Two of my favorite people are Safa Jneidi an Iad Alati, a Syrian couple with two delightful little girls. This is their story:
For 400 years the Alati family textile and clothing store served customers in the world famous La Medina Souq in Aleppo. Then the bombing started. Iad Alati and his pregnant wife Safa Jnedi fled with their baby to Turkey as their store was reduced to rubble.
In Turkey, Iad did whatever work he could find while Safa learned to speak enough Turkish to translate for refugees needing medical help. Eventually, Iad was able to open a clothing and textile store in Istanbul, with a long time friend. Still, at that time their refugee status prevented them getting passports for the children, or even green cards in Turkey. The UN helped them to get the paperwork they needed to come to the U.S. They arrived in Chicago the day before the president closed U.S. boarders to all Syrians.
They arrived speaking not a word of English. Once again, they had to start over. “We did it in Turkey,” Iad said. “We can do it again.”
Today, Iad and Safa can be seen with their food cart--Iad's Syrian Grill-- serving delicious Syrian gyros, yalangi food wrapped in grape leaves), and grilled meats on the streets of Vashon, WA. Their dream of having their own food truck is becoming a reality, the next step on the way to having their own restaurant.
Here are two bouquets for Iad and Safa, to celebrate Iad's Syrian Grill in America!
Some bouquets are quickly forgotten--those I buy for myself, those someone brings for a dinner party, or those I put on the table to dress up the house for a gathering. Some, however, stick in my mind for ever. I still remember a handful of tiny blue irises a boyfriend gave me many years ago on Valentines Day, the huge bouquet my in laws sent when my husband Bob died,
the bouquet my beloved Rich/Rifaat brought me from an outdoor market just because. I even named that one: "Satisfied Woman".
I immortalize many of these in paintings or prints
After the Middle East Celebration/fundraiser the other night, Mary Rose was handing out bouquets to thank people for their involvement. Of course she gave one to Erin. Erin did an amazing job putting together the entertainment on short notice! Of course she gave bouquets to Iad and Jamila, who did the cooking for 100 people. But when she turned to me and handed me a bouquet "for all the work you do with the families as needed as well as for this event", I was so surprised I forgot to say thank you. This bouquet will be one of the immortals.
It goes beside the bouquet Rich received last week to honor him for his work organizing the Home2Vashon fundraiser (They raised thousands of dollars to help pay ferry fare for people going off island for cancer treatment! The final count isn't in yet).
Our two bouquets standing together bear witness to our shared love for our community.
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.