Saturday, April 6, 2013

I saved a dolphin...

Saranda clicked on the screen but there was no message. She sighed iwth slight dissapointment as she loved to read about the little fishing community on the outskirt of Jakarta where Tri lived, but she knew that was not always easy for her to get to computer. Looking at the earlier sent images of the island's paradise lost in the lavish green palms she felt sudden surge to be there. She had no idea that soon one of those peaceful islands would be engulfed in terror. Once she would visit Tri, she thought. Once she would come back to Kosovo to visit Grannys grave, once when there would be no more war...

    "Saranda, phone, where are you?" Dardon't exciting voice disturbed her thinking.

    "Coming," she shouted rushing to living room: "Who is it?" she mimicked at Dardon.

    "Find for yourself," he only grimaced at her cheeckily and rushed off. She could stand him less and less and it seemed to her that by growin up they also grew more and more apart. She picked up the receiver: "Hello...Jack!" She gasped without knowing what to tell.

    "Just checking in how you going," he paused: "Have you seen Kathy?"

    "No, last time in hospital, I reckon she is back home with all her family around her..."

    "She is not there any more, I popped in yesterday," he swore quietly, "I reckon patched herself up and back on steet."

    "Kathy will be allright," Saranda tried to cheer him up.

    "Sure, by the way, today's surf was a real ripper, the waves biggest I 've seen in ages, I thought you
would like to try..."

    "Surfing," Saranda gulped: "Never done it in my life, it's starting to be cold again.

    "Never cold up there, you should see a bunch of yahoos I had there today," Jack continued: "I do some surfing lessons for pocket money, so I don't need to ask old man for any favours..."

    "Hmm," she sighed in the receiver unsure what to say.

    "I go, any way, you there sometimes next week, it's top of the wozza, but only early in the morning."

    "Okey," she replied quietly.

And she was, the first thing in the morning, next Satruday, excusing herself from home to see Doha urgently due to school assignment.

The water was cold and she shivered in grey stillness around her. The ocean was quiet and all sounds were hushed in this early hours. She started to walk along the water edge not knowing what to do. She forgot to ask him about the place assuming as always their beach. But today it looked different here, somehow ghostly without life.

The fresh wind blew from the ocean swirling mirror like surface and Saranda speeded up in an attempt to warm herself up. Her legs started to ache and she was about to turn back when a grey blob on the shore caught her interest.

It could be a whale, she thought while squirting her eyes to see it better. Closing her distance she recognized a human figure. She speeded up again and approached a middle-aged woman covered in sand trying to dig a hole under trapped dolphin.

Without question Saranda kneeled on other side and with all her might kept digging under this cold silvery still body. Near the exhaustion she supported her head for a while on that slippery back looking straight into deeply sad eye of stranded animal.
It prompted her to dig and push more.

    "Push," clenched her teeth the woman opposite and she followed the order as hard as she could. When finally the animal moved slowly in low water, Saranda slipped and fell down into the cold water. In desperate need of rest she barely felt gentle waves washing over her. Saranda turned her head slowly to watch the woman over the waist in the water urging the dolphin to swim away.

Finally she came over and got hold of her: "We did it."

Saranda sighed and struggled in the water to stand up.

    "We did it," she shouted again and hugged approaching Saranda, who smiled shyly at her.

    "Yes, it's great."

The woman nodded and waved her good bye, starting to jog along the beach in the opposite direction. Saranda stood there for a while, until the dripping clothes made her shiver and she dragged slowly back.

Approaching George's house she noticed his car leaving in a distance. Saranda paused for a moment, looking at her wet sandy hair and clothes. Finally she moved on and rang a bell. When Jack opened the door in utter surprise she threw herself nto his arm with two words: "I saved a dolphin."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I will survive...


    It didn't work out. It had been nearly three months what Jenny moved to Lisa's house and Saranda from time to time came to visit her and now she stayed there overnight. Her first sleep-over, she thought  sleepily watching midday air still burning outside. Jenny and her flattery girlfriends screaming in front of some horror movie gulping down chips and coke.

   "How was it, party girl?" Lisa asked driving her back home: "And you wear your scarf, that will make your mum happy, oh, Ilja stop playing with that radio, it's already broken," she looked crossly at the red head boy, who kept turning on the music.

   "She urged me to do it but I would have done so anyway on this occasion, not because of my religion as you would think, but to show your niece and girls something least I didn't need to worry about the hair style."

   "Good on you, lass, I bet you shattered them from their self indulgence." Lisa chuckled as she turned on the last roundabout towards their street: "I hope they haven't been nasty to you?"

    "Is that Dardon's house?" Ilja kept jumping of his seat.

    "The one on the end," Saranda pointed on the right, then catching Lisa's cheeky wink she smiled: "Not really, there is no such a difference between us, you know, and some horror movies are pretty cool, good Dad was not there, but..."

Lisa chuckled again. And Ilja turned around and pulled jokingly one end of her scarf.

    "Stop, Ilja," she slapped his hand and he turned back laughingly, looking back at Lisa she said: "Anyway I am not going to wear a scarf once I finish the College, Mum didn't wear it until we came here."

Lisa didn't answer.

The road stretched before them and the deserted front yard hazed in the shimmering sun.

