Thursday, May 27, 2010
Lest you think Syria is all smiles and sunshine
The ride home, however - well, there's lots of ways that can go wrong.
At the end of the day, Jeremy had to head up to Aleppo to do some work so I took the girls on a bus back to Damascus by myself. Jeremy put us on a bus and told the driver and the assistant to take good care of us. Which they did, TO A FAULT.
We were sitting in the very front row of seats, directly behind the driver. The assistant driver minded his business for a little while, tidying up the front of the bus and dealing with passenger documents. Then he started working on freshening up two stuffed cats that were decorating the dashboard of the bus. He fluffed their fur with his fingers, shined their dead, plastic eyes, and even - and I swear to you that I am not making this up - sewed one of cat's whiskers back on. It was great fun to watch.
I was less than thrilled, however. That cat had been sitting on the dashboard for who knows how long - long enough to have its whisker fall off from overuse, anyway - and it was filthy and dusty and ratty. But Magdalena clutched it to her little self and then wrapped her special blankie around it. Did I mention she was sitting in my lap at the time? So I got to spend the two-hour bus ride with what was essentially a giant wad of dust pressed close to my face. And since the assistant driver really had been so kind to let Magdalena hold it, I had to act pleased and happy about it. For the whole trip. And then thank him graciously for the privilege when the bus finally arrived in Damascus.
But hold on - just before we got to Damascus, Magdalena soiled her diaper. She had been giving us false alarms all day but I could tell immediately that this time, it was the real thing. I briefly considered changing her diaper right there on the bus but ultimately decided against it.
So I waited until 8.30 at night, when the bus arrived in a giant, unlit parking lot on the outskirts of Damascus and dropped us off. It was very dark, and the best place I could find to change Magdalena's diaper was where two metal chairs were placed together as a makeshift bus stop. Even in the dark, I could tell that this poopy diaper was an exceptionally messy one. Of course it was, right? I did my best to change it there in the dark while not losing track of Miriam or our bags, trying as best as I could not to get poo all over me, Magdalena, or those metal chairs.
Once that was done, we had to get from the bus station to home, somehow. I found a taxi easily enough and awkwardly got the girls, myself, and our bags inside. Then I told him where I wanted to go and asked him to turn on the meter.
He smiled and said, "No meter. It will only cost you 250 lira."
"Turn on the meter. It's the law."
"Only 250 lira!"
"Um, this morning I paid 80 lira for the exact same ride."
"Madam, this is Harasta [the bus station]. 250 lira."
"OK, then. Let me out. And shame on you."
I hauled the girls and our stuff back out of the taxi and flagged down a service whose route I was familiar with. It took us all the way home for 20 lira. Sure, Miriam threw up halfway through the ride, but at that point I was pretty much thinking, bring it on.
In review, our bus driver was way too nice, the taxi driver was way too mean, the service was so convenient, and my girls need to get control of their bodily functions already. At least while we're on public transportation. Please.