Giulia, a teacher faraway who keeps all these dear memories in her heart
During my stay in Saida, Lebanon – volunteering with SB, I had the chance to spend a lovely afternoon at Buthaina’s place, learning some of the secrets which make her one of the best cooks of the shelter. Since I was very curious about the life of such a wonderful woman, Buthaina and I tried to have a conversation so that I could have the opportunity to know her better: imagine the result of it with my very poor Arabic and her sweet English…To break the ice, I asked her a silly question and I got a funny answer: “Buthaina, why do you like cooking so much?” She replied: “Because I like eating very much! But I would also like to lose some weight!!”Buthaina learned everything she knows about food from her mum. She is the eldest of many siblings and for this reason, she had to start helping and supporting her mum when she was 13. During the 4 months I spent with SB, Wednesdays had always been my favorite day of the workweek: Lunchtime would be greeted by the aromatic smell of Syrian cuisine, followed by Buthaina with a huge tray of scrumptious dishes in her hands.
She never stayed for the meal, before leaving us to enjoy the food, she would walk into each classroom to ensure that everyone was aware that lunch was served,
Although lunch was only 40 minutes tops, she would only come back an hour later. She would walk into the office grinning from ear to ear at the sight of the now-empty trays knowing that we appreciated her amazing gift.
Her favorite dish to cook is Shish Barak. Cooking Shish Barak brings her back to when she was with her family and especially her dad, the one who taught her how to do it. Buthaina wanted to cook it for us (volunteers) but she could not, since many of us were vegetarian.
The first time she ever prepared it was during Ramadan; when she was only with her father and brother.
It is common, during Ramadan, to cook the most special dishes of their culture – of course in large quantities – and to share the desired meal with their loved ones. Buthaina told me more about her Ramadan traditions since I didn’t know much about it.
During Ramadan, she cooks in large quantities to share those exact trays of
food she shared with us, with her neighbors who are like a family to her.
To her, sharing her cooking brings her the greatest pleasure. In fact, she feeds half the number of people who lives on the same floor as her in the shelter!
She is known as the cook of the Ouzai shelter – when there are huge celebrations, she is the Head Chef and instructs her sous chefs on what to do, and how to cook!
When Buthaina came to Lebanon with her family in 2011, she had to learn new recipes to adapt to the local traditions and to cook according to the ingredients available in Lebanon.
She does her grocery shopping in Saida or in a make-shift fruit and vegetable store in the shelter.
Cooking for us volunteers meant taking care of us, and it is easy to feel it when you are being fed with love every week. She told me that she does this to thank us for our presence and support we have been providing the community with.
On top of that, it is to thank us for the support we tried to give her with a resettlement procedure; she is trying to get the family’s documents in order so that she can leave Lebanon to join her husband in Germany.
She is very thankful to SB Overseas because her children’s public school grades are improving and she also enjoys the empowerment program where she gets to interact with volunteers and use the safe space to hang out with her friends.