Day four in the Old Damascus house! I have had quite a time since last I wrote. Yesterday was absolutely terrible! I spent the whole day in bed after catching the notorious “Damascus Stomach”. Fortunately, with enough medicine and rest, it didn’t last for more than a day, although I still feel a little off. The Damascus Stomach affects pretty much every visitor at some point, when they are still adjusting to the food. It arises from the poor preparation and handling of food. I think it was the pizza I had two nights ago – I don’t think I shall go there again! Just thinking about it makes me ill. The food here takes a lot of getting used to. Today I spotted a KFC, so maybe I shall eat there at some point to take a rest from all the Eastern food.
Today I am writing from a restaurant called “Ornina” that has free WiFi internet. I really hit the jackpot when I found this place, because the only alternative is the internet cafes, where you have to pay of course. I am yet to see, however, if I can get them to let me access Facebook. You usually have to ask at the internet cafes and they may not be so generous here.
Today I went to the university and collected various bits of paperwork and found out that I have my entrance exam Thursday 11th Sept. I also went to the British Embassy, but they can’t see me until the 16th Sept, which is quite annoying, but fortunately the university understands the situation and I can start classes before I have the paperwork from the embassy. Also today I went to the clinic and had an AIDS test and I have to collect the results tomorrow – fingers crossed (just kidding!)
I am very close to finding a more permanent place in Damascus. It will most likely be in the Christian district in the Eastern part of Damascus, sharing with 4 Arabs, who are students at the University of Damascus. It has actually worked out really well, because this way I shall be surrounded by Arabs of my own age, constantly speaking and teaching me Arabic, which has some advantages to simply living with a Syrian family. We will then also share a bus down to the university, which will take maybe 20 minutes. I am not sure how much my room will cost at the moment, but it will probably be around 10,000 Syrian Pounds a month, which is around 100 GBP. My Arab friend in Damascus, called Simon, will show me the house he found for us and I’ll see if it is worth it. He said it would come with a fridge, Satellite TV and maybe even air-conditioning – which is pretty much essential here, believe me! I am quite eager to leave the youth hostel I am staying at right now, because it is always so busy and there are always so many students from across the world staying up really late and talking really loudly in the courtyard outside of my room, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning! One of them is particularly loud – this one Iranian girl from Switzerland – not quite as pleasant as some other Iranians I have met in my lifetime. In fact, Iranian girls in my experience are very nice indeed!
Speaking of the heat, it is just ridiculously hot! I mean, really! Coming into a cool restaurant like this and drinking ice-cold water after being in the heat is pure heaven! Then today is, of course, the first day of Ramadan! So it is very difficult to drink anything outside without offending anyone. Today I had a Mountain Dew (just like the one Uncle Jim showed us), but I first hid myself in a room at the university so no one would see! It’s not so bad in the Christian district, however, where you do see people drinking and eating.
Here is a little bit for Dad – today I saw a Citroen GS and thought of you. I also saw that same Citroen that I have a photo of from last time I was here – it is still sitting in the same spot.