This past week and the upcoming week are the finals for the summer semester of Arabic and the University. I have realized that because it is the summer session, a majority of the people only staying for the summer and then going back. There are a few of us that will be staying on for the following semester but we are definitely the minority. The other part that is interesting is how fast it has gone by, and I have to say that once I am in the minority. Most people I talk to are ready to go home, they’ve had enough of the desert city and want all the luxuries of home back, they say it feels like its been a year, forever. I slide away and think to myself, it feels likes its been a week. Yea I’ve learned a lot, but nothing in comparison to what available to learn, and I’m not just talking language, also people, culture, music, travel, history, EVERYTHING! If I left know I would feel as if I had a brief vacation, I would feel a little robbed of my middle east experience, for me it is just beginning. Maybe I’m just slow to start, maybe I work a little different, but honestly I’m happy for those that want to go and are going, I would obviously love to go home with all the people I love and miss back there, but seriously, its been 2 months, that’s nothing. I get excited at the progress I’ve made language wise, but then to think about living now would just kill it.
As for leaving, a good portion of people aren’t just picking up and heading home, they are taking advantage of the region and traveling. People are going everywhere: Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq (although they’re army, so I’m not sure if it’s a choice) it’s fun to see everyone going to all these places, its exciting.
Before I go on to mention where I’ll be going, I want to tell a quick little story about something that made me smile. This may seem lame and not interesting but if you know me you’ll enjoy the subtlety: My roommate Ben, my roommate who doesn’t pay rent, Fadi, and the two Canadians all headed out this morning. Ben is moving out, he’s going to Beirut find a job, to get out of Jordan and to enjoy a little beach, Fadi’s tagging along. The Canadians are only doing the summer semester and having taken their final are off to travel for around 3 weeks. They are going to Damascus first, around Syria, over to Lebanon, back down to Amman and over to Palestine. Since they are all going in roughly the same direction they are sharing a ride to Damascus, where Ben and Fadi will continue onto Beirut through the famous Beirut-Damascus Highway. But as I was saying bye on the street, and as Fadi confessed his undying love to the Canadians (daily occurrence) I realized it wasn’t that bad because I would see them again. Then I said something that just makes me smile. Ever since, maybe high school I have been enthralled with travel and other countries and people and everything foreign, and to go to places that are famous and I’ve read so much about is one of the best things, so as I looked to the Canadians and then Ben I said “ I’ll see you in Damascus, and I’ll see you in Beirut.”
I apologize if that’s not interesting, but to me, its something I’ve been wanting to say, and never thinking I would, for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like going to dangerous places just to say I did, I’m not completely (only slightly) naïve to the reality that is the Middle East safety wise. But Damascus and Beirut are different, first of all I wouldn’t go if it wasn’t safe, and they are definitely safe. Unfortunately Syria is safe because of the repression, petty crime exists but when the penalties are somewhat ambiguous people are deterred from messing with you. And as long as you don’t talk about politics, religion, or the land across the river, you’ll be totally fine. As for Beirut, its one of the most fascinating cities in my eyes. It’s a city that embodies what no other city in the world does, its European, high life entertainment flavor, with beach clubs, alcohol, and pate’ mixed with an identity based on tribal religions, Arab clans, and thousand year old disputes remixed onto a new stage. If you judged the safety of a city by its nightlife, then Beirut would be the safest one, but if you judge it by bombs and guns, that’s another story. Beirut is a city that can be at the heart of war yet still have people thinking about having a good time. Not to say that its all fun and games, but as a city and country that was at war for itself for over twenty years and then at war with Israel since then, its doing pretty well for its self. As I think about my own safety and making sure I don’t do anything ridiculous, I know that I will have to stay up on the news. I don’t believe Beirut gives and societal warnings, I’ve come to realize that war doesn’t build up in Beirut, it boils over without warning like a tea pot that doesn’t whistle. Beirut goes “zero to hero” there’s no room for middle men.
So know that I have completely freaked my mom out, let me explain a little my travel agenda. Starting next week I am leaving for Damascus, all goes well I get across the border between 4-7 hours (they aren’t big fans of Americans) once I get there it’s about an hour and a half to Damascus. I’ll be in the old city for a few days, then hopefully catch a train to Aleppo. No need to worry about me getting lost and ending up in Iran, it’s a damn far journey walking, and I’d have to cross Iraq which may prove tricky. After Aleppo I’m heading west to the Syrian coast, there are some interesting looking port towns and with Turkey right above it should have a cool mix. After spending a while on the coast, I’ll be heading back to Damascus by way of Qalat al Hosn or Krak de Chevallier, the biggest crusader castle in the world. Its supposed to be phenomenal, so we’ll see. After Damascus I jump the mountains over to Beirut, which is a trip I will explain later.
The goal for this trip is language. It will be awesome to see all these places but what I am most exited about is the lack of English in Syria, when you put harsh sanctions on a country they don’t tend to support the learning of your language, which I’m only slightly thankful for. Syria will be the past place to force to get over a hump with the Arabic, it will be like one long test in the Colloquial Arabic, and I’m ready for it.
This is getting long so I’ll stop, but I hope to update at least a little bit along the way.
Ha shoofkom, Ma’a salaame