Day 8 and things are going well. With each day I find myself getting more and more settled in and things are slowly becoming easier. I imagine, however, that things will get a lot more difficult once my classes start on the 15th and I become even busier than I am now with everything.
This is my second day now at my flat. There have been significant improvements made since I moved in. At first there was no water and most of the lights did not turn on and some glass in my window was missing. Fortunately all of that has been fixed now. There is still, however, quite a big bug problem in the house, no so much in my room, but in the rest of the house and particularly the bathroom (they are attracted to water) – which is not very pleasant to say the least! Today my flatmate is going to be using some highly toxic pesticide to combat it, which will require everyone to vacate the flat for at least 3 hours it is so strong. Hopefully that will be the end of it. On the whole it’s not a bad arrangement for how much I am paying. I could easily live in a cleaner, more furnished place, but then I wouldn’t have the benefit of having 4 Arabs teaching me Arabic and taking care of various things for me. They have been extremely helpful. If I need to buy something, like my mattress for example, I usually go with one of them and they make sure for me that I get the normal price rather than the tourist price. They also know all the best places for everything.
Last night I decided to sample the Damascus nightlife at the most popular nightclub in the Old City, a bar called Mar Mar. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a lot of fun with really great clubbing music. It was really crowded since Thursday nights are the busiest. I was surprised to discover that a significant number of people there were actually Muslim and so Thursday night (as opposed to Friday night) is the most busy because Friday the Muslims are at home in the evening during their holy day. Very strange! I wasn’t expecting that.
Soon some of my classmates will be arriving in Damascus. They are asking me all kinds of questions that I was asking when I first arrived. It is funny to be on the other side this time, giving advice to them about how to get settled in.
As you know, this month is the month of Ramadan. It is very interesting to observe how this affects the society here and the daily routine. The most obvious difference is the lack of food and drinks being sold during the day. Most vending machines are also locked with a sign saying closed for Ramadan. In the Christian quarter, however, things are pretty much as normal and you see people eating a drinking in the streets. Shop opening and closing times change during Ramadan too. Basically they close at around 6 or 7pm (as opposed to 1am normally) because at 6:47pm each day, after an announcement from the loudspeakers on the various Minarets around the city, there is the breaking of the fast. You then see families everywhere eating together, either outside their shops or in restaurants that are packed full of people. I decided to eat one night at a restaurant, not really gathering that the breaking of the fast had just begun and had to wait an hour to be served, while I watched all of the Muslims having first priority on their orders.
It is interesting to note that the town I live in, Jaramana, is home to many Iraqi refugees. Quite often you see them come into the internet cafe to have their Iraqi passport photocopied. It is also possible to hear the Iraqi dialect from time to time, which is a bit more of a harsh sounding Arabic, using the ‘ch’ sound (like in church), which is considered a rather ugly sound to many Arabs in Syria.
Well, I am pretty hungry now, so I think I shall get some food. Hopefully it doesn’t make my stomach any worse than it already is!