Overcoming Preconceived Notions and Propaganda

Admittedly, I am far from an expert, having spent less than twelve hours in Syria — but my first impression of this country is remarkable. The generosity I have already been shown is staggering. Here are a few things that have happened:

1. The head immigration officer personally called Damascus to expedite the processing of my Visa because my prepaid bus arrived at the border.

2. A fellow on my bus gave me his bracelet, a granola bar, a bottle of water and drove me into the city center with his wife. He didn’t speak any English and needed a translator to tell me his intentions.

3. I looked interested in the grapefruits at a night market, and the pauper of a salesperson offered me a deliciously ripe one “free for my friends.” The same thing happened at the apricot and dates stands. As an aside, the fruit here is incredible. I bought ten fuji apples for $1.

4. I bargained for an hour and a half with the concierge at my hotel. He is now my amigo, gave me a crazy deal and a free map. He offered to show me around town tomorrow, his day off.

5. I sat down at a stand for the incredible invention of ‘foul’ and a kid who was eating next to me started chatting me up in English. He is studying economics and loves practicing his English. We talked for about ten minutes, and then he gave me a tour until I basically shoved him off to return to my hotel and to all of you. We are going to meet in the morning so that he can give me a tour and practice his English. Foul (pronounced ‘fool’) are chestnuts that have been boiled in a massive steaming vat filled with lemon juice, water and salt. You are served the foul at a standing stall with an array of exotic spices in front of you and a glass of the aforementioned steaming concoction. This is right up my alley.

6. The amusing number of people who have shouted at me in passing: “Bush bad, American people good!” I guess this is a regular expression here.

The streets this evening were teeming with normal and pleasant people — I have yet to see a terror attack. The north of Syria was verdant and beautiful — this country is not a completely arid desert. No camels. No terror training facilities. No enmity. Only a bunch of ordinary individuals who love to decimate preconceived notions.


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