The morning started off anxiously. The Bakaloria exam results in Syria were due later on in the afternoon. I was away when, as my wife puts it, I should be home sharing and going through the anticipation, the agony and suspense before the final grades are published over the Internet. Well in self-defense, I was in Aleppo for a 48-hour business trip. Yet, I had such a good time, Om Fares almost succeeded in making me feel guilty. The official announcement in the papers stated that the results will be posted at 4:00 PM, Monday 16/07/07. Over 140,000 Syrian families collectively held their breath. Overnight the Internet became the most popular source of information in the country. Since the early morning hours, kids, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbors simultaneously and continuously directed their browsers to www.bakaloria.com . With an already anecdotal service, the net was brought down to its knees. At 4:03 PM, as I was driving back to Tartous and a few kilometers to the north of Hama, I received that most important call on my mobile. Om Fares was crying, and it was very difficult indeed to understand the words, more importantly, the numbers. 242, she kept repeating, 242 in between “happy” sobs.
After one long year of hard work, after over 12 slow months of commitment and sacrifice, after endless sleepless nights of studying and of almost total isolation, Diana came out a real winner and scored amongst the top 5% in Syria – 242 out of 260 on her National Bakaloria Exam.
My two colleagues in the car were as eager as I was to hear the good news. Like the Syrian Brit, I had to work hard to suppress that lump in my throat in front of them. I proudly conveyed the information and fought the tears from slipping at the corners of my eyes. We stopped at Cesar near Hama for a late lunch. I was elated and out of the blue ordered a cheeseburger with fries and Coke. In Hama… a cheeseburger! I think I broke the record as far as the longest time it took a human to consume a cheeseburger. In between bites, with messy hands and ketchuped fingers, I had to answer the onslaught of phone calls. Family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances I have neither seen nor heard from in years called me and made me even a prouder father.
Diana wants to be a pharmacist, a vocation which never succeeded in impressing me. However, it’s her dream, her choice and her future and I’m so happy for her.
When I made it home a little bit over 2 hours later, the first spontaneous party was almost over. After hugs and kisses I was told that the whole neighborhood must’ve dropped by to congratulate Diana and the rest of us. Om Fares was bursting with joy and pride. Nadia (11) was moving around as if she were the mother of the bride. Even Fares (6) was ecstatic and, I learned, took a SP1,000 bill from his piggy bank and handed it to his eldest sister as his personal gift.
I want to congratulate all the kids out there who made it. For the less fortunate, better luck in the future.
The ordeal is over, for another 6 years that is.