I was born in this tiny Paradise--
its narrow streets but wide blue sky,
its big buildings but cozy homes.
This neighborhood says a thousand words.
The cars are parked inches away from each other,
showing how their owners used to love one another.
The buildings are bundled side to side, so close.
You feel it’s merely one building uniting
its inseparable neighbors.
I still hear the laughter of the folks in this building.
I still smell the Atayef prepared in that courtyard.
I still remember the women chatting in the opposite front yard,
under the clear sky, in the chilly night,
interrupted by the prayer call from the holy mosque
at the very end of the street.
Each balcony is a box of memory;
You look at them, you remember
the smell of coffee drank there,
the nights spent counting the stars
meditating the beauty of this city.
Oh Emesa how gorgeous you are!
This giant tree on the right corner, covering my building
til war ends and I go back,
is still holding jasmine
for generation after generation,
spreading its fragrance.
On this street,
I was raised to learn, love and greet.
From South to North, Emesa
my Paradise on Earth.
Your love is engraved in my heart,
to death and after rebirth.
Raised in Syria, Alaa has lived in Austin for the past four years. Once a toddler teacher, Alaa now has a full time job raising her three year old, Mira. In her free time, she likes to draw and is an admitted shopaholic. She feels blessed to be part of the Free Minds family and hopes one day to go back to Syria to pave the way for others to continue their education just like her Free Minds family does.
to see Alaa's hand drawn map of Emesa.