   "Which one did you say it was?" Ilja looked at Saranda impatiently.

   "Pick one, they look the same anyway," she grimaced at him happy to return his naughtiness. She found as annoying as her brother. They found each other she thought annoyed.

Suddenly Sarand caught her favourite song on the radio and pointed on Ilja to turn it on. "I will survive..." she hummed for herself and LIsa soon joined with her deep baritone. Ilja joined in with his fancy dancing pretending to be a drug queen.

    "I bet your Dad would not like that," Lisa winked at her when the song finished.

    "Do you think I will survive that censorship?" Saranda lifted her chin and tried to grin back.

    "You're already your own person, you will survive everything." Lisa smiled at her encouragingly when she stopped the car in front of her house.

   "Hey, Ilja, look, a war in Afganistan," Dardon turned to them from TV, when they entered the living room.

    "Brrrm, these machine guns our Serbs used to..." Ilja pretended to shoot.

    "Yes, you bastard, on our people they shoot," Dardon jumped on him and they both fell on the floor hitting each other with their fists.

    "Stop you two, you should be ashamed of yourself, you are both Australians," Lisa caught their arms trying to avoid their fists btu Dardon's swinging hand landed jsut below her eye: "Auch."

     "Ooops, I am so sorry Lisa, " Dardon stopped as a frozen and Ilja followed his example.

     "What's going on?" Dad appeared in the doorway coming back from Mosque.

     "I have been caught in a war, I believe," Lisa sighed and winked at Dardon who rushed to her with a wet towel: "Off you go boys, go and play outside, as I am not ready for another blow." And they disappeared through the back door before she finished the sentence.

     "Look at that," Lisa pointed on the TV showing women covered from head to toe in their burgas. Dad sat and watched the images without saying anything. Lisa secretly smiled at Saranda as she joined him on the sofa and continued in her conversation: "You have to admit, that these women are oppessed and that mem can be at fault."

Saranda sat there too in the corner curious on Dad's response.

     "Without doubt, Lisa, but this had nothing to do with Islam's teaching," her Dad sighed watching Taliban's guerrillas, "such people are influenced by their culture and their way of thinking, not because they are true Muslims."

     "Do you sympathise with them?" Lisa asked pointing at the fighters: "On the end, they are just protecting their homeland against another power."

    "They are involved in terrorism, how can I sympathise with them?" He looked up at Lisa waiting for answer, when she burst out laughing: "Saranda, your Dad is too clever for me, where is your Mum?"

     "I think, she is with Victor, it's time for his nap," Saranda stood up and looked at Dad: "Can I go and use Internet, I want to check up if there is a message from Tri."

Dad nodded without taking his eyes from the images of fighting. Lisa left the sofa too and tiptoed through the corridor: "I am going to check on your Mum, it is time for our English lessons." She winked on passing Saranda as she quietly opened the door on Victor's room.

JENNY (January 2002)


    Opening the front door she could recognize Lisa's chatter and Mum's relaxed laughter. They have been sitting on the couch sipping Mum's black tea. And there was someone else, a squat girl about her age in a girlish bright outfit strolling around their lounge room with a boredoom look at her face.
She stopped casually near Victor playing with blocks. He watched her cautiously for a while and then opened his mouth.

    "Victor, it is rude to stuck your tongue out at people," Mum suddenly hammered at him and he quickly ran to find refuge in the Saranda's arm. Mum smiled at her warmly but then she noticed her hair tight in a bun and her expression changed:

    "Saranda, where is your hijab?"

Saranda quickly took her veil from her pocket not knowing what to say. Victor grabbed it from her hand and tried to put it on. Saranda felt uncomfortable as everyone was watching in silence. Fortunately Lisa came to her rescue:

    "Hullo my darling," she waved her plump arm at her and then turned to the girl: "Look Jenny, here she is, Saranda I have been talking you about, you make wonderful friends."

    "Hi," The girl looked Saranda up and down.

    "Hi," Saranda replied quietly and then kneeled to Victor to take her veil back: "It's not for you, you silly Billy." She put her veil safely back in her pocket and then pinched Victor's sulky face: "Go play Victor."

Victor ran to Mum, who watched her with silent disapproval.

    "It's stuffy in here," Jenny sneered.

    "Oh, Jenny you are too wrapped up in yourself," Lisa smiled wholeheartedly at her then she faced Saranda: "This is my niece Jenny, she's won the state dancing competition this year and also she is best in her year level, ones would not believe how she can do it..." Lisa admiringly looked at Jenny, who ignored them now, watching closely her reflection in the window.

"Saranda please take Jenny to a kitchen to have a cool drink and then show her your room perhaps," Mum looked at Saranda sternly expecting no refusal.

Saranda sighed and moved slowly towards her room. The girl followed her suddenly talking fast:

    "How can you stand this, so dark here and what is that strange smell," she wriggled her nose as they passed kitchen: "Lisa has told me you hae strange customs, that old cow thinks its fabulous."

Once in Saranda's room she moved around touching staff with open curiosity.

    "Look what you have here - you're such a banger," she touched her old scruffy teddy bear.

    "Cut it out," Saranda grabbed it out of her hands.

    "Sorry," she raised her arms in pretended defence: "And that mother of yours, she is so old fashioned, you know, I bet your father..."

