Archive for July, 2009

Azem Palace

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

This week was pretty grueling.  We had our “midterm” on thursday.  I felt like I totally failed it.  It was soo hard.  And what was annoying was that there wasn’t anything I could really do about it.  The reason it was hard was because of of the reading and listening.  The reading was hard because I didn’t know the vocabulary.  Not that I didn’t know the vocab we had to learn for class, its just that it used a lot of words I’ve never even seen before.  And the listening was hard because I’m just not good at listening, I’m more a visual person.  However, I feel like all the tests are super hard and looking at the grades of last class, no one got above an 85 and the average was a 70.  I guess they just have much higher standards here.  Which is ok, since I’m going to get K-credit for this at OSU (no letter grade, just a pass/fail).  Anyway, that was painful, and annoying, but at least it gave me a better idea of what the final exam will be like.

Today I went and visited the Azem palace, build by the Shah of Damascus in the 1700s.  It was very beautiful and fascinating.  They had good english translations of most of the major arabic explanations of things, and I got to learn a lot about Arabic architecture and bout the different parts of houses and what they were for.  They had exhibitions of Arab instruments and the history of Arab music, and a room on the Janissaries of the Ottoman empire (they were the Ottoman elite guard).  The palace had its own bath, built similar to the Roman baths.  Maybe they liked it back then, but personally, I wouldn’t want to take a bath in there.  I’m not a big fan of “bath” and “public” going together, even if it is only women or only men.  I especially liked the room on Damascene weapons.  They talked about Damascus steel, and the evolution of weapons and the weapon building trade that Damascus is famous for.

My favorite room, though, was Prince Faisal’s audience room, where he received petitions during the short time when he was in control of Damascus after the Arab revolt.  That was really cool, since I wrote this whole long paper about him and the revolt at the end of spring quarter.  It was absolutely amazing to be standing in a room where I knew he had stood, and probably T.E. Lawrence as well.  I wonder if there are still any monuments or history left in Iraq about Faisal and his family’s rule there.  I wonder if any of it has survived the turmoil and wars.  If there is, I’d love to go see it someday.

I was also going to visit the Umayyid mosque today, but it was 11 by the time I left the Azem palace and I felt like, since It is a saturday, the mosque was too crowded for my taste.  So I’ll go back and visit earlier in the morning some other weekend.  Instead, I ended up wandering the streets of the old city, munching on a bag of pistachios I’d bought.  Drat, I wish I could live in Damascus for longer than two months, like, two years.  Grumble.

Sorry for the short post, but, homework calls, and all that.  I’m trying to work on getting my presentation ready, on “American art: its development and its influence on American society”  Arg, what a huge topic.  Anyway, I have that to work on.  Oh, and I started colloquial lessons on Thursday, so I have homework for that too.  My tutor seems very good at what he does, and I’ve learned a lot from just one lesson.  Its only an hour a day, but he packs a lot into one hour.  The best part though, is that he has an air-conditioned room that he teaches in.  Yeah!!

First week of school in Syria

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Well my first week of school in Syria has come and gone, and I’m looking forward to next week!  The classes themselves are very interesting.  They involve learning new vocab, reading and discussing passages about Syria and the ME, learning and practicing new grammar, working on listening skills and dictating, and doing conversation.  We will also each be giving 20 min presentations at some point in the month.  Mine’s not till the end of July and I was assigned the topic of “the arts in America” *makes face*.  Not my favorite topic, but as I’ve said in the past, everything interests me, and just thinking about doing research on this (despite my automatic reaction of disinterest in art) is getting me excited.  I really know nothing at all about the arts in America, except for a very few famous names and some very recent stuff.  I actually know a lot more about the arts of the rest of the world than about the arts in America.  So anyway, we’ll see how that works out.

I’m making good friends with my fellow classmates.  It is absolutely fascinating to be around so many diverse people from different parts of the world.  And I am constantly amazed at what I see every day, echoing what I grew more aware of in China: (more…)