Rami yelling at my landlord in Arabic was infinity more successful than my asking him to fix the sobia (stove) in English. he came and did it almost at the time he said he would. The only problem is that all the mazoot (diesel) was in peoples sobias. Hisham and Amet are Syrian/Venezuelan and Turkish respectively. Indeed Amets from Antakia, part of Syria until the eve of world war 2 when the French tried to buy Turkish support by giving them a chunk of Syria, and his grandfather doesn’t speak Turkish, only Arabic. My point is neither of them are crippled by the European expectation that things will work and they haven’t ever been lost and bewildered in Syria. They told me to get mazoot I had to listen for ‘a special toot,’ and thought they’d sorted me out. The other foreigners in my house are also Syrian winter virgins. They have no idea how to buy Mazoot either, and are glad its my problem not theirs. I know the toot for vegetables, the toot that means the blindman is selling tissues, and the random yelling that signifies I can win gods favor by giving the beggar money. But not the toot for mazoot. Hisham says that in Lattakia the mazoot toot has been banned, so now the mazoot salesmen play a certain Ferouz song really loudly instead.
‘Its not beautiful,’ he told a doubtful Paul and me, ‘Its more than beautiful. ‘*
However the other day as I walked back from Paul and Ramis I passed something that smelt like it would sell me mazoot, so today i took our mazoot container (which would make any self respecting health and safety inspector cry) and investigated. I found a van with a pair of 14 year olds happily smoking away in it. ‘Ana bidy asteratu masoot,’ I told them. They burst out laughing, probably because I’d said ‘I want to have brought deisal.’ One of em hoped out, pulled down a flap on the van revealing a mini petrol pump, flicked his cigarette ash and asked me how much I wanted. Que very confused conversation, but eventually he filled it up, fag glued to his lower lip the whole time. I payed and attempted to run away fast; the cigarette was dangerously close to being finished and I don’t wanna die like Zoolanders friends. At this point I understood why the mazoot seller was so reluctant to sell me a gallon of the stuff – you try doing some James bond running and diving away from an explosion while lugging half your body weight in mazoot.
Taxi drivers don’t let people slopping mazoot around get in their taxis, but matha mushkala; some random guy carried it home for me. Sophia and I couldn’t get the Sobia to work, neither could Maria. Amet told us it was broken – Hishams the one who can fix things. Hisham got various spare parts and hybridized the thing.
‘Don’t go in to your room for 10 minutes,’ he told me. ‘The Sobia will probably blow up, but that is normal. Afterwards it’ll be more than perfect.’
In good news the Mahads decided Dec 26th is definitely a holiday, that Jan 1st probably is and Jan 2nd maybe to.
*Hisham finds it almost impossible not to say ‘its not x’ then stare soulfully into someones eyes, anyones eyes, and declare, ‘its more than x’. He particularly likes saying stuffs ‘more than perfect.’ Sophia, Paul and I find this hilarious, and are consequently doing it a lot to. Hisham knows their is a joke, but, despite our efforts to explain, not quite what it is, which makes it funnier still. Paul has his share of Irish charm as well, and I’ve been teasing him about being a charming bastard since we first met. Copying me Sophia has taken to telling them both that they’re ‘so charming,’ which infuriates Paul on the grounds you’d have to be blind not to see straight through Hisham. I find Pauls annoyance, the reason for it and his reluctance to explain it to Sophia not hilarious. Its more than hilarious, as is our total inability to accurately define ‘charm’ for Hisham, Amet and Rami.