It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, some things are universal. Especially when it comes to the minds of children and what they like to do for fun. Many little girls, and little boys, love to play with hair and create all kinds of fun unique styles. They have an assortment of brightly colored barrettes, clips, and bands to work with. At one time Mattel even made giant Barbie heads with lots of locks for styling. Well it’s the same in rural Syria! We had a number of women and girls who worked inside of our dig house washing pottery, cleaning, and overall helping out. Sometimes the kids had downtime to hang out and play in the courtyard. On one of these occasions, my colleague Tuna was hanging out with them and let this special little girl give him a stylish hairdo while he worked on his notes. Thanks to Amanda for snapping this candid pic of the occasion. This photo says a lot about both the little girl who is friendly and outgoing to hang out with us as well as Tuna who was so awesome to let her play with his hair. We didn’t have TV or internet so hot afternoons were spent working on our notes and conversing with each other. That’s one of the things I love most about archaeology digs in remote areas. It’s also even more special when we get to know the locals, especially the kids. I don’t know how long Tuna and the little girl played together that afternoon but I know I walked by at least a few times and saw various hair styles. I bet she got such a kick out of it – I doubt any of her brothers or the other boys in the village would let her play with their hair and put girly clips in it. I imagine there were many smiles and much laughter for her that afternoon.
Thinking back to Hamoukar and Tuna, I am reminded of a “Who’s on First” moment that happened before he arrived. Dig Director Clemens told Abu Turki – our right hand Syrian man who took care of us – he needed to go pick up Tuna to bring him to the dig. At the time, Tuna was in Turkey, the border being about 25 km from where we were in Syria. Well, the conversation went something like this, in broken Arabic.
C: I need you to go get Tuna from Turkey.
AT: Why would I go to Turkey to get tuna?
C: Because that’s where Tuna is.
AT: Tuna is not only in Turkey, tuna is also in Syria.
C: What? What are you talking about? Tuna is in Turkey. You have to go to the Syrian/Turkish border to get Tuna.
AT: Why would I go all the way to the Turkish border to pick up tuna?
C: Because that’s where he is!
AT: But we already have tuna in Syria.
C: No, Tuna is in Turkey.
AT: Tuna is also in Syria. Why would I drive so far out of the way to pick-up tuna? That’s lots of gas.
C: How else do you expect for Tuna to get here if we don’t go pick him up?
AT: I can get tuna at the corner store. There’s no need to go all the way to Turkey.
I don’t actually know how long this back and forth conversation continued on before someone finally realized there was a huge disconnect and no one had told Abu Turki that Tuna is the name of the archaeologist coming from Turkey. Poor man! He must have thought we were all nuts insisting he go get cans of tuna from another country. I still laugh about it to this day.
Looking back at this photo now with the current situation in Syria makes my heart heavy. I imagine this little girl, in her adorable bright red sweater and kitty dress, as any other hairdresser gossiping with Tuna about her friends in the village – Who has a crush on who, who got a new dress for a party, whose new kitten is the cutest, and all kinds of other little girl dramas. Almost 6 years have passed so she must be a teenager now struggling in a war-torn country. She would have had to grow up fast helping her parents take care of her siblings, fixing her little sister’s hair not for fun but because she has to. Or perhaps she and her friends are still sitting around styling each other’s hair and laughing, keeping each other company to help pass the time and to distract one another from living in uncertainty not knowing when the war will end and they can return to normal teenage lives. Although, with how long the war has been going on, they’ve probably never experienced what any of us consider a ‘normal’ teenage life.
photo credit: Amanda Schupak