The Day I Swam in Gold by journalism student Sarah Al Saeid

Sara sits at the back of the truck, Idlib, Syria

I never came close to it, to let alone climb it. 

But on June 12, 2009, I stood right in front of it, getting ready to climb into it. 

In the middle of the vast field of land where wheat was to your left and right, just on the outskirts of our village in Idlib, there it was. 

It looked mighty. It was massive… too big for a normal truck. Its wheels were most definitely triple my size. Years of hard work turned its color to rustic blue, washed away by the years. 

At its very back, there were the famous four lemons… drawn exactly above the license plate. 

I never understood the story behind the four lemons. They were everywhere, on every single truck and pick-up car my grandfather owned. It wasn’t a logo, nor did it symbolize anything really. The four lemons were just there for a reason unknown to anyone… as far as I’m aware. But I guess that’s a different story to investigate.

The ladder was located on the very left of the truck, slightly to the right of the driver’s door. 

As my fingertips were touching the last rung, my cousin, Tha’er, extended his arm to help me climb inside. 

But I couldn’t move. 

The scenery around me could have only existed on TV screens. 

That feeling that you get as you are watching an old movie from the 1930s, where you would like to believe this is the life that you should have been living… where you hear the birds chippering every morning, where the smell of freshly baked bread engulfs your senses, and you never get bored from the cool air brushing your skin. 

This life does exist, and at that very moment, I was part of it. 

My five minutes of pure bliss were cut short as my uncle called me from below. 

“Yalla Sarah! Go in!”

“What if I get it dirty, Amo?”

“It doesn’t matter,” said uncle Mohammad. “It’s still not edible. It will be refined, washed, processed, and packaged.”

“What if I sink?” 

“If it supports my weight, uncle Ahmad’s weight, and Tha’er’s, I’m sure it can support yours,” said uncle Mohammad laughing. 

“Okay then, I trust you.” 

It was warm, but not too warm. It also felt like sand, but rougher, though it was not that harsh on the skin. It was pure, but not finely grained, as they just harvested it. 

The golden ticket of north-western Syria, the bread and sweat of my family with its majestic yellow seed, all warm and compact, engulfed me. 

By the end of July, they harvest it, and by the beginning of June, it is sold to thousands. 

I held it and threw it in the sky… and it came back glowing and fell like rain.  

And It smelled fresh. Too fresh.

Of course, it smelled fresh… it was a pool of wheat grain and I was swimming in it.