The story starts in romantic Rome where Girl and Boy meet. Girl and boy fall in love and get married. Boy and Girl keep moving from city to city - first Dubai for two years and then Boston for five. A confluence of circumstances and a thirst for adventure send Boy and Girl to Damascus, Syria ...... where the story continues. This site chronicles the day to day life of said Girl as she tries to build a life in the oldest capital in the world.
I’ve made the decision to end this blog. I’ve been writing about my experience in Syria for almost two years now. There is still so much left to say and document but everything now seems to center around the revolution. It’s dangerous to write about what is happening now. I’m not a journalist but I’m still a foreigner in a place that is going through tremendous change. Nowadays hope and despair go hand in hand when one thinks of the future of this place.
I’m also thinking about my future. As much as I love adventure and all, the things I see coming down the pipeline for Syria are not pleasant and I don’t want to be here when they come about. So I’m making plans to leave by the end of the year. People around me sometimes think I’m uber-pessimistic but so far the general things I had predicted for Syria have happened. The worst is still to come. Like everything in life, nothing is permanent and I predict good things in Syria when all this is over and done with. But this being the Middle East, nothing is fast. Things take time here and Syria’s new identity will be no exception - it will take a while.
So I thank you for reading my posts and living this adventure with me. Your comments and email have helped me through the sometimes painful process of living here and being a newcomer to this far-away land. Your words and support have meant so much to me, more than you will ever know.
So I’ll be in planning mode in these next couple of months. Wish me luck!
I’m back in Damascus after having spent all of Ramadan in Thailand (which was awesome). I return to a Syria more isolated than ever and sanctions keep getting piled on. The most evident of these sanctions, the one that affects everyday people, is the embargo on credit cards. What this means is that NONE of our foreign cards (credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards) work now. We can’t use cards to buy thing, make reservations, take out money from the ATM - NADA!. I can’t even use my cards to buy things from the US to the US. For example, I tried to buy my sister a birthday present and have it mailed to her in the US but I couldn’t because my IP address (Syria) is a non-friendly country and subject to international embargoes. Surprisingly Syrian’s don’t seem to be very affected by this. Only recently have banks made an appearance in the country and the habit of using cash for everything dies hard with Syrians. The remaining foreigners seem to be most affected by this card embargo. Let’s see what comes next.
As you’ve seen in the news, things are getting worse and worse in Syria. We need not get into the gory details and the seeming hopelessness of it all. The decision to stay or leave is tough for us - well more for my husband because his family business is here. Not that we couldn’t leave. We can easily go back to the US and start over but the emotional ties Syrians feel to this country are strong. That said, there is a limit to how much we can take and living like this is taking a toll. In an effort to clear our heads and figure out what is the smart thing to do we are headed to Thailand for all of August….I hope the cheap pad thai and steaming jungle heat will help us make the decision that looms in front of us.
I often find myself lost with what is happening with Syria. News is patchy, at best and I’m old enough to know that neither side is telling the entire truth nor is everything black or white. This interview with Middle East specialist was a very interesting read.
I read ‘Lord of the Flies’ back in high school. At the time, that book didn’t mean anything to me. I was too young and stupid to understand it. Yes I read it and got what it was about but I really didn’t GET IT. I didn’t realize it applied to real life. Little did I know that the story was going to play our right before my eyes in Syria. I am living through a real life ‘lord of the flies’ moment in history.
For those of you who’ve never read the book, here is a little summary:
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of English schoolboys marooned on a tropical island after their plane is shot down during a war. Free from the rules and structures of civilization and society, the boys on the island in Lord of the Flies descend into savagery.
Syria is not my first foray into the middle east. I actually lived in Dubai for 2 years right after college. The experience was generally pleasant but it felt like living in a plastic barbie house. Everything was great but not quite real. That said, that 'barbie house' is looking quite appealing right about now. Anyway, Dubai was where I spent my first Ramadan and it was truly magical. Not only did I get together with my neighbors for Iftar but it felt positive and meditative. I’m not muslim and I didn’t fast but part of me wanted to fast just to support my neighbors and friends during this contemplative and spiritual time. On top of all that there were decorations everywhere and special Ramadan tents being set up all over the city. The vibe was festive and it felt celebratory.
