Simple things have turned into great concerns that take up all my time. I’m talking, of course, about food! I recently discovered that food is a great thing, and that eating it brings marvelous joy. In the past, I didn’t dwell much on it. When we had as much of it as we could want, it didn’t mean much. I’d come to a breakfast table full of everything I like—meat, vegetables, fruit, and dessert—and forego it all, satisfied with nothing but a glass of milk.
Now, my family actually fantasizes about food. We reminisce fondly about the well-stocked fridge we once had. We can’t eat meat anymore because of its suddenly exorbitant cost, and fruits and vegetables are not even available in my city, at any price. Little kids who don’t remember life before the war don’t even know the names of certain fruits. If you gave them a banana, they wouldn’t know how to eat it.
I constantly crave sweets. I dream about chocolates and biscuits. Sugar’s too expensive now, too, so we have to use saccharin, a bitter-tasting artificial sweetener, instead.
Most people have limited their food intake to one or two meals a day. The third meal is in our dreams: grilled chicken, fried fish, fresh fruit. Everyone is hungry and weak, and many seem to be suffering from conditions related to malnutrition: digestive problems, skin problems, etc. Kids have been fainting at school.
The health clinics are full of mothers whose bodies couldn’t produce enough milk for their hungry infants. Clinic staff have had to improvise a kind of “baby formula” out of mashed grains. I can’t believe those babies drink that stuff. Some of them have stomach aches afterward.
I wake up possessed by the idea of food. At school, I spend the day wondering what there will be to eat when I get home. It’s hard to concentrate. I study, but my brain can’t hold on to the information. My thoughts are blurry, my concentration shattered.
I still don’t know if I will be able to take my baccalaureate, or final exams, this week.* I need to take it to graduate from high school. I have always dreamed of graduating, but it’s hard to study for a test you’re not sure you’ll be able to take, especially when you’re hungry.
I read in a book once that we citizens have rights and obligations, but what rights are we talking about? I am supposed to have a right to an education, to healthcare, to food, but that’s not reality. I no longer believe what books tell me. I believe only in my reality. ♦
* We are thrilled to report that Marah is, in fact, taking her final exams as we speak!
Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It was translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.