    "What?" Saranda hissed at her.

    "Oh, nothing," Jenny turned around to touch Star Wars posters: "That's cool, we can go to movies, if you want, another episode is coming out."

    "I don't think so."

    "Why not?" Jenny grimaced watching her nails closely: "Do you have any green nail polish by any chance, any will do, I am not fussy...but Lisa she has only that boring purple..."

Saranda shook her head and asked to change the subject quickly: "And what about your parents?"

    "What about them?" She looked at Saranda with disbelief on unusual question: "Dad bought me a new DVD player, come over for a movie's so quiet there now when they split up..."

    "You mean they divorced?"

    "They never married," Jenny pulled her lips to kiss her reflection in the window leaving the wet pink mark where her lips were: "Look this lipstick is really nice, it only cost me four bucks..."

Saranda looked at her with silent question in her eyes so she sighed and continued: "Dad is a bit of a drongo, you know, putting up with Mum's earbashing for so long, finally it's over." She grimaced painfully.

Saranda said nothing.

    "Anyway, who cares, I 'm going to move out with some friends..." she stretched on Saranda's bed expecting her to be shocked: "I hope it'll work out and I don't end up at my aunties' dreadful place."

But Saranda just kept watching her.

     "Jenny, sweetheart, move on," Lisa cheerful voice echoed in teh corridor.

     "Hey? I didn't hear what you said." Jenny shouted back grinning wildly and turned back to Saranda: "So, what about watcing Jeepers Creepers at my new place, righto?"

     "Jenny," Lisa opened to door and pointed at her playfully: "I knew you would be best of friends," she turned to Saranda: "She is a bit or a stirrer, you know, but good hearted like her auntie."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fear is a part of survival (December 2001)


      Saranda really missed Jack and Kathy. She hadn't seen them from the Citizenship ceremony. She only exchanged few words with Jack that evening. He was all fed up with George's nagging and worried about Kathy. She had no time to describe Kathy's mysterious appearance in front of the Council and promised herself to tell him about it later. But there was no later. Saranda sometimes absend minded picked up the phone to call him, but decided against it. Ded refused to buy her a mobile, which he called a modern teenager's disease. She hated the idea of having a conversation with Jack, with all her family around. Somehow it didn't seem appropriate.

    "Hey, are you deaf?" Dardon entered the living room: "Mum's calling you one hundred times, she wants you to take the finished hats to Dora's."

    "Sure," Saranda sat up hanging the phone down.

    "Who are you calling to?"

    "Mmm?" Saranda was still staring at the phone: "No one, and anyway none of your business," she stood up gazing out the window on the darkening sky: "Tell Mum, I am ready."

The bus rolled and wondered through the dark streets. She delivered the hats to the Abuh Ahmed's wife and stayed for a while to drink tea and pray. She supposed to work on the joined assignment with Doha, but excused herself with a headache. Doha observed her quizzically but didn't press any questions and Saranda was grateful for that. She turned around to see her standing sadly in front of the Abuh Ahmed's white house. Her white veil was flattering gently in the evening breeze. Saranda lifted her hand to wave, but it was too dark to see if Doha waved back. Oh, there it is. The bus stopped in halt and she quickly got off. She entered the station in a hurry and quickly jumped in the train leaving for Fremantle. Looking out the window on the passing lights of dark suburbs she thought about Doha again. She was a good friend btu there were things she couldn't understand. Saranda couldn't explain it even to herself, her need for freedom and acceptance. Not only among her Muslim friends, but everyone. The train stopped on the final station and she hurriedly jumped off. Walking through a cappuccino strip she tried hard to remember the name of the street where George lived. I think is this one, she told herself and turned to right. Looking at some lighten up appartments she thought about Jack. He would understand. Finally her eyes caught the familiar George's balcony. All she had to do now was knock on the door and say: "I need to see you, Jack." But it would be embarrassing. She knew she couldn't do it. While she yearned for Jack to notice her outside, there was also a part of her that dreaded that. It was a very strange thing that you could both want and fear something at the same time. Saranda stood there for a while starring into dimly lit window and then turned back.

Entering her home again she felt plainly stupid and tried to avoid the noisy living room, but Dardon crossed her path excitedly, before she had a chance to disappear in her room:

   "Guess what, Jack called you, right after you left, he wants to meet you tomorrow at 4 pm at some beach, he said something about a crab or something, you supposed to know which one."


   Jack was approaching her form the ocean, big waves splashed around him unnoticed. One look at his face told Saranda that something is wrong.

    "Hey, your board, mate," One of the passing surfers showed the surfboard to him. Jack's face lit up for a moment as he touched one thing he knew and understood.

    "There isn't any trouble at home is there?" Saranda asked carefully when he was close enough to hear her.

    "Yeah, I'm the trouble, I left Kathy in a deep shit to help my father to feel good about himself," he looked at her sharply, a thousand of drops from his wet hair were dripping on her shirt: "Is that answer your question?"

Saranda shuddered from cold: "Kathy doesn't need you, she told me anyway, she is happy for you to be back home."

    "How do you know?" He snapped back: "Why is she in hospital then?" Jack shook himself violently.

    "Was she injured in some accident?" Saranda asked in alarm ignoring the cold shower.

