Sunday, March 2, 2008

Exotic Dogs

I went this weekend to the Damascus Zoo. It was a bit depressing to see all of these animals in small dirty cement cell blocks, but one of the most entertaining things was that about 1/3 of the animals in the zoo are dogs. They think of them as exotic animals from Europe, so you have all these cages with poodles and spaniels and german shepards and people pointing at them and taking pictures. People don't have pet dogs here, I haven't even seen one in the time I've been here. When I told a guy at the zoo that we had these animals as pets in the US he said it only confirmed what he thought about the US, that we're barbarians, and how keeping a wild animal in the house is unsanitary. I told him that many of the kitchens and bathrooms I'd seen in Syria were more unsanitary than any dog kennel. That's what happens when you spend a lot of time abroad, you become kind of direct and rude. I don't mean to, it just happens.

On the whole though, the zoo here was cleaner than the Cairo zoo, where if you come early in the morning you can catch a pickup truck driving through the zoo piling the dead animals of the day in the back, legs sticking out rigimortis style. The government keeps buying new ones though, as it entertains about 10,000 Cairenes a DAY. One time I saw a baboon eating a cat.

I was noticing the other day on my way to school as I walk through this really poor area, how every mud-brick falling-apart house had a satellite dish on it. Everyone gets free satellite here, all the satellites use illegal unscramblers, so they can watch any satellite channel from anywhere in the world (including showtime, hbo, trillions of european porn channels, etc.) On the bright side, everyone has access to news from around the world and is no longer limited to what the Syrian government let's through, but on the other side, I am sick and tired of my limited choices. Out of my 264 channels, about 100 are Arabic music video channels, 50 are news channels, 20 show constant Arabic soap operas, and the rest are an assortment of sports or religious shows. There's nothing interesting to watch besides the three basic choices of Arabic pop music videos, news, or soaps. There are a few English language channels that show movies, and I can even watch good morning America every morning - but I didn't come here to listen to English, so I stick with the painfully tedious Arabic stations.

That's why last month when MTV Arabia started broadcasting I got exited. They film all of thier popular reality shows and music shows in the middle east, in Arabic. There's never been anything like it in Arab TV before (MBC has made a few lame attempts...), it's amazing. It is producing home-grown Arabic stars with shows like "hip hop-na", "baq a biq", "made", "cribs", "punked", etc, all filmed in the ME for an Arab audience. There is this explosion of creative talent and Arab youth expressing themselves with music and film - and MTV is the only outlet right now catering to them. It's addicting to watch as well as a good way to get exposure to a bunch of Arabic dialects.

On the right is the countryside with the suburbs of Damascus in the distance. Looks pretty when you can't smell the scent of burning plastic and garbage.

Alexa is still loving Peru, loves the food, and doesn't like the sand at the beach.


Snowbunny in the City said...

I totally love reading your blog!
While you have an adorable daughter - you post pictures of really cool stuff!!!

We miss you in the Ward - you can come back whenever. :)

Amanda T.

Katie said...

I thought your zoo/dog experience was great! I shared it with everyone at work. That's nothing new though, I'm always reading your blog and sharing your pictures with my coworkers. Life in a cubicle is just not as exciting as life where you are and the whole department is addicted to "Katie's cousin who lives in the Middle East" you're practically a celebrity. Thought you might want to know...
Katie Rockwood

michaelbabbel said...

Your description of the zoos in both Cairo and Damascus made me laugh more than I should have at 6 o'clock AM.
You should write a script for MTV to make a Napoleon Dynamite style parody of life in the Middle East. It couldn't help but endear them to the US.... and no doubt the Arab world loves to be subject of humor.