So. Some of you know I'm in Europe on vacation right now (which I'll blog about the travel later...), but I HAD to share this (assuming the intermittent internet reception lets me).
We FINALLY met some of our extended Syrian family!
I'm not sure exactly how it all came about, but one thing's for sure, Facebook made it all possible :) I know, I know, Facebook has it's evils, but in this particular instance, I feel nothing but complete gratitude!
My grandfather, the one that passed a few months ago, was from Syria. (My mom's maiden name is Azar.) It wasn't until Facebook that we realized some of those Syrian relatives had moved to Sweden, right outside Stockholm. And my uncle, the brilliant uncle he is, contacted our cousin, Firas, the moment he'd made plans to come to Stockholm. Through Facebook emails and photos, we decided to meet at a restaurant.
No one really knew what to expect. We've all grown up, well, continents apart. Not to mention, being, you know, multi-lingual Americans (cough-cough), we weren't sure if/how we'd be able to communicate, but alas! At least they were prepared, and spoke incredible English (Note: Nina speaks Syriac, Arabic, Dutch, Swedish, and English. *slaps head* Yeah. I felt a little culture-centric, and not in a good way.)
The incredible part was they actually felt like family! We talked and talked and talked, and laughed, and reminisced (Firas and Ramih's father, Issa, came to stay with my grandfather in the USA when my uncle and mom were kids...) and they invited us to their home for a traditional Syrian dinner the following night.
|From left to right: Annie (my sis), Me, Nina, Firas, Ramih, Uncle Alex|
|Christian and Nina|
|Little Issa and food!|
So, this is what Nina "whipped together" : Fatosh (salad), Malfof (like Domas) and cosa (stuffed squash), humus (HOMEMADE!), kebe (a meat dish), basterma (dried meat), and harise for dessert. Everything tasted so fresh and was bursting with flavor. My mouth was in ecstasies! Nina even sent me home with little baggies of spices, though I'm not sure anything I make will come even remotely close to what she'd cooked. And just as we'd cleared our plates, she had been ready with another heaping spoonful! Still full this morning... :)
|Firas, Christian, Issa, Nina, Gabriel, Ramih, Annie, Uncle A, Me|
Here's everyone, and I'll explain the connection for those of you that might care (family trees have been known to cause massive headaches...): Ramih and Firas are my third cousins. Their father, Issa, is Uncle Alex's second cousin. And Issa's father, Fahed, and my uncle's father (my grandpa), were first cousins. See? So simple :) While we were there, we even Skyped with Issa, who lives in Syria! My uncle said he looked just as he remembered him. Nina is Firas' wife (they have two beautiful children, Issa and Christian), and Gabriel is Nina's brother.
They tried teaching us some Arabic (and laughed when we butchered the throat sounds). I think we came out saying a few words that might be recognizable. Maybe.
All of them are such wonderful people, and I'm so glad to finally know them! Now I just wish we didn't live thousands of miles apart. Thank goodness for the internet to help bridge the distance!
Thank you, Nina, Firas, Ramih, Issa, Christian, and Gabriel, for such an unforgettable experience...you truly are a wonderful family! Until we see you again... :D