    "Yeah, the accident she directed herself."

    "What do you mean, was she upset because of that terrorist attack?"


     "September 11, they blame all Muslims for that," Saranda added sadly.

     "Oh, that stuff," Jack shrugged: "Can't say I've been following it."

They watched ocean in silence. Suddenly Saranda reaized what he meant: "She is in hospital because of drugs, isn't she?"

     "Bloody Freo Hospital, they didn't allow me to see her...cause she is in a critical condition and I am not her close family, bugger it," Jack kicked the sand and rushed up the hill leaving her behind.

Saranda ran after him talking to herself: "Why she keeps taking that stuff, that sort of things can kill you and anyway it's against ..."

     "Against what?" Jack suddenly turned to her savagely: "Your God probably, you know, that stuff is her God and only God she knows." He waved his hand impatiently" Anyway how could you understand, I have to go..." Jack turned around to continue in walking and his last words were lost in wind.

    "I try to see here," Saranda caught up with him: "Where are you going?"

Jack told her. The name meant nothing to her. Soem excellent surfing spot in Secret Harbour. She watched him to leave with others. Saranda looked around the deserted beach like she had been here for the first time. No, they had been here one time before, the three of them...but that was so long ago it was hard to imagine that it really happened.


Lost in her thoughts she left the beach behind and entered one of the side street. An old lady was watching her from her flowered front yard. Her pale eyes under the wrinkled skin were full of contentment. Saranda smiled at her wondering if she would ever find that peace.

At the far end of the street she was stuck in the middle of traffic noise and rushing people. The silver roofs of the hospital shimmered in the distance. Suddenly among the strangers she recognised the familiar dark face. The kind smile unveiled the missing front tooth.

     "Uncle Toby," Saranda waved excitedly rushing through the busy street toward him.

An approaching car stopped in a halt and annoyed driver shouted obscenities on her.

    "Mija Kajii's friend must be careful, there is no time yet for her to let her spirit go," he nodded thoughtfully and continued on his way to the hospital. Saranda nealry lost her breath trying to follow his lanky old figure in a shabby T-shirt and thongs. Once in the hospital hes swift walk changed to shuffle and Saranda watched in a surprise as he stood patiently near a reception desk, waiting for a busy receptionist to take notice of him. She ignored him for quite while. Finally he was instructed where to go and Saranda shyly followed him. The second floor was full of Aboriginal relatives who shouted greetings to Uncle Toby. He pushed her forward ignoring their suprised looks.

To Saranda's amazement he took the veil, she gave to him on her visit, from his pocket and waved at everyone: "She is Kathy's friend, Mija Kajjii's friend."

She entered the disinfected room with four hospital beds and smile embarrassingly at the lady lying on one near the door reading 'Women's Weekly.'

    "Saranda is that you?" Kathy waved at her from the bed in the corner rattling with her infusion tube:
"What the hell yu doing here?" She looked white as the room around her but her eyes were full of life as always.

    "Kathy, what's happened?" Saranda sat on the plastic chair next to her: "Are you all right?" She smoothed the blanket, avoiding look at Kathy's arms full of red patches: "Jack worries about you and your family..."

    "Yep, they are here all the time, I've shouted at them to leave me alone for a while as these stuffy ones constantly complain..." She spread her arm as wide as she could with the attached infusion to point on the three ladies on other beds, who tried to ignore her, changing the looks of discomfort over the magazines.

    "But why, Kathy why?" Saranda looked up closely at her.

    "Why, why, you nagging like auntie Annie," she suddenly turned to Saranda with her characteristic cheeky grin: "Listen to this," she coughed little bit to clear her voice and started to proclaim slowly: "These are my eyes, this is my brain I don't need to get hooked on any drug or alcohol to feel happy and relaxing."

Saranda nodded seriously and Kathy burst in a wild laugh.

    "You see, everything is fine, under control...I can stop if I want to..."

     "Do you?" Saranda kept looking at her closely.

    "Oh, stop nagging, drop it and tell me about Jack..."

    "Sorry girls to interrupt your conversation but it's time for a needle, excuse us," the middle aged nurse came in and swiftly started to close the white curtains around the bed without interrrupting her talk: "Kathy you and your lot have to understand the rules, no more visitors." Saranda jumped out of the seat and touched Kathy's hand in a hurried farewell.

    "Saranda," Kathy's voice changed suddenly sounding more like a little kid's plea for help: "I am scared."

    "Calm down, Kathy," the nurse kept talking to her soothingly while preparing an injection: "There is nothing as frightening as fear itself."

Without thinking Saranda took her golden chain off her neck and placed it gently in Kathy's opened palm: "Just be happy yourself again, this golden sun can help you, do you remember my story?"

Kathy starred at her without reply.

Saranda quickly turned around to hide her tears. Before leaving she looked back to see Kathy examining closely the golden sun. Her eyes shined strangely.

Saranda hurried down the corridor ignoring the group of Kathy's relatives still talking near the exit door. Uncle Toby was nowhere to be seen. The little black girl in a billabong worn out T-shirt pushed the glass door for her. She had Kathy's cheeky eyes and curly dancing hair, but her face was full of childish trust and innocence, which Kathy had already lost on her way to adulthood.

