A couple of days ago, I posted here about a lovely Syrian woman who I met. She was living as a refugee in Jordan and one of her biggest frustrations was that she and her daughters are bored out of their minds. There’s no work, there’s no school, there’s no family nearby. And the fact is, that they’re more than a little traumatised after surviving the bombing of their neighbourhood back in Syria, so going outside is not particularly appealing.
As I journey with my Syrian friends through the current events that are turning their country upside down and redrawing every aspect of the reality that they knew, I am learning more about this phenomenon of boredom.
This is my conclusion (so far): At the peak of violent conflict, there are two categories of people. There are the people who are fighting, and there’s everyone else. And everyone else has absolutely nothing to do except for wait it out.
Even mothers struggling for the survival of their children, uncles and cousins determined to get their families to safety, can do little while the fighting is going on. All they can do is quite literally hunker down out of the line of fire and wait.
In violent conflict, prices and unemployment both soar, leaving very few people with any disposable income. Refugees who have fled conflict very often can’t find jobs. Having no money to spend limits options – sometimes there is not even food in the house to engage in the activity of cooking.
In violent conflict, electric and phone lines become unreliable. And even where lines are not cut, it costs money to use electricity or telecommunications, so conservation is key. For hours on end, the people who are waiting have no access to television, internet or people to chat with on the phone.
I have friends who were in their last year of university when they had to flee their house in the pre-dawn hours of one morning. Because they left in a rush and they left on foot, they couldn’t bring their school books. It’s one thing to have to drop out of university in your last year, but it’s adding insult to injury to have to stop reading entirely.
And what happens when people are bored? Well, the worst case scenario is that people get restless and decide to start fighting. Sadly, this worst case scenario isn’t that unusual.
But the most interesting phenomenon I’ve found is that many people I know have become nocturnal. With nothing to do, they sleep in in the morning. Then they’re not tired at night so they stay up late. When they finally crash late at night, they set no alarm and so they sleep in again. And so the next night they fall asleep even later. So, so not healthy, physically or emotionally.
Best case scenario, though, is that families bond. Brothers and sisters, grandparents and children, even neighbours, revive the time-honoured tradition of actually talking to each other.
What a strange world we live in. If you’re reading this, can I ask you to please say a prayer for Syrians who are bored out of their minds during this interminable season of waiting?