Fast forward 6 years and I’m in Syria. It’s a total 180 from my Ramadan’s in Dubai. In Syria, this year at least, Ramadan brings with it not a spiritual time but a time of violence, strife, and general bad juju.
Today Syria has been torn of such beauty. The conflict stricken country has banned photographers from being able to take picture of this gorgeous city. Perched on a rock a young man views the landscape of Damascus, ignorant to what the future holds for this historic city. Syria today is dark and lost, the serene emotions of this picture may never be felt again. But as the young man symbolizes, their is hope for the future.
An excerpt: “I am the only tourist I have seen during my visit to Syria. The beautiful boutique hotels, established in restored Arab houses, lie empty. The rug stores and galleries have no customers. There are no visitors to the castles and archaeological sites of Syria. The economy is reliant on Iran, Iraq and the Gulf. “
A few months ago I wrote about the cultural difference I experience often when eating out with my in-laws. Basically only my father-in-law is given a menu (as head of the family and table) and he orders for all of us. With my penchant for ‘rocking the boat’ I always ask to see a menu for myself which undoubtedly ruffles feathers and is met with "why does SHE want to see a menu?".
The video above, from TED Talks, showcases Sheena Iyengar and her studies on how we make choices.
HUBBY’S RELATIVE LIVING IN THE US: “How are things in Homs” HUBBY: "Not too good" ME (starting incredulously): “Dude, what needs to happen in Homs for you to say things are bad!? Fire from heaven!? Zombie attacks? The apocalypse!?. I think it’s safe to bump up your assessment on the situation in Homs to capital B BAD!
I’ve noticed a correlation between the escalation of the revolution and long nights of partying and drinking my friend and I are doing. It seems like the worse things get, the more people (in Damascus, at least) go out and party. To clarify, I’ve generally left my wild days behind and while I enjoy the occasional night out with friends on weekends, I’m usually quite content to stay at home with the hubby, a glass of wine, and a movie. But, the revolution has brought out a new side of us. Now we go out almost every night - usually to one of the local bars or friends houses. We have dinner and drinks and then stay out till the wee hours. Is this healthy? Probably not. Is it necessary? Yes. Where before the revolution I’d stay home and work on upcoming projects or plans, now we can’t do that. I honestly don’t even know if I’ll be living in Syria at the end of the year (and that’s only 4 months away). The uncertainty of the times is draining - that’s what happens when hope is ripped out of your hands. The hope of a better life, a better country, a better future. The first few months of the revolution we’d analyze the news incessantly trying to guess at an outcome or at least predict what would happen tomorrow. As things progress negatively we find it too depressing to watch the news and we’ve resorted to just trying to forget our worries every evening (trying to squeeze in any ounce of enjoyment before Ramadan comes upon us and with it the impending doom that everyone is predicting). I’m going to try to implement some of the strategies mentioned in the article to my real life here in revolutionary Syria.
So while I try to deal with the uncertainty of living in Syria right now, I found the link above comforting. There ARE things we can do to try to mitigate the stress of living in such a volatile country at a volatile time.
I live across the street from one of the few malls in Syria. Recently I was walking by the food court and a familiar scent wafted across - CINNABON!!. Now if you live in the US, you know what smell I’m talking about - cinnamon, coffee, gooey frosting, and the guilt of having consumed insane amounts of calories in one sitting.
Well, ladies and gents. Cinnabon has arrived in Damascus. I have no idea how they pulled this off. I thought there was an embargo on everything American here. Nonetheless, this chain as well as one Taco Bell store have recently sprung up in revolutionary Syria.
I for one applaud these efforts. Although I get that people don’t love the ‘westernization’ of non-western countries, stores like this popping up makes this place feel more like home, more familiar. And the bottom line is that the more business the better - whether it be American chains like “Cinnabon” or Syrian chains like “Bunny Burger” (yes there really is a chain called that). I hope the more we try to have in common - even if it’s fast food - the less likely we are to blow each other up.