I know I haven’t updated my blog for ages. At the moment I feel like any time spent not studying Arabic is time wasted, so I haven’t got much to write about and if I have done something (attending the début performance of Syria’s first privately owned baritone saxophone, some leaving parties, going to the train museum.) then I need to make up for lost study time, rather than wasting yet more time writing about it. Today however it took me 6 hours to extend my visa, in August, in Ramadan (coming soon), and I think that was enough Arabic for one day, so I’m lying on the balcony wondering if I’ll ever rehydrate while writing about my recent adventures.
Damascus neighbourhoods have character; in fact I know a lot of people who are more nondescript than the average Chami suburb. Jermanna lets the good times roll, my hood in Jermanna Owl deals with having the blues by getting itself some rhythm to go with em. A suspicious Palestinian clearly thought Habibi and I were up to no good until we told him where we live, when he became all smiles. Sahilya is a Costa Coffee embellished yuppie land, while neighbouring Mohajaeen is half warm and traditional and half the exclusive home of the president. Living where I do its easy to forget the rest of Syria and think its all pretty much like where I live. It’s hard to believe that only 40 minutes away, sandwiched between Mohajareen and conservative, drab, Roknadeen a friend of mine pulls on long sleeves until she’s safely out into a more western part of the city.
They are also incredibly self-contained. Everywhere I’ve lived I could have lived happily without ever leaving my street and the two next to it, had I not studied and worked. People tend to work and socialise in their hood, and with their family’s. One of my Syrian friend’s lives in a building where every single one of the flats is lived in by her family, bar the hottest, top floor flats and an estate office on the wasteland outside my flat has a banging sound system and metamorphoses into the hangout for local whisky drinkers. Arbeen might be closer to me than to you, but it has as much impact on your life as on mine.
Before things started happening their life was taking me to Roknadeen quite a lot. In Jermaanaa I am pretty much the only 20 something not wearing skin tight jeans and a top with cleavage. In Roknadeen, the corner, of religion, I am the only 20 something not wearing an ankle length coat and head scarf. In Jermanna we say ‘Hows you,’ or ‘Good morning,’ when we enter a shop. In Roknadeen they start by saying ‘peace be open you, we say ‘health’ when some one sneezes and reply ‘on your heart.’ they both say ‘praise to be god’ it’s very strange.