Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Personal Note from the Author

My homestay mother and her daughter, dressed up for Ramadan.

In honor of my little sister’s request, I will try to add a personal note to my postings periodically. This week I’ve been searching for a place since I moved out of my homestay. That was a crazy evening. I told Arabesk (the office who brokered my homestay) that I needed to find a place on my own where I could have more freedom, but I could finish out the month, I wasn’t in a hurry. They told me “OK, just let us find another student to take your place.” As time passed, I called them and asked them if it looked like they were going to find someone. They apparently interpreted this call as my pushing them to find someone quickly, when really I just wanted to know if it was a sure thing that they were going to find a student and I would be able to move out with a full refund.

One morning last week, they brought a student from Korea over to view the house and my room. I was thinking I was about to start my apartment search because I had two weeks left to finish the month in my homestay. Instead, we received a call that night from Arabesk saying “Hi, the student liked the place and would like to take it.” “OK, when?” “Mmmm, tonight or tomorrow.” “Umm….., OK, Uhhh…., I guess I have to think about it, this is a surprise for me, I thought I had two more weeks to look for an apartment.” “Oh, but the other day you called us asking if we had found a student yet!” – there’s cross-cultural communication for you.

So I’ve been living with Lina, another Fulbright student, for a few days looking for an apartment. I found several possibilities, but my situation makes things a bit difficult. It’s easy to find a room in a large house in the Old City, but they would probably kick me out when David came, or make a big hoopla about having a man in the house. Even if I share an apartment with other students, there is the possibility that the landlord would get angry for a man to come and visit, even if he is my husband. Many landlords will only allow all girls or all boys to share an apartment together. So the only other option is to get an apartment of my own.

Sounds easy enough. But the architecture in Damascus is geared toward social needs. It is very rare to find a one bedroom apartment suitable for a single person. Most of the architecture here assumes that individuals always live in families, or, at worst, with a group of friends of the same sex. So available apartments are two bedrooms at a minimum, and of course come with a big salon to entertain guests and keep them out of your private space (which Americans don’t worry too much about).

It is considered depressing to live in an apartment by yourself. But this is nearly the only way possible to keep all the freedoms we expect as American adults, such as coming home late and having guests sleep over (yes, even friends of the opposite sex). In the end, I was lucky enough to find a small house in the Old City that I can afford individually. It’s a great location and a rare opportunity to live in the oldest part of the longest continually inhabited city in the world. I’ll send photos out as soon as it’s ready! (Archaeologists argue about whether the world’s longest continually inhabited city is Damascus or Aleppo. Either way, Syria can claim the honor, and my friends here in Damascus are quite convinced that it belongs to their beloved city.)

(Julio, I don’t know how personal this ended up being, but it is what I have been busy doing this week outside my research!)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lindz,

This sounds very hectic! I'm glad it worked out for you. It's hard having some personal freedom to do as you please for so long and then be in position where there are different social mores and rules and regulations.Here if you were in the same situation and said " But he's my husband" they would've waived him into any residence, or bent the rules with no problem because spouses are considered by many landlords to be a sign of being responsible!


8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Lindz looks like you been goin through a lot. Thanks for takin a moment to add a personal entry. It is so amazing how different some things are in Syria!

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Lindz looks like you been goin through a lot. Thanks for takin a moment to add a personal entry. It is so amazing how different some things are in Syria!


4:13 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Hamrick said...

So if Damascus or Aleppo is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, which city is the oldest and currently inhabited, although perhaps not continuously inhabited? I'm not quizzing you; I'm legitimately curious and assume you know the answer.

7:06 PM  

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