Things are going well over here in Syria. My language classes at Damascus University finished a couple of weeks ago and now I’m keeping up my Arabic by practicing with the locals. After finishing the final exam my class and I celebrated by having a party at my place. I went to pick up some wine for the party and as I was searching, to my surprise, I stumbled across a wine made in Syria, but with a picture of Durham cathedral on the label – it was like a sign – I just had to pick that one and my classmates from Durham agreed it was a very fitting choice!
Before our term finished we had a very interesting visit; about a dozen MPs from the House of Commons visited the university and were taken on a tour of the Arabic language institute. They were given a presentation on its history and then afterwards joined the students for some refreshments and asked us about our experience at the language institute. They were visiting the university primarily to maintain good relations, but also to discuss the possibility of establishing some kind of exchange program for Arab students wishing to study in Britain.
I’m still very busy with teaching and still thoroughly enjoying the experience. I currently teach at two separate institutes, both of which would like me to return in the summer and continue teaching for them. I will of course be coming home this summer, for the reunion in June, but plan to return to Syria for at least another two and a half months before the next academic year begins at Durham University in October.
I’m also still giving the occasional private English lessons and one of my students, Sari Al-Ash, is a professional violinist. He is a member of the National Orchestra for Arabic Music (NOAM) and decided to invite me to one of his concerts at the Syrian Opera House; the most prestigious concert venue in Syria. It turned out that not only was he performing in the orchestra, but also another of my students was singing in the choral section. So there I was, at the opera in Syria, watching two of my students perform! It was a magnificent arrangement of music, which included a beautiful and innovative mix of both Eastern and Western styles.
While we are on our year abroad we have to write three Arabic essays for Durham University. So I have decided to write one of my essays on the performance, which will include interviews from the two performing students and possibly even one from the conductor himself!