First week of school in Syria

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: cultures and languages may be different, but in the end we are all just people and we have so much more in common than we think.  I am quite frustrated at people who let silly things like culture and language get in the way of knowing more about your fellow man, the differences are amazingly interesting, and underneath there are so many commonalities.

Anyway, getting back to becoming better friends with my classmates, last night one of our teachers, Rami, invited us to dinner at his house.  About 9 out of us 13 students were able to come.  There was Nadia from Spain (though ethnically from Homs in Syria), Marta from Spain, Michael from Germany, though he lives in Greece with his Greek wife and family and teaches Latin at a university (he’s a classicalist, and about 30 years older than the rest of us), Nurideen from Turkey, Lindsey from Australia (he’s a guy, apparently Lindsey *I might be spelling that wrong*, can be a guy name), Sarah, from England, and me and my fellow OSU students: Jennifer and Jack.  There were so many of us that, in the end, we just ordered pizza and KFC chicken and ate dinner out on Rami’s porch, enjoying the cool night air and the refreshing breezes.  Not very traditional Syrian, but you’d be amazed at how much pizza people eat here.  And it is the food of convenience.  We mostly tried to stick with Arabic, but a lot of English was used too and I spent some time brushing up on my Spanish with Nadia.  I ended up pooping out before the rest and had to go home around midnight or fall asleep in my chair.  I don’t know how late the others stayed, but they looked like they were still going strong when I left.

I’m writing this post at home, and I’ll post it when I go to the internet cafe this evening so I don’t spend precious time writing it when I’m being charged for my internet use.  It is so frustrating to me to not have internet all the time like I’m used to.  And to actually have to PAY for it, how infuriating!  In my opinion, connection to the internet should be a free commodity like air, and like air it should be everywhere all the time.  Yes, I know that’s very silly (though according to my dad, one day the whole US will be one, big, free hotspot), in that many many people can’t get on the internet, and I know I”m very spoiled.  Its mostly a communicating thing, I’m ticked that I don’t have immediate access to communicating with the rest of the world, through chatting and skype for my family and friends, and online news to keep up with what’s going on around the world.  I have to look up and save a bunch of news stories on my desktop whenever I go to the cafe because if I sat around to read them in the cafe I’d end up paying a bunch.

Of course, I know that this is something I get used to.  Depending on what type of job I end up with in the MC, I’m probably going to spend most of my time in places where access to the internet is restricted.  But I think it will be better then since I’ll have a proper job and other things that will keep me busy.

Another thing that has REALLY spoiled me is the excellent fitness facilities at OSU.  I am really annoyed that I can’t throw on some workout clothes and, in five minutes, be working out with top of the line equipment in an air-conditioned and clean building.  Or that I probably won’t get to swim all summer, or that I can’t go jogging in the streets in the morning.  Grrrr.  I’ll work around it of course, its just more inconvenient and less efficient, and you know how much I hate wasting time.  At least I can walk to school every morning.  It takes a little under an hour at a brisk pace, as in speed walking, and I really enjoy it.  Not only is it nice to see the city in the morning, but its nice to get out and stretch my legs at a walk and not a run.  I don’t get to walk much in the states because I am usually very busy and so take my bike in order to get places faster.  Also because i’m busy, I don’t have time to walk for exercise because it takes so much longer to burn as many calories as running will do in a much shorter time.  And anyway, I’m not tested on my walking speed in the physical fitness test for NROTC *grin*, I’m tested on running.  And I know from experience that if you want to be good at something, you have to actually DO it, a lot.  As in, the best way to get good at chin-ups is to do chin-ups, not lift weights.  The best way to get better at running is to run.  You need to do other things as well, of course, but no matter how fit you are, that doesn’t mean you’ll run well if you don’t practice.

Ok, so there are a lot of things about Damascus that annoy me because it isn’t as technologically developed and convenient as America is, but that is more or less pathetic and I don’t dwell on those feelings.  There are a lot of great things about Damascus that make up for it, and that are much better than in America (safer to walk around at night than American cities for one, very low crime rate).  And I know I’m more or less spoiled, so I’m glad I have the opportunity to enjoy life while getting by on simpler means.  And none of the inconveniences would ever deter me from traveling and living in other countries.

Random interjection: I remembered last night that Saturday was the 4th of July.  I’ll be spending my second 4th of July out of the States.  Its a bit depressing, I miss not being in my own country on the day we celebrate our independence.  I love traveling a lot, and I wouldn’t mind if I spend most of my life abroad.  But I am so grateful I have America to go back to, even if I don’t go back.  Just the fact that it is there and free is enough for me.  I and other OSU students had a great 4th of July celebration in China last summer, we even had fireworks and good ol’ American music, thanks to and apple and their great inventions (ipod with a dock and speakers).  But that’s not going to happen here.  Maybe I’ll get one of my American housemates to go out to dinner or something in celebration, we’ll see.  I hope everybody enjoys their good ol’ American style 4th of July picnics or barbecues back home, wish I could be there.

So it is Friday, and the weekend is today and Saturday, which classes starting again on Sunday.  I don’t really like it, but because of the culture I’m in I don’t really have a choice to work on Sunday.  I’ve switched my “day of rest” to Friday, though of course I’m still looking for a church to go to on Sunday.  It feels kind of weird, but Its temporary.  I read and studied the first book of John today, since I don’t have a church to go to and no one to fellowship with yet.  I also sang some hymns, by myself and missing accompanying music and voices, but it was wonderful to just sing all the same.

I learned the other day that some Muslims believe that music is evil, based on certain hadiths (actions) of Muhammad (Muslims disagree on the authenticity of the sources, so that’s why only some Muslims believe that).  I feel like that is just flat out wrong.  It is so wrong to deny something that is such an integral part of who we are as humans and how we express ourselves.  It is just wrong to call evil something that can be so beautiful and so good.  Yeah, sorry for the little rant, but I am a very musical person and music is a very important thing to me.  I honestly couldn’t get along without music, I enjoy it so much.

I hope you are all doing well, and as always, I really hope to hear from everybody.  I’m definitely missing home, though I am in NO hurry to get back there any time soon (Syria is great!), i just wish I could take home with me when I traveled.

God bless

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.