Friday, June 10, 2011
Now that I am out of Syria I feel I should post another entry about my 10 days spent there.
Something about seeing Assad’s smug photo every 10 minutes, watching you from various vantage points like a hawk, makes a person (perhaps justly) paranoid, about writing anything less than 'complimentary' on an online travel blog. Don’t get me wrong, as a (female) tourist, I couldn’t have been safer, and i had an absolutely amazing time, Syrian people really are the kindest people i have ever met and I can't tell you how easy the borders and any situation involving the “authorities” were (the various policemen who sent me “I love yous” and photos of hearts on my recently temporarily activated Bluetooth device, or the officer in full camoflage army gear at the Turkish/Syria border who responded to my answers of his “where have you been/where are you headed next?” questions with, “ahh yes…well regardless, come back here and live with me in Syria, ok? *wink-smile-wink*) but there was a lot more to my visit than just fun, a lot more to talk about than just souks and falafels and sheeshas and arabic coffees with pretty (very pretty), Syrian men.
Now is the time to write a bit more in depth about Syria, and how it was for me to see a country in the middle of revolt, from the inside...writing from the safe distance of Turkey where i now am.
I wrote in my first entry from Damascus about how “surreal” it was to be somewhere that had a “do not travel warning” against it, and how positive my experiences at the border and whatnot were, and I feel like I really need to expand on this. It occurs to me that maybe using the word “surreal” was a bit trite and…ignorant. As in, the "spoiled rich tourist" who exists in a bubble of surrealism and fun and doesn’t quite acknowledge the reality of whats going on. Except sitting that Friday afternoon, in the Damascus suburb of Sehnaya, while there was no internet in the country at all that day, Shadi and i curled up on the couch...I WAS in that reality, however briefly and i saw exactly the brutality if it. That reality was a lot more sickening than surreal, and using the word "surreal", well, i feel like somehow i almost diminished the actuality of things and I don't want to do that.
It was painful to be watching Al-Jezeera news about the protests, shootings and so on, that occurred in Hama (25 at least killed that day), as well as the peaceful (from what I gathered) marches that occurred only 10 minutes from where I was, but resulted in the road being blocked (half the reason we stayed in the house all day)...and to see in contrast the amazing hospitality and kindness of the same Syrian people who's families had been effected by the shootings.
What I am trying to say here, with some difficulty (i'm still suffering the after effects of Syrian-induced sleep deprivation,i i think, bear with me here), is that it was more than a "surreal" experience to visit Syria at this time in history; it was heartbreaking. To be in such a beautiful city as Damascus, with its cobblestone alleys full of people (men and men, women and women, men and women), walking arm in arm... such genuinely kind and friendly people, still living life with more joie de vivre than the average Calgarian and knowing the bloodshed that was going on at that very moment throughout the country...it was really devastating. To walk the mysterious tangled streets and see Assad's smiling face peering down at you, from shop windows, cafes, bustop signs….virtually everywhere, and know that the general consensus on the street at this time was that he is responsible for these deaths, he is to blame...but yet people still have to stare at these photos or risk death if they rise up against him...I cant really put into words how that felt to watch.
I am so incredibly grateful that i made the choice to go to Syria, and the time i spent there was unforgettable. I met the most amazing people and i had the unique chance to see a country technically in turmoil, that still welcomed me and showed, an outsider, more joy and friendliness than most fortunate, stable, western, "free"countries.
InSha Allah, i will get to return one day to Syria, and see the towns and cities that i was forced to miss due to the regimes brutal crackdown on dissent, but more importantly i hope for a swift end to the suffering of the people, and a quick fall from whatever grace Assad has left (there ain't much), and that the people of Syria... get their beautiful country back, full, complete and free.
love, from Turkey