Archive for the ‘Damascus’ Category

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…)

First day of class

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Well, here we go again.  Today I began my  third straight year of school.  I’ve been attending one school or another (minus xmas and spring break) constantly since June 2007.  And I actually really like it, so no feeling sorry for me.

Today I started Arabic classes.  I tested into level four (beginner intermediate), which is where I expected/wanted to be.  So far I think I’m beyond this level of grammar (I just did a grammar class spring quarter at OSU), but my speaking and listening are not really great, so this is the right class for that.  I also plan to start taking private lessons three days a week in Syrian (the colloquial language) within the next week.

So there are about 13 people in my class: 1 Iranian, 4 Spaniards, 1 German, 1 Chinese, 1 Malaysian, 3 Americans (me and my two OSU classmates, funny how we all got put in the same class), 1 Brit, and 1 Australian.  I am VERY excited about the chinese girl (Wen Qiying, but since Syrians can’t pronounce Qiying, she gave her name as Kiween).  We spent a while chatting in Chinese during break, much to the amazement of the rest of the class.

I’ll let you know more about classes once I’ve had a week of them and actually have something to say about the homework and stuff.

I also have more pictures to post, but I’ll probably be slow in doing it now that school has started.

More pictures!

Saturday, June 27th, 2009


Mosque being refurbished in front of the unfinished ministry of religion (has been sitting there for 10+ years).  This is at Sahat Marjet (Martyrs Square), a major hub (more…)

Pictures, finally

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Finally some pictures, if I can get them to upload anyway, the connection is sketchy here and some things are blocked.  I wish you all could be here though, the pictures don’t do it justice


This is the courtyard of the house I’m staying in.  It is very cool here in the (more…)

The Joys of Syrian Bureaucracy

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Well, today I got lots of stuff done, and I got to witness first hand the legendary Syrian bureaucracy, though I was assured that what I went through was MUCH easier and much more friendly than what it had been like in the old immigration office.  Let me back up, today I registered at the Syrian immigration office for a living permit here in Damascus.  I spent about an hour running around between various offices, accumulating signatures and stamps on a form that I was ultimately to hand to the “general” for signature and a stamp in my passport.  It was crowded (no such thing as lines in Syria, much like China) and hot, but it seemed like the officials were specifically helpful to me and Jennifer, I suspect because (more…)

Arrival in Damascus

Friday, June 19th, 2009

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 (more…)

Hello from Dubai

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Ok, so the Dubai aiport, kinda lame, but I decided to just sleep in the airport intead of spending money on a hotel.  The airport is actually pretty nice.  There is free wifi, and chairs that lean back where you can sleep.  I’ve had a long, but uneventful flight over here.  I met a mother with her three daughters at Cincinatti and she overheard me saying I was going to Syria.  Well so was she!  I kept them company and entertained her girls as we waited for our next flight (we had the same plane).  I didn’t get to talk to them much during the flight over the atlantic since we were a couple seats apart.  I met another girl (my age) who was born in America but was ethnic Palestinian, who sat beside me on the plane.  She was going to Jordan to visit family.  She was suprised that I knew how to correctly pronounce her name (yesmeen, the Arabic form of Jasmine).

Once I arrived in Dubai I exchanged a little money and ate some snacks a brought from home.  I didn’t like my choices between unhealthy – Burger King – and expensive – insert name of restarurant that I’ve never heard of before, but looks very high class.  So instead I had granola bars, carrots, sweet snap peas, and broccoli.

I should arrive in Damascus around 9:30 tomorrow morning Damascus time (they are 7 hours ahead of you all).  My roommate, well kind of roommate, who arrived two days ago as scoped out some rooms I’m going to look at, and I’ll probably pick one out tomorrow as well and get started on registering for classes, registering at the embassy, and registering at the Syrian immigration office *sighs*.  Classes don’t start till June 28, so I have a good week and a few days to arrange everything and get familiar with the area.  Thanks for your prayers so far, God has taken good care of me, and I really look forward to arriving in Damascus.

In Him