This gorgeous essay by Raksha Vasudevan reflects on her time in Antakya, southern Turkey, as an aid worker leading a Syrian team of risk educators. The piece explores the experience of war from a distance, and the surreality of tragedy and trauma.

In those moments, looking at a life and landscape so alien from the one I inhabited, the distance to Syria felt enormous, almost too vast for my mind to grasp. The fact of physical proximity seemed absurd—not false per se, but something else, something in that grey zone between truth and fiction. It felt, perhaps, surreal.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.