The last few weeks have been busy sorting out immigration papers, letters from embassies and signing up for my third university (why?). Now I have settled down into a routine and can get back to civilization and tell you what I have been doing. After coming to Damascus and establishing myself, I have begun to feel like a local. I have made friends and have been socialising in the bars and cafes of Damascus over ahwey (coffee - very strong and bitter. It takes some getting used to, but I have learned now to drink it without sugar). The food here is good too, flavoursome and lots of variety. Shwarma is a chicken wrap that is great for a quick lunch. Mini pizzas have made it to Damascus in the many bakeries alongside more traditional breads such as zatay - a bread with herbs and olive oil. Other foods include fual (a bean dish) that is hit and miss - sometimes it is good , sometimes it is not even when it is served from the same pot in the same restaurant. The best named dish out here is freaki - bolger wheat with vegetables and herbs (very heavy and it looks a bit weird but great to eat!).
My daily routine consists of getting up at 7, having breakfast of flat bread and an egg followed by a strong coffee, which I have learned to make Syrian style, then it is off into the rush hour (which Syrians do properly - forget London!). I get the bus from the old city to the University of Damascus which takes about 30 minutes. I have been making that journey every day but each day is different. Some days the bus can be relatively empty and other days it is rammed. People stand in front of people sitting down in the seats or cling to the open door trying to avoid being side-wiped by cars, lorries or buildings. Arriving at the University I have 4 hours of Arabic until 1 oclock, which is quite intense but I am managing to stay ontop of it. Then it is back on the bus to lunch in the old city at around 2pm, them more Arabic at home in the afternoon and evening. Then I switch off by going out to a park or a cafe to relax!
The week here is Sunday to Thursday which has taken a bit of getting used to aswell! The weekend here is backwards with Friday having no shops open (or if they are, they are only open for a short period of time) and on Saturday everything comes to life. The house is still doing well - no more cockroaches! - and the roof is getting lots of use having dinner or just having tea. It's hard to sum up Damascus as each area of the city feels so different, like several cities in one, but each part has its own charm and character. The life here is manic and relaxed at the same time, vibrant and quiet, uncomfortable and comfortable. The Syrians have a phrase for this indescribable, confusing and undefinable action: TIS - This Is Syria.