|A pro-Syrian rally on Mezze Autostrad, 2005.|
I think "it" is finally happening, and my book remains unwritten. I've typed out good chunks of it on an extensive Google Doc, but it's mostly strings of loosely connected anecdotes and hastily recorded, unpolished impressions of experiences, places, and people. I may never actually write the book. But recently, I took a look at the vignettes of Syria I had written down years ago and it's amazing to me how much has already changed.
Yesterday, it got even more personal as I clicked through to the most recent NYT story about Syria and saw the lead picture. The place where the people are protesting is Mezze Autostrad. The Syriatel/MTN building you can see is where we got our mobile phone SIM cards in 2004 (price: $20), and again in 2010 (price: $1). If you walked down the street and up and around the corner, you'd see our apartment building.
But it gets even closer. Last night, Jeremy and I watched this video.
Nobody should be able to watch a video of something like that happening and be able to say, "I lived there. I shopped there. You see where the grass is? It used to be a string of car-repair shops. The off-street parking is new and the internet cafe you can see behind the crowds used to be the most popular one in the neighborhood, in those early days when an at-home dial-up connection was so hard to get. Our favorite juice shop is just outside the frame and I bought my first maternity clothes next door. In 2006 and 2010 when we visited, our kids played on that grass and walked on that sidewalk and bought toys from that store and we marveled at the impression of home we continued to get from that place, even after moving away."
Nobody should be able to say that.
When we first moved to Syria I remember thinking that I was living in a bizarre CNN newscast, one of those clips you see as a kid where the traffic is chaotic and entire families squash onto single motorcycles to get around town and there's dust in the air and a call to prayer echoing in the background. I had only ever seen something so foreign on TV, and suddenly there I was, in Syria, living it. To cope, to make what I was experiencing somehow familiar, I reached to my memories of those news broadcasts because that was something I knew.
I feel that now I'm experiencing some kind of reverse phenomenon. I've lived it, and I'm now struggling to connect what I see on TV with the place that I know. And now the CNN newscasts are infinitely more foreign to me. It's not just chaotic traffic and dust and calls to prayer anymore.
It's painful enough to be an observer. I can only imagine how it would feel if Syria were actually my country, and I continue to hope and pray for their deliverance, never mind from what, or to what.