Once outside the hospital she took a deep breath and touched the empty place around her neck. Her Granny would understand. She would like Kathy to be free from the demons of the present and the past.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Choose who you want to please your God or your country?

    Saranda would always remember the following week. Dad was on the verge of a
nervous breakdown because of the threatening messages the College kept receiving.
One morning while entering the college she and Dardon joined the row of gleeful
faces stickybeak in through the office window because of a sudden rumour that
someone had broke in and wrote a couple of hateful messages all over the walls.
Principal repeated at every assembly they shouldn't be worried when people abused
them on the streets because God is on their side. What does God have to do with this?
Saranda kept asking herself. Dardon seemed unaware of whole situation, until one
afternoon she found him waiting in front of his school in a gloomy mood. She was
surprised, as he had boasted all day yesterday about his school excursion to Perth ZOO.

   "What's happened Dardon?"

   "Nothing," he snapped back and rushed out of the gate.

   "And what about your excursion?" She yelled as she walked slowly after him. He
knew she refused to run on the streets like a child.

    "It was boring, walking around and gazing at those animals," he answered when
she caught up with him on the bus stop.

She looked up at him in open amusement. Dardon had always enjoyed the ZOO, it
was her complaining about walking around. He stared at the boy about her age
across the street. The boy made a rude gesture, laughed and moved on. Dardon
watched him to leave: "People gazed at us, some behaved like him..."

The bus arrived and Dardon sat at the front ignoring people and kids around. Back
home he stomped straight into his room banging the door behind him. Saranda hugged
Victor who was playing with his favourite blocks. Mum was sitting next to him
sewing some ornaments on a boy's praying hat.

   Saranda touched the velvet and smiled: "I wish I could sew."

   "You need to be more patient for that, Saranda," Mum looked up at her and
smiled: "I can ask the Abuh Ahmed's wife to give you some work, you can earn
some pocket money..."

   "No, Mum I don't think so." Saranda waved her hand. Victor came to her and
handed her the couple of blocks. "BOOOM!" He shouted excitedly when she built
the tower, so he could smash it down.

Mum and Victor seemed to be carrying on as if nothing had happened, locked in their
own world, Saranda wondered, when Mum suddenly asked: "What's wrong with
Dardon, is he sick?"

   "No," Saranda shook her head resolutely: "Only upset about something."

   "Dad is upset too." Mum sighed: "Dardon's teacher complained about him, the
only subject he is switched on is sport."

   "That's not what I am upset about," Dardon entered the living room sulkily: "It's
not fair, I'm all fired up at those mean people, they are so horrible."

   "Very few things in life are fair, my boy," Mum tied the thread carefully: "But
that doesn't mean you give up being nice and obey God."

Victor laughed as in agreement. They all seem happier when Mum was in a good
mood. Saranda only wished that no one would spoil that.


Saranda walked slowly to their little white house. At least she didn't need to listen
to Dardon's endless complaints about his school. He had his soccer training today.
She looked up at the shadowless blue sky. The days grew hotter. A kookaburra chortled
on the brunch in their front yard lifting its beak to the sun. She notices the front door
was opened and someone was standing there. Coming closer she recognized the lady,
they had rented the house from. Even from the distance her face looked red and puffed
up from trying to explain her Mum something.

    "You would better leave," she turned to approaching Saranda: "Remind your Dad
that our contract expires this month." She looked her up and down and left banging
the gate with surprising force.

Saranda caught sight of Mum's face, which was pale with shock: "What's the matter
with her?"

   "I really don't know," Mum shuffled slowly inside. Saranda followed her into
kitchen. Victor smiled at her from the table eating his favourite kebab. Mum sat
opposite to him. She had pushed her half eaten plate and her face was filled with
helpless pain: "Mrs Hysa called me this afternoon, she has sold her business and
decided to live in Sydney to be closer to her son."

Saranda poured herself some tea and took a kebab from the tray. Victor watched her
with his scarred eyes. He always reacted sensitively to Mum's depressive mood.
Saranda sat next to him and gently pinched his cheek.

Suddenly Dad entered kitchen and walked straight to Mum: "What's wrong with
the landlady?"

There was a fragile silence. Finally Mum said: "I was praying when she entered, it
was really rude of her to disturb me, anyway she is such a noisy and bossy lady,
talking all the time about I have no idea what..."

   "Perhaps you should have been prepared for her arrival as I reminded you many
times today," he turned around and paced impatiently the kitchen floor: "Perhaps,
you should learn English and meet with people outside to understand them and
their customs..."

   "I never wanted to live here, it was your idea," Mum shook her head without
looking at Dad.
Victor started to cry, the food dribbling from his open mouth. He stretched his
dirty hands towards Mum, btu she didn't take notice of him. Dad looked at Saranda.
She just sat, shoulders hunched, not knowing what to do.

   "Take him to the bathroom and stay out of the kitchen for a while, I have something
important to discuss with your Mother," he pointed to her.

While Victor enjoyed the early bath blowing soap bubbles on her, she coud quite
clearly hear them having bitter quarrel, Dad's thundering voice and Mum's sobbing
mentioning God's name. Saranda put a finger on her lips motioning for Victor
to stay quiet and moved quietly out of bathroom through corridor until she reached
the closed kitchen door.

