Well I’m Back in Syria interning at the UN, mainly writing reports and working on presentations. In the evenings I am managing to learn a little Arabic as well as become an English teacher to break even with rent. After spending 10 days home at Christmas, I returned to Beirut and the Middle East life. I managed to remember where my friend lived in Beirut and got myself there late at night. It was great travelling through the empty streets occasionally lined with army checkpoints, reminding me that Lebanon is at a tense situation at the moment. Beirut is an interesting place; it has the people of the Middle East yet the feel and perception of a western place such as Singapore, Kula Lumpa, or a mixture of both. High rise glass buildings, with clean roads and new shop fronts make it feel like Europe, but every now and then you see bombed out buildings, or catch a glimpse of the heavily shelled Holiday Inn, reminding you of the terrible events that occurred here. After arriving at my friend’s house, I went out of Gemeyzie, an area of lovely bars and restaurants for a drink in a bar that felt as though I was in a trendy part of Paris. Interestingly in Lebanon, Arabic in some areas in the third language spoken after French and English so it was strange to be listening to lots of French voices around me.
The next day I hired a taxi to take me over to Damascus, once the driver realised I had been before he drastically brought the price down to the correct price. So for about £12 I had a 3 hour taxi ride into another country! My driver Ahmad was chatty and with my broken Arabic chatted about his family, what I was doing and where he was from. After climbing the steep mountain road over the anit Lebanon Mountains we dropped into the Bekka Valley. It was as stunning as before Christmas, snow covering the tops of the mountains with the wide fertile valley below basked in sunlight. Here they grow wine, and before Christmas, a few friends and I visited the Kasara vineyard. In the lovely surroundings, we toured the small visitors centre and the caves behind which stored the wine. It was apparently begun by the Romans but may have had prehistoric origins. After passing the turn off for this I was stamped out of Lebanon and we drove up another mountain road to the Syrian Border. Here I acquired a visa easily with two New Zealand guys and heading into Damascus by lunchtime. Two hours later I had a house to stay in, and friends to go out and eat with. Nice!