We were not able to make it back to Beirut on one of the days visiting the Bekaa Valley; I could tell that Ahmed and his co-workers were worried in the way that they were speaking Arabic to each other. He told me that the road was closed and that they were trying to figure out where we should sleep that night. I asked him, “If I wasn’t here where would you sleep?” He told me they would sleep in a shelter in one of the camps. So I said, “Let’s do that then.”
It was already dark and not that I was ever afraid of being kidnapped or assaulted but no one knew we were going to sleep there anyway. That concern wasn’t what he was worried about as I soon found out; it was the fact that the temperature had dropped to ten degrees outside and our shelter was barely insulated at all. There was a small diesel stove in the middle of the rectangular storage bin that we set up mattresses in. The process of making that tiny room warm was a whole thing. Ahmed poured the fuel into the stove to heat it, which made the room smell like gas. Then we waited for about 15 minutes for it to finally warm to a non freezing temperature inside. I was bundled with four blankets, none of which were very heavy but they did the trick. Exhausted from the day, I began to fall asleep.
At some point in the middle of the night, I woke up and realized the fuel had run out. Once again I was freezing. With only my face sticking out from under the covers, I couldn’t quite feel my nose. I whispered over to Ahmed to wake up and pour more fuel into the stove. It was hard for me to go back to sleep after that. The sound of morning prayers over the loudspeakers, babies waking up to be fed, an occasional motorcycle driving past: all gave me a soundtrack to my thoughts while I laid there in bed, far from anywhere that felt familiar to me. I thought mostly about how this is one night for me but every day for so many.