Friday, January 08, 2010

Flashback Friday: A not-so-fond memory of Syria

Man, sometimes living in Syria really sucked. Like this one time, when some construction workers parked a huge vat of bubbling tar outside our apartment building for a few days, spewing smoky billows of tarry goodness into our home. We started noticing the smell one Sunday morning and at first we couldn't tell where the stench was coming from. Then we looked outside and saw this:


Shockingly, our only defense against the haze and smell - some thin, loose, rattly window panes - was breached almost immediately. I was pregnant with Miriam at the time, but I think that even without a super bionic maternity nose, the smell must have been pretty bad.


The construction dudes quit work in the afternoon (just in time for school to get out, and since the workers left their gear and equipment out, the kids had a lot of fun playing with it) and the smell abated. Phew!

Until midnight, when it came back with a vengeance. Jeremy actually went outside at that point (perhaps needled by his sensitive, pregnant wife) and confronted the workers, who helpfully explained that they had to fire up the tar vat at midnight because it takes the tar eight hours to heat up to 400 degrees Celsius (who knew?).

Jeremy smiled and nodded and then went to the police station to see what could be done. That might seem drastic, but it wasn't just our own welfare we were looking out for. These fumes were really bad, and at that moment, they were wafting over a whole building full of sleeping residents. If they even could sleep through the smell, that is. It just didn't seem right.

The policeman came with Jeremy down to the construction site, had a look around, had a chat with the workers, and then shrugged his shoulders with a "meh." The workers promised him that they'd be done tomorrow (bukra, inshallah, ha ha ha) and everyone parted as friends.

Everyone except for Jeremy, of course. I think he and I ended up spending that night and the one after (so much for the workers being done that day) at a friend's house in a different neighborhood so we didn't asphyxiate in our sleep.

You know, we really did like our neighborhood and our apartment, in general terms, but now that I think about it there were some really annoying things about them, too. Sometime I should tell you the story about when Jeremy wandered the streets at 4am looking for the local muezzin so he could throttle him. Another time, I suppose.

7 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

Blech! It's amazing Miriam made it out without three arms. :)

Matthew said...

I just want to be sure I understand what I am seeing. Have they dumped the barrel of tar out into the sand/gravel?

Bridget said...

Liz, it is a miracle. Especially considering our apartment had a thick coat of flaking, shiny lead paint.

Matthew, yes. Though the school kids may have done that :). You of all people shouldn't be surprised.

Nancy said...

I'm almost laughing hysterically.

I. Feel. Your. Pain.

Oh, do I ever feel your pain.

There's an apartment building across the street from us that they've been "working on" (mostly at midnight, I think, because usually the workers were asleep in piles of sand during the day, at least, when I saw them) the whole time we've lived here. Gravel deliveries outside my bedroom window at 2 AM? Not my favourite.

And I'm looking forward to the muezzin story because this "one time" I was seconds away from opening up my window and yelling a call to prayer of my own, if you know what I mean... ;)

Anonymous said...

I remember the tar incident! I felt really bad for you and Jeremy when it happened.

As much as I love Syria, I have a few annoying memories of my living situation, too. One of mine was towards the end of my time there when I woke up one morning to discover a multitude of giant, extremely itchy bug bites on my legs. I never figured out what the offending insects were, and I was afraid to ask my landlady for fear that she might solve the problem by spraying some scary neurotoxin pesticide in my room.

Hannah

Jeremy Palmer said...

We went to a hotel and stayed at least one night. At some point I went to the Ministry of Health and talked with the Minister of Health himself about it. He said the best thing to do was to flee for a few nights. Our meeting was not a friendly bilateral exchange of cultural ideas. He was, however, most cordial. One of his minions declared quite dramatically that the Minister could speak English very well, after which the minister continued to speak in Arabic with me.

Clarification: I didn't want to do anything to the muezzin dude, I just wanted a rifle to shoot the speaker on the minaret. I know this is not the preferred way to go about such things, it just happened to be the only solution my exhausted brain could conjure up at the moment. I also thought about scaling the minaret and cutting the wires. To be fair, I would want to do the same thing even if it were loud church bells ringing at 4:00 A.M. especially if they were broadcast via rickety, fuzzy, super treble, ear-piercingly loud speakers. I may have also been influenced by the prego wifee.

Bridget said...

I had totally forgotten about the Minister of Health part! And what a shame, too, because that makes the story SO much better. Awesome.

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