Year Abroad in Syria – Day #5

02/09/08

Day 5

Day 5 and I am feeling a lot better now. Today was quite productive. I found a place to stay for at least the next few months in the Christian district just Southeast of the Old City, in a town called Jaramana. The arrangement I have with the Arab students I am sharing the house with is quite interesting to say the least. There are only two bedrooms in the house. I shall be staying in one, the larger of the two, while the other four will be sharing the other, because they cannot afford to share my room. It creates what feels like quite a class difference, as if I am the lord of the house and they are my servants. They have even offered to cook for me. So like I said, a pretty interesting situation. But they are more than happy to have me and have actually told me that this place is much better than their last. The rent comes to 90 GBP a month, including water, electricity, satellite TV with over 200 channels, a fridge, bed, wardrobe and fans. It also seems very safe, as I will have both a key to the apartment and a separate key to my room and then lockable storage space, although I really have no reason to be concerned about theft in Damascus because, from my experience so far, it is one of the safest places in the world.

I had another interesting experience today. Just for fun I decided to visit a small school in the Christian District that teaches English and I sat in on one of their classes. The whole class was taught in English – no one spoke a single word of Arabic. It was taught in an American accent because the teacher had studied at the American University in Kuwait. I asked the head teacher what he thought of this and he said he preferred the British accent, because it is a little easier to understand. The class included some examples of radio and television commercials and also a couple pop songs and actually reminded me a lot of my classes on the Egyptian dialect in Durham. I left them my details and they said they would contact me if they needed any help – so one day I might teach a bit of English while I am here – we’ll see! In any case, I said I would come back to say hello and see how the students are progressing.

I went to the Souk again yesterday and came across some very interesting finds. A few shops are selling what appear to be genuine American half-dollars from various dates ranging from 1859 all the way back to 1795! For those who don’t know, these are worth a lot of money and sometimes go for thousands of dollars on Ebay. So I shall see what kind of a bargain I can fetch and maybe make a little profit. I discovered the reason why there are so few Arabs selling items on Ebay. It is because it is much harder over here for the average Arab to get a credit card of some kind, which will be accepted by Ebay. Hence the lack of competition and the high prices of Arabic goods online. I also stumbled across another interesting item. This time a sheathed WWI bayonet, probably American, with the date 1907 inscribed on the blade. That was selling for 20 GBP at the most (without some haggling) and so I am going to research just how much that would sell for. Looking around for these hidden treasures is a lot of fun – I shall keep you updated on my discoveries!

Nothing much else to report for the time being. I shall write again soon, in shah allah.

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