   "Wake up, my girl," suddenly Dad's voice sounded almost tender: "I came back
to Islam as my Mother always wanted but I can tell you God is not going to help you
if you don't help yourself first."

   "It's as I've always suspected, this place was never going to be my home, it's so
strange and lonely so different to our..."

    "Think of our children, what future would they have back home?" Dad asked

Saranda couldn't hear any response from Mum. Dad continued to talk:"You have to
understand, no place was ever going to be the same like our home and you just have
to come to terms with it."

Suddenly she could hear his hurried footsteps aiming to the door. She stayed where
she was afraid that if she moved he'd hear and think she'd been eavesdropping.
Dad's steps stopped suddenly in front of the door, she could hear his hand turning the
door knob: "Lisa was very kind to offer you home English tutoring, take it as a
second chance, Victor starts Kindy soon and you start to be involved in his school
life..." Dad suddenly open the door and Saranda hid behind it. He turned to Mum
once more, and letting the door swing open he stormed outside.
Soon they could hear his car moving from the garage and the house was suddenly
quiet again. Saranda quickly tiptoed back to the bathroom where Victor shivering
in cold water continued to play with his bath toys.
As soon as she had helped him to dry and change in his pyjamas, Dad was back
with Dardon shouting about his scored goal. Victor ran excitedly to meet him and
they soon rolled on the floor in their favourite tumble game. Dad surprisingly let
them to scream and shout. She could hear the sound of shuffling newspapers, he
was obviously reading like always before dinner. From the rattle of pans and pots
in kitchen she assumed that Mum had started to prepare their evening meal.
She didn't call her to help and Saranda was happy to be out of it.
She put on her headphones, what Mrs Hysa bought her on her birthday and opened
her English homework. The music from 'The Phantom of Opera' took her away from
home and she felt at peace. The words in her book looked smudgy and she had to
force herself to concentrate. Tomorrow she had a test. There was a possibility for her
to move to extention class. She dreamt about it. Dad would be proud of her like last
time when her favourite science teacher Dr Polkin told him about her movement to
Science extension.
Nothing unusual happened that evening except that she missed Dad's call for Pray, but
that was nothing unusual at all.


    By the time the school season was drawing to an end, Mum no longer looked
expectantly at the silent phone or imagined that Mrs Hysa might come in to visit her.
It took Saranda a minute or two to realize that something odd happened after Lisa's
regular home tutoring had started. She always brought piles of books and videos for
Mum to choose from and when she complained on her English difficulties, Lisa only
waved her hand: "That's piece of cake for you, do you understand that expression?"
She mimicked biting a delicious cake and her eyes gleamed under her fat cheeks at
that. Even Mum had to laugh at this picture. Next time Mum baked her favourite
sweet dish and they spent all English lessons watching Australian classics and reading
simple kids' books. Lisa became incredibly popular not only with Mum but also with
other members of their family. Ilja Iljic, the Serbian boy of friends of hers, often joined
her to Dardon's delight. Even Dad found time to listen to Lisa's Aussie slang and
laughingly asked for an explanation to many expressions, only rude ones he asked her
politely to avoid in his house. Mum started to be a big fan of Crocodile Dundee and when
his new version came up after many years called: 'Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles', Dad
found time to take them to the movies and afterwards they all drove back together home.

Next morning Mum hastily prepared their breakfast. Saranda looked up in amazement
to see Mum in her special long sleeve dress ready to leave.

   "Where are you going Mum?"

   "I am going to help in this parenting thing, you know in our Shopping Centre,"
Mum picked up Victor biting his favourite corn cob: "Oh, Victor, ou have to finish
it late, you are going to Kindy," she quickly grabbed the unfinished cob and cleaned
his mouth with a handkerchief without taking notice of his loud protests.

   "Mum, where is my ricotta sticks?" Dardon examined his morning dish: "You
know I like it with my breakfast."

   "Today you have to be without it, I am in a hurry," Mum kissedVictor on his
forehead and pointed on the cob: "I make your favourite corn cakes, when we come
back." His crying changed to sobbing.

    "Why you have to go, Mum?" Dardon asked playing with his food in a protest.

    "I have to attend twod days workshop, Lisa organized for me and she also takes
Victor to...oh, where is my bag." Mum found it and marched out the kitchen door.

    "Muum," Saranda ran after her: "I hope you will like it, is it the Parenting Information
Centre, we have been once to ask about teething?"

    "Yes, Saranda, maybe my experience with you lot can be useful, I don't know,"
Mum suddenly stopped in a doorway as uncertain if to leave: "Look after your
brother, hope he finishes his breakfast."

    "Don't worry, he will not starve,"Saranda smiled at Mum and pushed her gently
out of the door. She looked after her, as she hurried down the path, her veil gently
blowing in the wind and Victor's head bobbing on her shoulder in the rhythms with her
steps. Suddenly she realized that she hadn't seen so much energy in Mum for ages.


When Saranda opened the door this afternoon she knew straight away that Mum's
workshop was a disaster Mum looked her old self, Victor sobbed on her knees
biting his promised corn cake and Lisa tried to cheer her up munching the cake too:
    "Hm, so tasty..."She smiled at Victor, but he ignored her looking expectantly at
his Mum talking to Lisa:

    "They should not ask me that, your nuns wear veil too..."

