The Day I Met Danyal

I was sitting on the hillside under some trees, looking out over the whole city of Izmir. The incredible view brought back memories of the views in the Favelas in Rio. Rooftops intertwined with the minarets of the mosques. It was around 29 degrees, sun was beating down, the children were flying kites while the mothers prepared the picnic. So much happiness and joy.

I had decided to go and sit on my own for a bit to take it all in…I wanted to be present, in the moment. I wanted to feel the sun and hear the children laugh and play.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw 4 men and a young boy walking through the grass carrying a beautiful instrument. They sat down and the boy began tuning it.
Moments later he began to sing..

I was instantly drawn to his beautiful, mysterious voice. I walked over and pointed to the ground, asking, without words, whether i could sit down with them. It was a silly question really as I should have learnt by now that when you are in the company of Syrians, they consistently demonstrate the most incredible hospitality and always invite you to join them!

After the boy had played 3 or 4 songs and I had sat listening in awe, his father gestured to me, asking if i wanted to film him on my phone. I positioned myself in front of him and he began to play.

I could really see the passion, the pain but also the love in his eyes. His message came from the depths of his stomach..originating from those deep rooted experiences he had lived through at such a tender age.

After he finished we began chatting. I asked him his name, for which he replied ‘Danyal’….I was like, ‘no way…my name is Daniel!’ and we all laughed.

The adults spoke no English and I most certainly have not yet become proficient in Arabic, but we communicated as best as we could and somehow still understood each other well.

A little later another of the volunteers who is also from Syria walked by, and I asked him to join us so he could translate, and Danyals family were able to tell me thier story…

Danyals father explained to me that the rest of his family were in Berlin and that he hoped to be reunited with them once more. He didn’t know how they would make it over but the hope was there. ‘Inshallah’ we said to each other.

Danyal is 14 years old and his English, although not great, was significantly better than the rest.

There was another man sitting there who wanted to tell me of his journey and his experiences. He told me that while fleeing Syria due to the bombings of his home town, that he told his two sons to go on ahead without him. In his words he told them:

“My sons…please go to the sea…and if you make it, you will have your freedom”

His eyes filled with tears as he spoke but he managed to hold it back well enough to maintain the conversation. It wasn’t clear to him whether it was government forces or rebel forces responsible for the bombings, all he knew is that they needed to flee.

You could feel his desperation and he continued to share his situation… He also explained that every month his rent is increased, making his situation in Turkey unbearable in as his funds rapidly dry up.

As the sun was setting and it was time for me to leave after the most amazing day, I apologised for interrupting their day out with little Danyal and their moments enjoying the music together.

Danyal’s father turned to me and smiled, “please do not apologise, we are all brothers and sisters here.’ I smiled back.