Journal - Napló
|Posted on November 19, 2009 at 9:25 PM|
The original plan had been that we split up there in Damascus. I would go back to Tripoli
via Beirut and Peter would head north towards Turkey via Palmyra. That was the old plan. The
new plan was that we both go together to Palmyra, then we split there and I head back via
Homs. We went into town with Alaa one last time even though it meant going in the wrong
direction because we needed cash and apparently there were no ATM's between us and the
Turkish border. Only in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo they would say. I was skeptical but didn't
feel like taking that chance on Peter's behalf, so to Damascus we went.
We took the opportunity to visit a museum with all sorts of boring old stuff. A cup here, bracelet
there: ooh – look – another overly decorated useless thing. It really was a shame, if they
could have given some information about the stuff there it would immediately have become
very interesting, but when I don't know what I am looking at, the pieces in themselves
weren't impressive enough to excite. The only item in the museum that caught my attention
was in a temporary exhibition of modern paintings. It was the face of a woman painted over a
hand telling you to fuck off.
We took a servis out of town and quickly got a ride about 50 kilometers north to Dmayr. We
were hitch hiking for maybe half an hour before a guy from the truck mechanic place across
the street came and asked if we wanted to come with him to his house. Traveling in Syria it
is impossible not to notice how extremely hospitable people are. We went with him, had some
tea and quickly realized that dinner was under way, being prepared by the invisible other
sex. There was a big curtain shielding a corner of the courtyard from the rest. That was
part of the kitchen and needed to be kept out of sight of any male guests. They seemed to
take great care that we wouldn't accidentally run into any woman. When getting up to go to
the toilet for instance the son was sent running out the door to check if anybody with boobs
were in sight.
We had great food and proceeded to have fruit and more tea. We couldn't really communicate
much with our host, but at one point his aunt dropped by to translate for us. She was an
English teacher and a very firm woman. I don't know if that was the reason why this was the
only woman we saw in the house, but I would like to see the man daring to tell her to stay
out of the way.
The rest of the evening was dedicated to playing cards. We were granted some introductory
rounds of the game for some time until all the regular players had arrived. So just as we
were about to really get the game, we were politely and discreetly asked to mind our own
business while the big boys play their game. It was fun to watch too.
Eventually all the players went home and it was time for bed. It was something heavy in the
air. Peter had met a journalist during the card game that was covering the international film festival in Damascus. Obviously he was tempted. I on the other hand felt I should be getting back soon, so as it would turn out we would part ways with me going north and Peter south.
The moment when we would part was getting closer. The next morning we had breakfast
with the guy and chilled a bit in his backyard before we got up to go. He called a friend
who drove us back to the North/South highway. Of course they were trying to arrange rides
for us. After waiting ten minutes with a shop owner who had been asked to arrange something
somehow, we decided not to postpone the farewell any longer and just start walking in
opposite directions. We hugged and I tried saying some goodbye sentences, but failed
miserably seeing that I suck at goodbyes. We hugged again and eventually turned our separate ways.
It took less than a minute before Peter got a ride. I watched him load his backpack,
get in and drive away. Watched the van pass out of sight and as it did I had too shed some
tears. It was surreal to split up like that in the middle of nowhere with no certainty of
when we would see each other again, but with the promise that we would stay together and
work together all the same.
I walked maybe a kilometer before I got a ride into the desert. Waiting in the desert there
was one of the nicest spots I have ever hitch hiked at. I fell in love with deserts then and
there. Syria is amazingly beautiful. Mountains on one side, flat open spaces on the other as
far as you can see and the sun above. Slightly disconcerting though was the lack of any
water in my backpack. But it all worked out, I got a ride after some minutes enjoying the
That ride was something else. Being offered Arabic sweets by the guy sitting next to me in
the backseat, while the driver is cruising through the Syrian dessert at 180kph was surreal.
The driver asked me if I knew Russian, I used one of my two Russian phrases saying "I don't
understand". This one always elicits a chuckle or two plus a follow up question, also in
Russian. To which I used my second Russian phrase which is "I don't speak Russian". They
drove me all the way to Palmyra. Sitting down at a café for a drink the guy that had been
sitting next to me pulls out a gun from his pants and puts it on the table as if it was his
cell phone. Another of the guys seemed to share my feeling that it was perhaps not the best
idea to leave a gun on the table and showed it into his pants instead.
I parted with the guys and walked to the ruins that the city is so famous for. Thousands of
years ago it was a center for trade and became a very prosperous city. The ruins are truly
impressive. Worth seeing without knowing anything about them, but of course I appreciated
being able to ask around among the other foreigners for some history in English.
The last part of the trip was done with haste and luckily with easy. It was getting dark as
I got the ride to Homs with a truck driver. He would point out all the Bedouin villages to
me and ask me if Syria was good. I would nod my head and say how great I found Syria to be.
I would point to the scenery and then to him and use some Arabic words for good so as to say
that both the nature and the people are great. And the food I would add, gesturing to eat.
Getting through Homs went surprisingly smooth. I found the road heading to a village close
to the border. Arriving at the border, I "checked" out of Syria successfully after paying up
their annoying 10$ departure charge and proceeded to Lebanon. I walked briskly up to the
"Foreign arrivals" booth and gave him my passport. I was confident that I had all the papers
in order and could simply pass through with a stamp. No such luck. He didn't accept my visa
and told me I had no choice but to buy a new one. And not anyone either, maximum one month
is what he would give me. I guess he didn't like that I had overstayed my first visa. The
I made it back to Tripoli, walked back to the office and fell asleep immediately.