|The Berberians are only in Amman temporarily. When they first arrived they were put up by wealthy friends who live in Baghdad but who also have a home in Amman. Now they're renting a simple but adequate two bedroom apartment in a pleasant neighborhood up the hill from Amman's bustling downtown. It's a bit cramped but far better than some friends of theirs have it—also Armenians from Iraq—who are six living in a single room for the past five years.
But the Berberians' rent is high and they're looking to move. For now they can stay in Jordan but long term they want to find another country that will take them in. First choice would be the US—Lusine has a brother and other family in California—but as Iraqis this is pretty much out of the question.
They mentioned Canada; and Australia where they also have family. When we asked them about Armenia they said that yes, this is a possibility but they consider the country somewhat unstable. Lusine has been there once—as a youngster; Armen has never been.
Lusine especially, seems antsy. She's not allowed to practice medicine in Jordan and isn't accustomed to being so idle. She fills her days with reading and socializing and she's learning about email and the web at the Internet cafe. She's also planning to study French at the nearby French cultural center.
The girls too complain that there's nothing to do in Amman. In Baghdad they led busy lives filled with school, socializing, music lessons and Armenian scouts. In Amman they've taken to spending hours each day at the Internet cafe. This has opened up a window to the world for them but mostly they're engaged in chat sessions. It being September during our visit, Jordanian kids were buying their norebooks and returning to the classroom. Not so for the Berberian sisters—their schooling is on hold.
Throughout our visits with the Berberians they would often ask us "can we help you? Is there anything we can do for you?" They considered us visitors and themselves hosts. Each time we were at their house—sometimes for hours on end—they would offer up a constant stream of fruit, drinks and Iraqi specialties (brought by friends from Baghdad). One day we feasted outright on Naira's savory cooking.
When we left Amman for three weeks in Israel, saying goodbye was easy—we knew we would be returning.One afternoon after our return, Evelyn took over the Berberians' kitchen for a few hours and prepared a four dish meal of Chinese and Thai cooking—cuisines the Berberians had never before sampled—on one burner with a single frying pan.
A couple days later, for our last meal together, Lusine surprised us with an extravagant meal of Armenian style dolma. This time, goodbye was quite emotional. We had forged close friendships.
Thinking back and talking about our experiences with the Berberians, Evelyn and I are struck by the powerful sense of unity we saw within this family. They really love their country and are proud to be Iraqi. They have suffered due to forces well outside their control. They are victims. Neither the Iraqi or American governments seem the least bit interested in doing anything to help them. But due to their perserverance and the strong sense of self they each exhibit within the tight family unit, we were given the confidence that they'll come through the hard times alright.
During these travels, Evelyn and I often meet people whom we are not likely to ever see again. Our dream and hope is that someday we will be reunited with the Berberians—in California.