    "Not many nuns wear them these days but it was silly of them to ask you about..."
Lisa stopped in half sentence watching Saranda entering the living room.

   "What's going on?" She asked hastily but one look at Mum's face reminded her
about her forgetfulness. Fortunatelly, Lisa was not a Muslim and didn't care about
formalities. She just waved her hand in a greeting and finished her sentence:
   "Your Mum is upset about some ladies in workshop questioning her about her ..."

   "My jihab," Mum helped her out.

   "They don't think it is appropriate while serving customers," Lisa coughed nervously.

Saranda looked at Mum, who repeated to herself: "I shouldn't go there, I had known
it would happen..."

    "I know it's hard to understand for you, btu here people can't see why Muslim
women should wear them, in fact some women find them quite offensive, you know
as an attack on the freedom and rights of women we have won so hard..." Lisa
coughed unusually uncomfortable with the topic.

   "For Mum it is a statement to faith and commitment to Islam," Saranda tried to back
up Mum: "But in the end it's just a custom."

    "The custom, which helps me to be close to my origin," Mum sighed heavily:
"My home I lost."

    "Frankly speaking," I never understood this custom either, but you are my friend
and I don't care if you wear a bucket on your head," Lisa chuckled but saddened
at once: "It's only because of this 'terrorist thing', people know...
people are just scared, that's all."

Mum nodded. she turned to Lisa and to her surprise Saranda could see her mouth
twisting in an supressed laughter: "I like your funny expressions, Lisa, my friend."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Children Overboard (October 2001)

   During the recess Saranda asked Doha about her family. Doha was quiet for a long time slowly eating her fruitcake. Saranda watched the boys lining up at the canteen, elbowing each other to get order first, as though it really mattered.

   "Look at Zaab," she pointed at the boy from their Maths class: "He is so smart but behaves like a little boy, he reminds me of my younger brother..."

   "He reminds me of Ali, my cousin," Doha followed Saranda's gaze, who stopped on the tall boy with a crown of thick black hair.

   "The one you mentioned, who is locked up in Detention Centre?"

   "Yep," Doha muttered pushing her half eaten salad away: "He is seventeen next month, Abuh Ahmed promised me, that we could go to visit him, he is here, in Perth."

   "What has he done to be there?"

   "You are naive, Saranda, not everyone is lucky like you to get refugee's protection," Doha looked at her and her eyes glowed strangely: "Everyone said he should get a bravery award, you know, when our boat sand off this horrible reef, he was the one to help me and his sisters stay afloat."

    "I have been rescued once here, I couldn't swim..."

    "I know how to swim, but we were in the water for ages, it was so tiring and cold."

    "That's where your father drownded?"

    "Yes," Doha murmured: "Just before the Australian navy came to rescue us, he talked to me and suddenly he was gone," she bowed her head and covered her face.

The bell rang and Saranda hastily finished her drink. The weather warmed up quickly. They were sitting in the sun and she felt hot and itchy.

    "Doha, it's time to go," she shook her friend, but Doha didn't respond lost in her thoughts. Saranda turned to leave when she heard Doha saying: "I will wait for him how long it takes and I will marry him as I promised to my father."

   "Who are you going to marry, Doha?" Saranda stopped in a sudden shock and turned back to face her friend: "Marry, yak."

   "Ali is the only one from my family left."

   "I know btu still, I don't think you have to marry him, you know, here in Australia..."

    "I want to, Saranda, you can't understand." Doha stood up and passed Saranda without a glance.

Saranda stood there fo ra while. She chuckled as she pictured her cousin and her to be married? Such nonsence. Once again she realized that she could never be a devout Muslim like Doha.

   "Finally I thought the day is dawning, but it is still like night for us..." Saranda could hear the rich descriptive language of the Abuh Ahmed from the living room when she entered her house.

   "Salama Lejku," she bowed her head to pay respect to this highly religious man.

He waved kindly with his hand. Saranda looked deeply into his strong dark eyes contrasting with his white hair and thick bead. All she could see was sadness. Her Dad was sitting next to him lost in deep thinking. She could see they had been engaged in serious matter, which was not in their capabilities to solve. The illumination from TV made ghostly figures around dimly lit living room.

   "Propaganda like this," her Dad suddenly pointed on TV showing the photos of some swimming children thrown by their parents-refugees overboard as it was assumed: "Does not help to persuade Australians about the plight of Ali and others."

The Abuh Ahmed sighed deeply in an agreement: "Being separated from each other is awful for them but the realization of never being able to meet again must be even worse."
Passing them quietly to reach the corridor she suddenly realized, who they had been talking about: Doha and Ali.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

America under attack...and not only America...

     That night Dad woke them up with urgent shouting: "America is under attack!"
Saranda wriggled in her bed and half conscously she could recognize Victor's crying and Dardon's
quick footsteps along the corridor approaching her bedroom.

    "Hey, wake up!" Dardon shook her arms, but she only muttered to him to get lost. It took many persistent shakes, but finally she opened her eyes and sat up glaring at him.

    "What's up?" Saranda finally asked him, while rubbing at her eye.

    "There is a war, in America," he answered before running out leaving the door opened.

