Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back in the SAR (Syrian Arab Republic)

(I apologize in advance for any formatting wonkiness and I suspect that you might not be able to see the pictures, which is a crying shame. It's hard to blog without being able to see what I'm doing. I'll fix it when I can.)

Here we are in Syria again. Oh my gosh, I love this place. It's not an entirely rational feeling because on paper, Syria probably couldn't come close to places like Jordan, or even Egypt, as far as ease of living goes.

But there's ease, and then there's quality. And the quality here is very, very good.

The best part is, I would have been able to write that sentence in all earnestness, based on our previous experiences here, even before we arrived on Saturday afternoon. Before I saw the No Smoking signs in the airport actually being observed, and experienced the taxi drivers obediently using their meters and their seatbelts. Before I noticed the increased amount of green areas, and the shiny, brand-new, colorful playgrounds for children that have sprung up all over the city. Before I found out that mobile phone SIM cards now cost only 50 lira ($1) instead of the 1000 lira ($20) we paid six years ago. Damascus was good to us when we lived here, and it's an even better place now.

Some of this positive change comes at a price. Specifically, a taxi into the city from the airport now costs a whopping $30. It used to cost $10, and that was if you overpaid. Apparently, one company (rumored to be Budget Rent-A-Car) bought out all the taxi interests at the airport and then, having established a monopoly, raised the price. Sure, the taxis are much nicer now, but not $20 nicer.

On the whole, though, Damascus is brighter and more dynamic than ever. It's been three years since we were last here and I must have let the Syria boogeyman get to me a little bit in the meantime. If Syria gets any time in the press, it tends to be negative press, and my image of the country we once lived in somehow grew gloomy without my even realizing it.

That gloom dispelled immediately upon arrival...or possibly immediately upon exiting the airport and its gauntlet of immigration procedures. And even those have been improved since we first came here. We were helped along by the fact that strangers kept giving our kids candy. We totally let the girls eat it, too. I've always thought it was funny that Parenting Rule #1 in America (don't accept candy from strangers) is in direct opposition to Helpful Family-centered Society Tactic #1 in Syria.

It's great to be back.

9 comments:

Susanne said...

I can see your pictures and my Syrian friend (who is in Germany now) and I read it together just now on Skype.

You were one of the ones who made me excited about going to Damascus. You spoke so highly of your time there. And, of course, I loved it so much and want to go back! It's great to hear how things have improved since you were there before. Looking forward to more posts though they make me miss it a lot!

Thanks for the update. Your blog looks great from this end. :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I heart Syria!

Anonymous said...

Have fun in Syria! I really hope to go back some day myself. I think it would be especially nice to go with kids.

Hannah

Kathy Haynie said...

Thank you for a new perspective on a place that, as you say, gets a lot of negative press in the US. Sounds like your family is having a wonderful time.

Liz Johnson said...

AWESOME. I'm so glad to hear these things. Keep us posted!

Jake and Becky Veigel Family said...

wow
j

Merkley Jiating said...

Your pictures are kind of stretched or something. Otherwise, awesome post! I am so envious. You seem to have such a close relationship with a place that could very well be made up to me. I know nothing about it and have never been there. It sure is a big world.

Jake and Becky Veigel Family said...

So glad things are good there. Weird about all the internet stuff you can't access, though. And crazy about the dead body thing, but maybe those unexpected moments are important so we can talk about things with our kids that we might not normally! Glad you guys are well and happy. B

Jenny said...

Hi Bridget!
I have been in damscas for about three years ago and Im very happy to read that its getting better there, especially for the children(with new playgrounds).
Just wanted to know where are you living right now? Are you still in damascus?
Love Jenny

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