Monday, March 31, 2008

A very low Summit

This last week was the Arab Summit. That's right, if you're not into the Middle East then you probably didn't hear about it, but around here it was a once in a century event. It's the first time the Arab League has met in Damascus and they really put on a show. In fact they even closed the airport and all the borders for five days, so even if I didn't want to be here for it I had no choice. Most of the roads were closed and there were police everywhere, but the summit ended without incident besides a wave of freezing winter weather after a short heat wave. Most people here outright made fun of the summit and think it is a complete waste of time. But I did hear one person say that in the last few years they have been trying to address the issue of the broken education system, which is a step in the right direction. One of the highlights was watching Qadaffi pour out contempt on all the other Arab leaders as he sometimes does.

There was a brief resurgence of Arab nationalism for the last few weeks, with a few signs around town touting the "Shared heritage and language" of the Arabs, but in general Syria really doesn't have that much in common with any other Arab countries, it's closest allies are Iran and Russia for grace sake. I would make an argument however, that the Syrian people are some of the best candidates in the Middle East to be friends with the US. For one, Syria is the most religiously diverse Arab country with about 6 different Muslim sects, 5 different Christian sects, and throw in a few Yezidis and Jews and a surprisingly large number of Athiests. It is also the most linguistically and racially diverse, with about 11 languages and 15 or so significant ethnic groups. This melting pot effect has made most Syrians by necessity more open minded and permissive than the surrounding countries. When I go out with friends they are a religious mix of Druze, Protestant, Sunni, Alawi, Armenian Orthodox, agnostic, etc. (including two Athiest girls that wear the veil - for social / family reasons), and an ethnic mix of Arab, Kurdish, Circassian, Armenian, Turkish, Tajik, and Russian, etc. This in addition to 50 years of a socialist secular government has made Syrians' attitudes closer to American attitudes than any other ME country I've ever visited. Of course there are a number of extremist types around, and some say they are growing, but they are still a huge minority, no more than I've met around DC or Salt Lake City for that matter. Too bad the politicians can't just work it out, cause even after Iraq the people still love Americans and America.

On a family note Alexa is having fun in Peru and just started nursery. The picture to the right is her "glare" that she gives to people she doesn't know or is upset at. It's so evil and scary it's cute. It looks like I'll be moving to Peru after I finish up here. Vanessa came to Syria for me, so the least I can do is repay the favor and move there for a year. She is trying to find a job and I'll mainly take care of Alexa and try to find a part-time job or something. I keep thinking I need to find a job and a career and stuff like that, but it appears I can continue frolicking around the world for a while longer. Who'd of thought.

1 comment:

Ye Stewart Clan said...

Whatever! You have to come back to DC so Alexa and Tennyson can have playgroup together! A whole other year? How are Tennyson and Alex ever going to get married if they never see each other? In the end you gotta do what you gotta do. But I have quietly been waiting for you guys to come back! Bummer.