ Intrigued by her question and unsure of what to say, I answered, ‘No. I don’t think so. But I think one of the volunteers is half-German’. ‘Oh,’ she nodded slightly, her eyes reddening with longing and memory, ‘My husband and son are in Germany.’ My heart sank a little and the teacher next to me quietly explained that paperwork complications had prevented the family reunion.
The wound was deep, so deep that pain became the first thing that one shared about oneself to a complete stranger. Yet, within this living pain, triggered by the seemingly innocuous name of a country, a country that reminded me of only family holidays, was the conscious choice to put aside one’s pain, and labour one’s love and patience into the future of Syria – the children. How much pain must that have caused; endured? And to be surrounded by the faces that could have reminded one of their own son?
Seldom are these embodied sacrifices known to the world. Instead, only images of one-dimensional vulnerability, set against the scenery of rubble that the world’s eyes have already been accustomed to. Or worse, to have the labour of peacebuilding and reconstruction be epitomized by people like me, who know so little and have experienced so little, who are free to cross borders without a baggage of pain.
Whose story do we need to tell?