The arrival of the holy month of Ramadan renews many pains and reopens many wounds. This month used to be one filled with religious and popular traditions practiced in homes, markets, and mosques. The month of Ramadan was a time of love, family bonding, and gatherings. Our house was the place where the extended family gathered. My mother and my grandmother would prepare a variety of delicious food. Our dining table looked like a colorful painting. What I miss most is the tradition of exchanging special dishes with neighbors. My siblings and I used to take samples of what we had cooked to our neighbors and bring back whatever they had cooked. We loved this tradition. It felt like we were carrying presents to our neighbors. We were so innocent!

I have many good memories of this holy month. I used to go with my grandfather to the Umayyad mosque in Damascus for Friday prayers. After prayers, we’d walk around the historical market of al-Hamidiyya, and buy special Ramadan sweets, like date and grape syrup bread. We would also buy delicious Ramadan drinks like licorice and tamarind juice.

Our life before the crisis was simple and wonderful. This is why, even though I am far away from my home country, I cannot forget those days. I miss them like a little child misses her mother. I truly hope that one day I will be able to see my relatives, who are now scattered across many countries.
I sometimes voice this longing to my husband, Karam, hoping that we might break the fast with his parents. I wonder if being around his family might help, but how on earth would that fill the gap left by my own family?

I do not know why I am so devastated. Is it because of how far away I am from my home country? Is it because I miss my mother and my father? Is it because I cannot fulfill my religious duty and fast this year? My doctor prohibited me from fasting because of the pregnancy and told to me to take good care of my baby and myself, as I have not gained enough weight during my pregnancy.

Being pregnant does make me feel tired. My daily classes, as well as the commute, make things even more difficult. I have not mentioned this to Karam, because I worry that he might ask me to take precious days off, even though I am in a hurry to learn this language. I know the baby will occupy my time, so I want to learn as much as I can and as fast as I can before the baby arrives. I also really love going to school. It is the place where I see my friends and where we can talk, laugh, and enjoy our time.

Despite our different languages and nationalities, my classmates and I have been able to get to know each other, and each other’s traditions. Sometimes we talk about our studies, and other times we talk about Switzerland and Swiss people. Most of my conversations with my friends are in English, since my German is not yet good enough for conversation. But sometimes, we switch to German so we can practice. The sentences we form are grammatically embarrassing, but it doesn’t matter, because we are learning and it’s normal that we make lots of mistakes. My biggest issue with German is that I often need time to remember the meanings of words, and I ask people to repeat what they say so many times. My teacher told me that this is completely normal for beginner students. My teacher is another reason why I love school. He believes that I am too young to be married and to have a child, so he keeps checking on me and provides me with all the resources I need. He is a great teacher and friend.

To be honest with you, my teacher’s care and support makes my husband jealous—and I love that. I sometimes even try to escalate his jealousy by tossing out some ambiguous, joking comments. Karam is very easy to make jealous; it’s like he is hardwired to be protective of his wife, sister, or any female relative. Karam’s jealousy does not bother me, because it does not prevent me from doing what I want, and it doesn’t cause trouble between us.

Despite being old-school sometimes, Karam is the one who keeps me balanced in this new place. I still cannot believe that I live here, and sometimes I wonder how I ended up here, how one decision can change a person’s entire life. Destiny leads us in directions we never imagined taking.

Although I am far away, I never stop thinking of my people in Syria, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. I keep thinking of all of the families who fast, but cannot afford to buy enough food to break their fast. I pray for them, and I pray that one day I will be able to help them. ♦

Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It has been translated from Arabic.