There’s one of them in every group – the funny guy. The class clown. The guy that makes jokes and falls down just to get a laugh. In our own shabab this was Faiz. Faiz the Funny Man.
In archaeology, sometimes there are really long days being outside in the hot Middle East sun sweating your ass off and just sitting, staring at the dirt, poking it with your trowel, waiting for something to ‘come to the surface’ so-to-speak. Every day you think you’ve gotten so tan but it all washes away in your afternoon shower and you realize it was just dirt buried into your pores and adhered to your skin with sweat. It’s like going to the beach but without the cooling ocean, and you’re wearing pants. For example, my excavation notebook was a hot mess at the end of the season – Mix 90°+ temperatures, sweat, sunblock, dirt, and a left hander’s constant side fist smudge and that’s my notes. Poor Clemens, my advisor and the dig director, had work ahead of him deciphering it for his final reports and publications. It’s the same for writing labels on artifacts and everything else we do. But I kinda love it – it’s awesome to have a job where I get to be dirty and grungy and no one cares.
Alternatively, some days are lots of fun and there are amazing artifacts and lots of data to record and life is freaking fantastic. My job is cool. On those occasional long days when we’d be grumpy and hungry between 1st and 2nd breakfasties (4am to 9am) Faiz was there to brighten the day. Well, it was already damn bright out but you know what I mean.
He was hilarious. Because of the language barrier, for me he’d do physical comedy. Fall down and roll back up, sit in the wheelbarrow upside down or backwards, tie his scarf up like pigtails, or dance around with pots on his head. It always made me laugh. On the boring archaeology days in Syria Faiz always made it fun. When ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ played, he was quite the goof mimicking Shakira’s butt-shaking moves. Faiz was always in a good mood too. Constant smiles. That could make a big difference in how everyone’s mood was for the day. He wasn’t the highest ranking worker since he was most often put on wheelbarrow duty hauling dirt from the trench to the dump pile but he did it happily. There’s something special about people who can make everyone laugh, and what’s even more special is that’s what they want – to bring a smile to your face. Faiz is one of those special people.
Faiz left the dig before the season was over because he got a job working in the fields – we were in Syria in the late spring/early summer when all the crops needed to be collected. He worked the harvests every summer so this was a steady long term annual job he needed to keep. Unfortunately archaeology was less reliable for the villagers.
When he left we said goodbye and he asked me what my dig worker buddies always ask, if they’ll see me again. If I’ll come back to Syria soon. In doing archaeology in the Middle East you never know what the future will hold for excavation work so I answered him as I answer all of my dig friends.
“Insh’Allah. Mumkin sanna jayya, Faiz. Mumkin sanna jayya.”
(Broken Tracy Arabic for maybe next year.)