Living in Syria is oh so different from living in Wales. Loud music late at night is acceptable, provided you’re not on the balcony. Undisguised empty beer bottles the next day are definitely not, particularly on the balcony. Obviously the waters not drinkable but we have frequent water cuts as well as power cuts. I’m really not that great at making up my mind, so I’m not overjoyed by having an additional decision to make – light or air con? In my ‘hood, miles from the lion’s lair in Mohajareen, there just isn’t enough electricity for both.
The range and quantity of vermin is massively increased as well. According to the Hans Weir dictionary of modern written Arabic there is no word for ‘rat,’ just ‘rats,’ in the plural, or ‘a big rat.’ I don’t appear to have these in my flat and hopefully the massive feral cat population, vermin in its own right, keeps them down. Cockroaches*, which before I moved to Syria I’d only seen in zoos, are definitely a feature of my life. What I don’t understand is how they’ve got this reputation as the indestructible insects. While it’s true that they can take a good few whacks with the Hans to dispatch of, left to there own devices they seem to do nothing apart from dying. I swear my house has more dead roaches in than living ones and a friend’s seen one die, without encouragement, as it was running across her bathroom floor. The may be more living people in the world now than history’s total haul of dead people. This is not the case with the cockroach population.
Life at the moment is focused. All my friends are having little study binges, and socializing involves telling each other the amusing new words we’ve learned. Tahitala = he imitated Hitler, qalba, he was overcome by hydrophobia. I’m also working six days a week, and now have the group from hell. One member treats it like a private lesson, doesn’t do his home work and thinks ‘us speak English good. Problem only grammar’ No, my friend, you speak English like Yoda crossed with Jar Jar Binks. The difference between the past and present tense is not ‘only grammar,’ and if I explain the difference between ‘where’ and ‘when’ one more time…
*In Arabic sasour, one of a number of words I’m quite proud of, as I’d never have acquired them if it wasn’t for the idiosyncratic, nay, substandard, nature of Syrian houses.