My dreams of leaving Syria and starting over are finally becoming true.

We took a cab to the bus station, and then a bus was supposed to take us to Beirut’s airport. When we left the bus station, I was suddenly seized by melancholy and one question occupied my mind: When will I come back to Syria?

Can you believe that even before I left Syria, all I was thinking about was when to come back? I sometimes find it hard to understand what is going on deep inside me. I watched the streets, the people, and the shops from my window, and started crying silently. Is it because I do not know what’s in store for us? Although I had decided not to look back and to think only of the future, old memories of my friends, my school, my neighbors, and my whole life came back to me.

When we reached the Syria-Lebanon border, we had to wait in the cold for a whole hour until they finished searching everybody’s suitcases. The Syrian border officers were very rude, and the kids on the bus were scared of them. One officer said, “You will experience what real cold is when you leave your country.” His words stuck in my head, and I wondered if I’d ever find the warmth I’m searching for.

We reached the Lebanese border, where we stopped for another two hours, until the border officers had checked our passports and suitcases. We reached Beirut’s airport at 3 AM, and waited there for a long time, since our flight was at 1 PM. I never imagined the borders between Arab countries as real ones, but after what I witnessed I understand how divided we are. At the airport, we were thoroughly searched, as if we carried some kind of disease or as if we were criminals. In those moments, I felt that the security I sought was still far out of my reach.

When we boarded the airplane, my heart began pounding in my chest. I had never been on an plane before, and in my head, planes are connected to bombing and missiles. I sat in my seat and started thinking of the amusement parks I used to visit as a kid. I imagined that being on an plane was similar to being on a roller coaster, where I got to see the city from high above. The idea helped me calm down a little. Through my little window, I watched the cotton-like clouds, and I finally felt free. Yes, I finally felt the one thing that my people called out for: a demand that cost them a lot. When the plane began to descend, I saw the green lands of Turkey. What an amazing view that was!

We were very nervous when we left the airport because we do not speak Turkish. We were relieved to find a relative, whom we had not seen for five years, waiting for us. We took a bus, a ferry and then another bus to get to her house. The trip exhausted us, and all we wanted was to get some rest. Many people were waiting for us at her house, and they congratulated us on surviving the death swamp from which we had emerged.

I fell into a deep sleep that night—I had not slept like that in five years. I opened my eyes and found my mother looking out of the window. I wanted to keep looking at her face, but her eyes showed exhaustion and sadness, so I cracked some jokes, hoping to lighten her mood.

I am finally out of Syria. I am in a place where I can look forward to a better life and future. Will fate let me realize my dreams, or will it crush me again? It is too early to tell. ♦

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.