Cs’ impression of my life in Cham is marred by the fact I’ve got builders. Last month we all cleaned the kitchen together. Scrubbed the floor under the fridge, cleaned the windows, did it proper. The next day we came home to find some of the landlord’s friends and relatives had smashed up the kitchen, the toilet and the shower. The landlord, said it’d be finished in 5 days; H predicted it would last a month and upped sticks back to Swaida. A returned to Antakya and I borrowed Ps flat in Jermaana, but we’ve all had to come back. Landlord assures us daily it’ll be finished tomorrow.

C can’t understand why they’re attempting to ‘get the water out the walls’ (Damascus houses all, for some inexplicable reason, have damp problems) by tilling the outside of the kitchen rather than by replacing the bit of roof that blew off in a storm the other night or putting some glass in the windows. I see where he’s coming from, but I’ve seen too much of Landlord to have wondered this.

I’m pretty sure that builders being keener on the destruction part of the job than the construction stage is international. Likewise I know they never turn up to work before 11 and then have a cup of tea, before breaking for lunch. I’m less sure that Welsh builders invite their friends round for those tea breaks. I’m pretty certain that in Europe they don’t help themselves to the food of the hapless tenets and cook a nice meal for themselves and their mates. A’s Canadian girlfriend is visiting and, animated by fury, she asked the builders what the hell they were playing at.

‘This is the Arab way,’ they said over bowels of vegetable rice with tomato broth and salad on the side, bewildered by her anger.

This annoys me; the thieving of the teapot pisses me off. I’m not happy about the building noises (though actually these are not intrusive. They don’t do enough building for that). Going downstairs to use the bathroom is deeply inconvenient. What I’m furious about how middle aged I sound.

Author: adventuresinarabic

I'm studying Arabic in Damascus, living through the Arab Spring and blogging about my experiences hear.

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