Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Welcome to China

The Chinese have invaded the Middle East. What started me thinking about Chinese goods wasn't the abundance of chinese crap spewing out of every store, nor was it the rows of chinese street sellers that now line upper Hamra street every night, but it was the man who said proudly "but this was made in china!" when explaining why the Arabic wall hanging was more expensive than its Syrian made rival. People actually think Chinese goods are top quality! There are a bunch of new stores in town called "The Chinese Expo" that showcase shelves upon shelves of cheap Chinese jewelry, electronics, clothes, even food, and people consider it upscale merchandise. I don't know who started this rumor or how long it will last. The chinese-made "Chery" car is also becoming one of the most popular cars (according to the internet, the name of the car was supposed to be translated as "Cheery", but after printing thier spelling mistake on all of thier cars the Chinese company stuck with the new name. You'd think one would check.) alongside the Syrian-made "Sham", and the Iranian "Saba".

In other news, the heat is finally starting to subside and we are weaning ourselves off of 24 hour air conditioning. Ramadan and Eid are now also over, and we have to adjust our night schedule to a daylight one, rather than going out to eat at 11 or 12 and walking around with the crowds of people shopping until 1 or 2.

For those of you with no kids, stop reading now.
Alexa just learned how to clap her hands and can walk along furniture and walls and says "baby" although I'm not sure if she knows what she's saying. She learned how to wave goodbye but always waits until the person has turned around, then we can't get her to stop, she goes crazy for cats and yells whenever she sees other little kids. So cute!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Things she won't remember

We just got back from a great trip down to Jordan, and it really made me realize just how dirty and isolated Syria really is. I hadn't been to Jordan for over ten years and it has really blossomed into the Switzerland of the Levant. Wide, clean streets, beautiful new and modern buildings, American and European shops and restaurants everywhere, one could really isolate oneself in an American environment there if one so desired. Good thing I don't.

We spent our first few days in Amman doing the shopping that one can't do in Damascus, there is a Carfour (the French Wallmart), and malls that have pretty much all the same shops one would find in Tysons Corner, VA. We somehow forgot our stroller on the taxi out of Damascus, but luckily there was an extra one at church in Amman where we went to watch conference. When we went to rent our car we realized that we had forgotten both our driving licesces in Damascus, so we had to do the rest of the trip by bus - which can be an adventure in and of itself with the loud music, tons of smoke, crazy conversations, people passing the baby up and down the bus, each foul mouth kissing her, unscheduled stops, etc.

This was my third time to Petra but every time it is as impressive as the first. A lot has changed in ten years, for example the canyon leading into the ruins (the Siq) is now paved, and you can't ride horses down it, in addition to paying $30 to enter instead of $2. This time we dodged the tourists on donkeys up the long trek to the Deir al-Mousa, a temple carved into the rock up at the top of a mountain which was inspiring, then we rode camels back out to the entrance of the park.

The next day we caught a bus down to the red sea at Aqaba and made the mistake of staying at a cheap backpacker hotel the first night and leaving that same night because of worms in the bathroom and the general disgusting condition of the room. So we jumped in a taxi that took us down a few hundred yards from the Saudi Border at the Coral Bay resort on South Beach and spent the rest of the time snorkeling and swimming at the pool. We ended up meeting a couple of foreign couples also living in Damascus and hopefully they will widen Vanessa's circle of (bored) foreign wives with kids living in Damascus.

After two days we returned to Amman and caught another bus down to the dead sea where we spent a restful day at the Marriott resort floating in the dead sea and swimming and eating as much as we could of our last night of Jordanian food.

Despite Vanessa wanting to stay in Amman for the rest of the year, I for one am glad to be back. There is something about Syria's backwardness that is charming, a last bastion of an un-westernized middle eastern city that has a flavor and excitement that you just don't find anywhere else, and at the rate things are changing here, may not last very much longer.

More photos can be found @ http://picasaweb.google.com/trent.rockwood/Jordan