    "Look at those skyscrapers falling apart like paper boxes..." she could hear his exciting shouting from the living room.

Entering the room she found her all family frozen in front of the TV.

    "How terrible, all these terrified people running for their lives...may God help them," her Mum muttered watching the images of New York straight after the bombing of the Twin towers. Victor sobbed
and Mum covered his eyes protectively with her hand.

There was a silence disturbed only by the screaming of injured people on TV. Saranda stayed behind
their backs, unnoticed, glaring at the screen. She was afraid that if she moved the images would come
alive and she would feel the real pain and horror just like once before.

    Finally Dad said: "Remember this day, the world will never be the same again after September 11!"

Soon they would all realise just how true this statement would become.

     Next morning on their way to school Saranda could hear people's laments on the bus stop.
One old lady was crying as her son was in New York at the time and she didn't know what's happened
to him. Dardon met a friend from his soccer team and they started loudly describe the image of falling
of Twin towers.

Saranda was happy when their bus finally came and she pushed him inside. People at the bus were unusually quiet, their grim faces reflected the mixed emotions after seeing the disturbing images of
the previous night.
Suddenly a group of men in dark suits started loudly discuss the terrorist attack and Muslims. One of them stood up and turned to his companions: "Trust me guys, all Muslims are terrorists." He left on the next bus stop but the statement stayed hanging in the air. The atmosphere in the bus felt oppressive.
Saranda touched her scarf and felt like choking.

   Dardon looked at Saranda quizzically: "Are we terrorists?"

   "You'd better ask Dad about that, but I for one don't feel like one," she found an empty seat and sat down.

   "That's sort of cool, you know..."

   "Cut it out, Dardon," she turned her face to a window. She could feel an elderly lady sitting opposite starring at her.

   "Poor Americans, so many live lost and what will happen to us now?" The lady murmured under her
breath. Saranda looked up at her and smiled sadly as she was not sure if the question was addressed to her. The lady met her eyes and leaned forward: "I am old, born not far from this intersection, you know, but what about you lot, migrating to this country in thousands with your peculiar customs..."

Saranda got up suddenly realising that the bus stopped in front of Dardon't Muslim college. He had already disappeared among the crowd rushing to the front door. She quickly followed him. The lady
watched her to leave. A sour smile came across her lips.
Saranda rushed to catch up with Dardon. He stepped on the busy road without looking around and some drivers honked at him. Saranda finally caught up with him near the school entrance. The loud whole school morning pray reminded Dardon that he was again late for assembly. The boys in their praying hats stood in perfect row on the right and the girls on the left, together preparing Arabic words after their Deputy principal. The Religion teacher moved from row to row watching closely the children's behaviour and attention to praying. She looked Dardon up and down when he quickly joined his class, taking out his praying hat from his pocket. Saranda shrugged, it looked like the routine would be the same like everyday. She quickly turned around and ran along the street to her College. On the way she met with Doha, who looked upset.

    "Someone draw rude pictures on the wall of Mosque, with the words that we are ones to blame for the attack," she hastily explained to her while entering the gate.

    "I've heard morning that stones were thrown at mosques." Saranda nodded.

 Doha stopped suddenly in front of their PC room, her face twisted with a hidden pain: "Thank God you will live in a free country, where no one will persecute you for your beliefs," she looked up at Saranda with tears in her eyes: "My Father said this to me before he drowned on this shore." She spread her arms in an attempt to cover whole space and then she let them fall in a deep sorrow.

Saranda felt that there was nothing she could say so she just gently squizzed Doha's hand and then quietly entered their Religious room. The lesson had already started so they quickly found empty seats to avoid their teacher attention. Fortunately she was busy talking to a Muslim lady at the front.

    "We have a visitor," a girl from the front turned to them.

    "Who is she?" Saranda asked observing the visitor's rich red Muslim dress with a shawl loosely held over her long black hair: "She is cool, look, she doesn't care if you can see her hair." Saranda added admiringly.

    "I know her," Doha suddenly whispered into her ear: "She has visited the Abuh Ahmed's house a few times, she is a teacher and a writer, I think."

Saranda wanted to ask more but the lady turned to the class smiling kindly: "Dear girls, let me introduce myself, my name is Nagasful Zahedan and my grandfather came to Australia from Afghanistan in the
late 19th century. My father was a devout Muslim and I am..." She looked around the attentive faces: "I am Muslim of the heart."

    "What does that mean?" Saranda blurted out without thinking.

    "Saranda," the teacher looked at her crossly from the corner: "It is extremely rude to..."

    "It is allright," the lady smiled at Saranda: "Being a Muslim is part of my identity."

Saranda thanked her for the answer and the lady continued in her talk. Her face was expressionless only her kind smile enlightened it from time to time. She spoke quietly, trying to convince: "I am sure
you have already met people who blame or your parents for what happened in America," the lady looked around the classroom on the nodding heads. Her thin golden earrings tinkled in agreement: "It's
tragic and sad, but I want you to know that they are not bad people, people just don't understand what is happening..."

    "I like her," Saranda whispered into Doha's ear: "Once I will be like her, a Muslim of the heart."

    "She is right," Doha added: "Getting worried doesn't help us."

    "And what will?" Saranda asked, but Doha was already lost in her pray.



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