Contributed by Sally Wang. Check out more of their posts from this summer here.
“Love them like you’ll lose them.”
It has been three weeks since I started volunteering at Info Park to aid refugees, and this has definitely been a life-changing experience for me. Instead of the media image of chaotic and miserable masses of people trying to cross the border, beaten by policemen like animals, refugees now, to me, are real living people who have their own stories to tell, cultures to share and love to offer. As soon as I started to open my mind to accept them and build friendships, they have offered me more than I would have ever expected.
There is one Afghani boy, around 13-years-old, who is very cheerful, outgoing and always has a big smile on his face. One day, he was so bored that he was squatting down to the ground and concentrating on an army ants for a long time. I got close to him and tried to talk to him in English, but unfortunately he doesn’t speak English except for saying “thank you” and “hello.” Thinking for a while what we could do without direct verbal communication, I took out a piece of paper and some color pens that I have with me all the time. Then, we started to draw pictures. At first, we were drawing individually and he drew lots of angle wings, which I guess represent his wishes to be able to move freely to a place without war. When I was trying to show him my way of drawing wings, we started to communicate on paper. After we become familiar and he got more comfortable being with me, he started to eagerly ask for all my contact information: Facebook, phone number, name, etc. After half an hour, I was about to leave and the boy suddenly grabbed my hand and asked if I wanted to go to Norway with him. Of course I took it as a polite and chill way of saying goodbye to a person you know you will probably never see again, so I joked back and said: “Sure, I will go to Norway to find you in the future.” The boys’ eyes brightened immediately after I made my “promise” and, still having my hand in both of his hands, he held me tighter and asked: “Really? Let’s go together!” when his eyes indicated for me to follow him. Now I realized that he was not one-hundred-percent joking, and his genuine behavior moved me so much for the first time after so many years socializing with people and getting used to circling around expressions when expressing myself. When it was finally time for us to leave, he reminded me over and over again to add his Facebook and keep in touch, even though he was not sure where he could go after Hungary’s border closed recently.
On the other day, an almost romantic story happened to me when one very handsome Syrian guy, after seeing me playing with his younger brother, wrote “I love you” all over a balloon and drew one of my eyes beside and handed the balloon to me. This directness really shocked me as a conservative Asian girl, but later on, after calming down, I realized that no matter whether his word was true or not (probably not because “I love you” could probably be one of the few English phrases that he knew), I was impressed by how brave he was in expressing himself.
It is probably true that these were indeed the last times I would ever seen these two people, and I am really sad for the end of these two transitory but deep friendships. However, at the same time I realized why refugees are so blatant in expressing their love to people around them: their lives are always on the move and they never know whether they will see people around them again in their life. So, if they don’t have time to deliver their affections or gratitude later, why should they wait? They gave me an important lesson: we should love people like we are gonna lose them, so we can seize every precious opportunity with our friends and make every moment valuable.