Life lessons on an afternoon walk with a lost Syrian couple 

Today I had been having just “one of those days” and was happy to know I was on my way home for a quiet night. Not really sure why it felt like one of those days but it just did. As I pulled into the parking lot at home I noticed a couple, probably mid 30s standing on the side of the road. Not on the side walk but right along the side, almost in the middle of the road. A truck had pulled over and I just assumed it was a group of people that knew each other. I had planned to take my dog for a walk so I went inside and got the dog and set out for my walk. As I walked out thr truck pulled away and the couple was still standing there. They looked lost and nervous. As I walked toward them the man approached me and handed me a book. On the page he shows me it said ‘if lost return to Hanan’ and it had a bunch of contact information. When he handed me the book I noticed that he also had quite a large pile of guides and maps. It was quite clear that both the man and the woman with him did not speak English very fluently but he was able to tell me that he was lost and pointed to the contact information.

I really wasn’t sure what to do from there because in our broken conversation he said the lady was his wife, Hanan… Ok so calling Hanan in the contact info wasn’t going to work because she was right there! I remembered I had my phone in my pocket because I wanted to take a picture of the great weather on my walk! In comes Google for the win!

I googled the address in the contact info and it was only a 5 minute walk from where we were. I told him, “just walk straight and you’ll be right there, look at the street sign.” I tried to use words that I thought maybe they might know but he gave me a smile and said, “no English”. Duh, Nicole! They weren’t able to understand me and I needed to find another way to help. I asked him what language he spoke and he said Arabic. Hmm, so I don’t know any Arabic, what am I going to do? Google translate! Typed in something I thought to be simple and showed him my phone. A huge smile came across his face, he pointed straight and said, “you walk too.” I thought well hey I am out here anyway might as well walk with them!

How pretty is the written Arabic language by the way?

We kept walking but they both walked in the middle of the road. Nervous that they could get hurt or honked at I said something along the lines of why don’t you come walk over here, it might be safer. I knew he may not understand but he must have understood some because he came and walked along side me but she continued on in the middle of the road a few steps ahead the whole time. As we walked he pointed to the snow/ice and said,

“not in Syria!”

He then started saying different days of the week and something about his wife cooking very good Syrian food and he showed me his phone number on his phone. He continually repeated the word Saturday. I realized he was asking me over to his house to say thank you for helping him! I used google translate again to say that he did not have to make food for me and that I was happy to help. He read the translation, smiled a great smile and walked ahead to catch up with his wife.

I won’t say that I am someone who regularly follows the news but I do check in and try to stay aware of what’s happening around me. I would probably have to be living under a rock to not know about the Syrian refugees coming to our province/country. If you’re not sure about this, check out the CBC article 100 more Syrian refugees arrive in Regina as a start. I have lots I can learn too and have a feeling I will be learning even more now.

As soon as he mentioned that they were from Syria there was something in me that empathized with them, on a human being level. Language barrier and different cultures aside. I can’t imagine the feeling of being taken out of the place that you know as home, placed in a completely foreign place where you don’t speak or understand the language and also having to find a way to live in that community. I simply can’t imagine that feeling. As I continued on my walk, thinking about the last 10 minutes I found myself wishing I had known more and offered to help in some way beyond directions. By the time I had reached this thought I looked up and the couple was gone. I wish I had caught his name and kept his phone number! I don’t think that I would have the confidence to approach a complete stranger for help in a country I don’t know where many of the citizens speak a language I don’t. Quite honestly I would probably be crying on the side of the road. If anyone who knows me well reads this, I am sure they’ll be able to attest to that fact. Not too sure I want to admit that publicly but hey why not!

This couple probably doesn’t know it but they made my day. I didn’t write this to share a yay me story, that’s not the point.  I am writing this because I was so impressed by this couple and admired them for tackling a new challenge head on. Life is so full of challenges or so we think. This kind and appreciative couple quickly made me realize that perhaps the ‘challenges’ we think we face are simply called life. This couple seemed to be taking life in stride and going with the flow, finding their way the best they know how.

***As I googled the article above to share with you I instantly recognized the man in the striped shirt! This is the man that brightened my day today and challenged me to take things more in stride. Hopefully I will run into him and his wife on another walk and can learn a little more about them! I’ll be sure to have Google translate ready and a fully charged phone! **



  1. Oh Nicole- what a great story, this hits close to home for a few reasons, and I really just appreciate that there are people willing to go the extra mile and help out. They have truly been ripped out of their whole lives and placed in a brand new world (and not because they want to).

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. What a great story!! I’m sure they were so thankful for your help and it was such an easy thing for you to do. Arabic is beautiful in both the written and spoken form, especially when the Q’aran is read (it’s like a song). It’s really amazing. I can’t imagine being in a country that is so foreign and being unable to communicate. Great call on the Google Translate!

  3. This is a great story, Nicole. What an experience! You were their hero. How could we, as a country not help these people and give them a safe place. No, this is not yay you in a bragging sense, but certainly yay you in a humanitarian sense. But of course you helped people in need. What else is there to do. 💗

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s