Monday, November 12, 2007

Departing Syria

Arriving at the airport found that there was security before you could get to the counter to check luggage. There was a hole in the wall to put your bags in and a little way over was tan opening for people to be checked. In the list of forbotten objects was sharp objects (knives, scissors, …, swords). How many people try to take swords on a plane and why list swords specifically? Of course there is a sword that barely fits in the biggest duffle bag I could buy in Damascus. As there is no one on this side of the wall to discuss the issue I go for it and send the bag through the hole in the wall x-ray machine. Then it takes ten minutes to get through the queue to get searched and pass to through the wall. I find the bag is sitting on a counter with four men sitting around it. So I walk over, pick it up as the guys seemed a little distracted and head for the airline counter. No one stops me. In the line for the airline I realize I left another bag back at security as I was making a break for it with the forbidden stuff. I leave my big duffle bag in line and hurry back to security 150ft away. I find my other bag and as I approach the airline counter my big duffle bag is no longer there. I though I was not looking at the bag for less than 30 seconds. I spot it in an empty slot at the counter. I go to retrieve the bag and find I have been moved to the front of the queue. The airline accepts the bag and places a “security check” sticker on the bag. I feel happy and safe. In Chicago I am question about why I was Syria and Lebanon and I kept refraining from the answer I wanted to give was “they have the best training camps”. So immigration does not invite me to visit sunny Cuba. I pickup my luggage and head through customs with nothing to declare. They x-ray everything and do not comment on the sword or the three bottles of wine in the big duffle bag. Check my duffle again and watch them throw the bag on the conveyor belt with a big thump. Good new the truck made it to the repair shop 40 miles away after I put three quarts 40 weight (all the nearest gas station had) in the bone dry differential. All the wine made it so we need to have a Lebanese wine tasting party.

Love and Kisses

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Interesting Encounter in Damascus

I got into a heavy discussion with one of the other guests at the hotel. He was a young Iraqi doctor who was on two weeks vacation. He lives in Sunni triangle which he called the death triangle and has seen a good bit of the conflict. He could stay in Syria and work as a doctor, but he loves his home and wants to return. He also wanted the US out, so the civil war will happen and after 6 months the conflict would be decided. He believed the daily killing would be over, as he reports over 1 million Iraqi dead to the current date. He believes the US troops are just prolonging the civil war and the civil war needs to run its course to allow a stable government to form. Noting nothing is going to change Bush in office for another year. He had difficulties understand how our government could continue in Iraq while a majority of Americans want the US out. Explaining how our government works seem inadequate to someone suffering its bureaucratic and political inefficiencies. He also wanted to know how life in America was. I did not feel right when I told him that most Americans are living a good life and most people feel no effects of the Iraq war. I found it difficult trying to discuss life in America to someone dealing with the effects of our government trying to impose its will on his country and lives with regular killings. I wished him luck as he is a neurosurgeon and he knows he is a target as a doctor for kidnappers or just get shot. Kidnappers believe doctors have lots of money so they ask for a million dollars and he makes $200 a month. Love & Kisses Steve

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Monastic Life

Headed out of Damascus for a religious trip. Stopped in Maalula to see the narrow canyon which God opened up to help a lady escape the roman solder who had her trapped up against the cliffs. There were street lights attached to the canyon walls which could have been added later. Never did a slot canyon that was lighted before. Then I headed on to Mar Musa to try the monastic life as I was told the hot babes hang out there. Did find evenings of meditation and services in Arabic ( which is sort of like the old Latin services) as with both I only understand a few word. There were the hot babes, but my subtle non approaching ways did not pull them in.

The place was cool as it was an old Roman watch tower in a canyon that had been converted in the sixth century to a monastery. You must walk a 1.5 k up the canyon to the place. I sleep in a nice cave that had a stone bed and a pad on it. It had the true monastic feeling with these kind of sleeping arrangements. During one of the services one of the bible passages was 1 Kings 20 that was read during the service. It describes the Israelites soundly defeating the Syrians This did bring on some heated discussions involving Afghanistan, America and Hezbollah, but of coarse this was all in Arabic so I caught only a few words. The chapel is covered in 12 century frescoes and the floor is covered in carpets with pillows to sit and lean against which makes for a relaxing service. A German minister found out there is no snoring during meditations. There was of coarse a fresco of St Simeon on his pillar in on corner. More pictures are coming in a few days if I make it through the next border crossing and do not end up vacationing in Cuba.
Love and Kisses

Out of Beirut

Most buildings in Beirut show no damage, but some show major impact of the conflict. Saw over 30 large cranes working on various new buildings and there is much rebuilding everywhere. Downtown is seems strange as there are no cars allowed and it is all new building with a atmosphere of feels sterile. And of course there are soldier every half block or more in the downtown area so you can feel safe. So I am departing Beirut and its major building projects.
I head off to Baalbek. On the way there I get to see the major bridge between Damascus and Beirut still being repaired from last years disagreement with their southern neighbor. Thought it not a good idea to take a picture of it as some have already proved it is a military target.

Baalbek has great temples with one to Bacchus (wine, sex, and song god) being the nicest. It is also called the small temple even though it is bigger than the Parthenon. Outside the vender's kept pushing yellow tee shirts on me, which is not my color and I could not think of where I would wear a Hezbollah tee shirt. Yes the town did show it colors in support of their favorite group as its head quarters are there. Then I was off to Aanjar which was a very orderly Umayyad ruined city with very strait streets and door all the same distance apart. It was a very planned city but most of it was only four feet high now. Then another border crossing and I was back in Damascus.
Love and kisses