This, my friends, is beer. Lebanese beer.I had one! Not bad, in a largery kind of way.
I was invited to a house party given on Thursday by a friend of a girl at the institute, and managed to negotiate an eta back of midnight. ‘Oh yeah,’ I thought. ‘that’s quite a rise from 9.30pm, the haggling in the Souk el Hamdie must be rubbing off on me. combined with a degree in argument and persuasion I’m unstoppable.’
We met in a cafe at Bab Tuma, the main gate into the christian quarter of the city, which we rampaged through looking for each other and buying beer before being led down an alleyway and up stairs that made me glad I was at the front of the crowd, and hence not going to be trusting my life to them after they’d had all of us undermining their structural integrity. At the top we found Ahmed, whose house it was, and Paul, who was responsible for the party. I hadn’t met any anglophones and I was getting very board of talking slowly for the foreigners , so I was excited to meet Harry, a monosyllabic Aussie, and Paul, an Irishman with a degree in International Politics from a certain world renowned university on the Welsh coast. Harrys monosyllabic nature was a bit of a disappointment, but Paul and I enjoyed reminiscing about departmental characters.
Mareike, a tall, slightly awkward German girl, who decided she wanted to study Arabic after acidentily going to Jordan rather than Gana in her gap year, and I made like Cinderella before the party really got going. As we walked back we planned to spend Saturday hiking from Sedynia or Mal’ula, Christian villages in the mountains near Damascus.
Friday was a quite day of study, until I went to an internet cafe to print out more copies of my passport so I can get my rental contract. After discovering that my family had sold their house this seemed like a pointless activity and I went home to talk to them about it.
I’m mainly board by the whole thing, but I am annoyed that they didn’t tell me themselves, and didn’t let me know straight away. They say they had to tell Muhamed Iskander, whose company set me up with them, first. I’m also annoyed that they haven’t said ‘sorry, I know its deeply inconvenient.’ instead its being treated as the will of god, something we have no control over. They want a ground floor apartment, as Hanadi, the second daughter, won’t leave the house on her own, and the Mothers quite old to be going up and down stairs all the time, which is fair enough. But I don’t believe that in Syria (where regestering for the libary involves handing over copies of your passport, a photo and your student card, then getting a second card to take books out, and a third to take them in) you can sell your house in two days. They’d been prone to flinging theire arms round me, playing with my hair and telling me they loved me, they were my sisters and they thought of me as a third unmarried daughter, which I’m a bit British to appreciate. I’m more anoyed about it now. Their response to me needing a rental contract ASAP is ‘in Syria we have many students from (long list of countries). The government is used to students from (long list of countries). nobody minds if you overstay your visa.’ Then long conversations with Muhamed Iskander about how much money I should get back. Give me the Belfry as Friday night entertainment any day.
I met Mareike and Nisrene, a Dutch Muslim who wants to learn the language of the Koran before taking up accountancy, as planned and complained about being told I had a week to find a new place on our way to Sedynia.
We sat outside the convent of Sedynia, sucking a Syrian take on the Twister with an obceanly red inside that left us looking like 8 year olds who’d been at theire mothers lipstick. Nisrene was amazed by everything she’d seen, specifically how like her hijab the nuns habits were. She had only flip flops and found the concept of walking long distances in the sun on rough ground for pleasure so confusing we relented and jacked in the hiking. Instead Mareike and I scrambled around on some rocks. She suggested I get hold of Pauls number. Hes been hear for two years, has abandoned teaching English and is now employed to make translations of the works of a 19th century sheik readable. (He says getting the text to flows not too hard, but making it readable is beyond him.) Mareike pointed out that, as the Damascus expat scenes man in the know and general fixer, he should be able to sort me out with something better than I could find myself, and anyway it would be easier.
A string of text messages and phone calls later and the upshot of it all is i’m sat in an internet cafe printing out lots of documents so I can move into a small room in the house we had the party in. I’m joining three wannabe dentists, from Turkey, Italy and Venezuelas Syrian comunity respectivly, and an Australian girl whose studying at the same institute I’m at. Italys refusal to teach its children English means that the lingua franca was Arabic, and now we don’t have one. I’m sure we’ll live.