Arrival in Damascus

Well, I know two things very well now, or at least I have confirmed in a big way what I already know: one, God loves me very much and ALWAYS takes care of me, second: I am VERY good at making friends ;)>.

Several things happened over the past day to confirm these for me.  First of all, at the Dubai airport, they moved the gate for the boarding and I didn’t notice, until 7 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off that is.  I ran to the new gate and got in just in time.  As I tried to go to my seat, I discovered that

my seat had been double booked and there was someone already in it.  So, I was placed in another, empty, seat nearby, and the man sitting next to me, named Khalid, started up a conversation (he spoke good English).  It turns out he was an electrical engineer who lives in Damascus and we became pretty good friends.  Now before you scold me for being too trusting of strangers, I was being cautious, and I felt that his story (married, a son, house in northern Damascus, travels around to contract work with various companies) was validated pretty well by the fact that a couple of his co-workers were also on the flight (he introduced us) and he showed me a picture of his family (he has an adorable son).

By the time we landed, he had insisted on helping me through customs and then driving me to my destination.  Yes, I politely protested, since I didn’t want to impose, but he was insistent.  (I can see you shaking your head right now, thinking I’m both stupid and a risk taker, but you’d have to have been there yourself to judge the situation and I had reason to trust him).  His elderly father (complete with white cap and robe) met us at the airport and we all piled into his car.

Not only did  Khalid insist on driving me to Sahat Bab Touma (Touma gate square), where I would meet my housemate/fellow OSU student, Jennifer, he also insisted on waiting with me until she showed up, and then handed me about 400 syrian pounds (about 8 USD, yes I protested).  He told me to call him as soon as I got a phone and he would be happy to help me go to the Syrian immigration office to register as a resident.  Well, what a blessing from the Lord!  My natural friendlyness, coupled with the renowned Syrian friendlyness and hospitality, has done very well by me so far.

I LOVE Damascus and I’ve only been here about 11 hours.  I haven’t seen much of the city proper, but the Old City (the original city which is still mostly surrounded by walls dating back to the 13th century) is a beautiful, interesting, and confusing labyrinth of narrow streets.  I will take, and upload, pictures as soon as I have time.  Everybody here has been VERY friendly and welcoming so far.

Anyway, after I got to Sahat Bab Touma, Jennifer showed up and we walked back to the house where she had rented a room.  It is in the Christian quarter (north east Old City), and the landlady is named Tareez, probably the arabic version of Tereasa.  She is very nice and speaks no English.  With Jennifer’s help, I picked out the first of two empty rooms she still had in the house.  It is large, with a queen sized bed, a desk, bookshelf, couch, large clothes cubbord, a cieling fan, and a large window into the courtyard of the house.  I really like it.  Jennifer is in a room next door, another OSU student named Jack is upstairs, and there are two Japanese students, also here studying Arabic, in various other parts of the house.  There is also a communal bathroom (with an actual sit-down toilet, not a squat hole–a rare luxury in Syria), a kitchen with a sink, counters, and fridge, and a very small shower.

After meeting my housemates and landlady (she made us sit down and drink tea and eat dates stuffed with almonds), Jennifer and I left to go find an ATM so I could withdraw money to pay my rent.  Thus began our first great adventure of the day.  We went to a place where there was supposed to be one on the map but couldn’t find it, so we started walking down a main street and asking people where a bank was.  About the third person I asked turned out to be a very, very nice Lebanese women named Emma who spoke good English (she’s teaching english in a wellknown institute in Damascus), and was very willing to walk us to the nearest ATM.  I actually asked her about her name and if she had read Jane Austin’s books and she said she had!

Anyway, we wound our way through the labirynth of the O.C. (Old City) streets to her appartment, where she dropped off her stuff, and then walked north again back to Bab Touma and went outside and a couple streets down.  The first ATM didn’t like my card, so she showed us another one nearby.  We figured out my card wasn’t working because I was asking for too much money at once, so I did several smaller withdrawals and got everything taken care of.

We said goodbye to Emma, thanking her profusely, and she went on her way to do errands while we waked back to the O.C. and our house.  I paid Tareez for my room and unpacked.  After an hour nap (jetlag was catching up on me, but I was still too excited to give in for more than an hour), Jennifer and I went back out to do some grocery shopping.  Thus started our second adventure of the day, in which we sort of kind of got lost, found our way again, and managed to get home ok in the end.

We checked out a market right outside of Bab Touma first, but all they had were lots of clothes stores, so we went back inside the O.C. and got some lunch/dinner.  I got a freashly made pizza, and it was soooo good (cost about 1.20 USD).  We then meandered down random streets, looking for shops with the groceries and supplies we wanted.  Many of the streets in O.C. don’t have names, and they are VERY winding and rather confusing, but we managed to make our way south to Straight Street, a major landmark of the O.C. since it goes straight through it from east to west.  Most of the two hours we were out we were just looking around to get to know the layout of the O.C, but we kept an eye open for things like toilet paper, shampoo for me, and orange juice for Jennifer.  We found everything we needed, and eventually found our way back to our house.

Ok, almost done.  I fell asleep for a few hours on my bed, and when I woke up it was dark, about 9pm.  I still needed to go find an internet cafe to do what I’m doing now ;), but Jennifer was tired and wanted to sleep.  So she lent me her phone in case I got lost, and I struck out on my own.  Yes, walking alone at night is relatively safe within the O.C., just in case you were wondering.  I found the cafe I was looking for easily and got all set up.  I am very satisfied with the speed of the connection here, and the owner speaks english.  I’ll probably use this one a lot, though I saw a few others on the way here that I might try out.  It is Friday today, so during the day things were pretty quiet and most shops were closed.  When I went back out again after dark things were much more crowded and lively.

Tomorrow I plan to buy a  phone, a map, and do some other stuff to get ready to start my registration process once things open up on Sunday.  Here in Syria the weekend is Friday and Saturday.  Ok, I think I’ve bored you guys long enough, sorry for the rediculous blow by blow account of my day.  Hopefully you find it interesting instead of dry and boring.  I’ll probably not write again for a couple days, but I’ll try to take and upload some pictures.

In Him

Lydia

2 Responses to “Arrival in Damascus”

  1. clilianm says:

    Lydia,

    Thanks for the updates – it’s very fun to read of your adventures! We’re thankful you’ve arrived safely! And, I for one don’t worry about your safety with new friends! Enjoy getting acquainted with your new surroundings!

  2. Dad says:

    Bravo! Your usual fascinating account of foreign adventures. See any scorpions yet? :-)>

    This account reminds me of sights and smells in Morocco. I want to go back…

    Love, Da

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