The Things I’ve Learned

A comment on my blog made me realize that I was maybe definitely becoming too pessimistic and sort of really hating on Syria. I’m going to correct that now. I’m going to make a top 30 list of all the things I just wouldn’t be able to do without Syria and all the things I’ve learned. You be the judge: was it worth it?

30. Black outs were very frequent in the summer of ’06, during the war in Lebanon, so I can handle six hours of no electricity.
29. I know how to pick fruits.
28. I know how to mash said picked fruits into jam. Seriously. I made apricot jam. Beat that! 
27. I also made vinegar. 
26. And tomato paste. Syria’s still big on the whole let’s save for the winter cellar thing. 
25.I know how to ishtuf. You pour water and use this man-size squeegee to push the water towards the drain. It can be pretty fun when it’s hot out and the veranda turns into one huge water park.
24. I can now knit. Passably. 
23. I drive stick shift. Nice, eh?
22. I also know how to start a standard car without a key. All you need is a slight decline.
21. And how to hot-wire a car. Yup… all in a days work.
20. I can make popcorn using some butter, salt, kernels, and my trust-worthy Tefal casserole. 
19. After much dropping of clothing from 11 floors up, I can now successfully hang a washed load to dry. All by myself. Complete with shaking them out before hanging, and using one clothing pin for two items of clothing. 
18. I can successfully teach (I was a full-time grade 6 & 7 teacher for two years and am currently an adult teacher)
17. I’ve been introduced to the world of blogging. Hello, blogging world!
16. I’ve met some pretty amazing people.
15. I’ve got this collection of Syrian adages. They’re hilarious.
14. I know my way around some of Damascus. It makes me feel so important.
13. I debkeh with the best of them. 
12. I also know some aweeeehas. And my zalgouta? The le-le-le-le-leeysssh thing? Everybody always stares like: The Canadian? Where’d she get that from? (they’ve asked me repeatedly to teach them. Me, the canadian, teach them, the syrians!)
11. After a ton of practice I can now brew turkish coffee. 
10. And drink bitter coffee without pulling a face. 
9. I’ve learnt some of the ins and outs of Syrian customs. 
8. I’ve learnt that you don’t say makhtoob for a guy. He’s khateb and the girl’s makhtoobeh. Apparently, it’s a biggie.
7. I sort of understand Iraqi arabic. When we first got here, there was a huge influx of Iraqi refugees. At first I understood nothing! They’d be speaking and my face’d be pretty much blank. I get a few words now. Like zain. Zain, 3ami, zain! Good, good! 
6. I can bargain and barter passably!! Listen to this
S&S: pick up what I want and pull a face. 
Store Owner: What? Don’t you like it?
S&S: It’s not too bad.. but the price is ridiculous! walk off
SO: Where you going? Khalas, don’t worry. We won’t disagree. lowers the price 
S&S: raises eyebrow. 
And we proceed to do exactly that – disagree. As a rule, I generally don’t like haggling. I’ve seen people disagree over as little as 50 pounds! That’s around a dollar. But sometimes the Syrian in me rears its head and so I find my self in Old Damascus haggling like some old crone. 
5. I have a huge collection of hijabs and abbayehs, two things that were scarce and extremely expensive in Canada.
4. I can read and write Arabic! That’s a good one.
3. I’m slowly yet surely learning how to hold my tongue and be patient. 
2. I’ve been in a few choice situation that have taught me some life lessons I’m not likely to forget any time soon.
1. I’ve realized how truly blessed I am, alhamdiAllah. Both for the life I led and the life I am leading.

So. What do you think? Was it worth it? I think so, alhamdiAllah. Kelow min Allah khair, alhamdiAllah. I think whether it was worth it or not, it’s still been an amazing experience! 


Filed under Canada, islam, Personal, Reflections, Syria

10 responses to “The Things I’ve Learned

  1. Lucky, lucky You. You are on a great adventure. It isn’t always easy, a new culture can be so daunting, but you are learning so much, and you have the eyes to SEE! In the toolbox of life, you have a great advantage, being able to think outside your own cultural box. And oh . . . to be living in Damascus. . .

  2. seriously pretty people .. i dont think that phrase has ever been used in one sentence before 😛

    btw hello 😉

  3. pretty amazing .. wrong use of phrase 😛

  4. souvenirsandscars

    intlxpatr – Very true. Getting used to a new culture can be very intimidating. To be honest though, I didn’t always have ‘the eyes to see.’ It was very, very hard at first. Culture shock at it’s finest, in fact. But I’m going on 2 years and a half now. I just figured I don’t want to look back and regret wasting so much time wishing for the impossible. Might as well live in the present day, no?

    Yousef – Hello to you too 😉 Are you referring to #16. I’ve met some pretty amazing people?? Cause I think that makes sense? Lol. Anyways, thanks for stopping by!!

  5. MashaAllah, you’ve learned a lot. Dude, now I feel so guilty, I just literally posted a big complainy rant on Egypt. Its all true but very whiny! I should post the good things that have come out of living here, but I’m sure I’ve accomplished way less in way more time. Can I steal your idea?

  6. souvenirsandscars

    Hey Mamamona!! I was just on your blog, commenting on said rant, lol. Of course you can! In all honesty, I’d love it if you would. It’d help answer my wonderings about you and your life and Egypt… which would be nice to read 🙂 Have fun!!!

    And we all have those moments where the only thing that’d make us feel better is a nice, long, hate-filled, sarcastic rant! I know I’ve written my share!!

  7. serendipitouslife

    Very interesting stuff. Although i didn’t understand “ishtuf”, driving “stick shift”, “debkeh”, “aweeeehas” & “zalgouta”. But amusing nevertheless.

  8. Alhamdulillah, seems very worth it 🙂 just for even some of the things you mentioned

  9. souvenirsandscars

    serendipitous – Glad you liked it 😉 I’ll try and give you a run down.
    1. Ishtuf is basically when you dump a bucket of water on the floor and then use a man size squeegee to push/pull the water towards a drain. Stick shift is driving standard.
    2. Debkeh is like line dancing, only with hands held and a hell of a lota original moves thrown in.
    3. Aweehas is just what it sounds like. At weddings and other happy occasions (lol) women make this noise that goes AWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HA!! and then say this little limerick that is more often than not funny.
    4. Zalgouta is another noise. Goes like this: LE LE LE LE LE LE LYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYSH and is made by moving your tongue back and forth really fast, either side to side or up and down and emitting a one-tone note.
    HAHAHAH. I hope the intending meaning got across!! Sometimes it’s hard to verbally explain cultural phenomena. It’s so much easier to demonstrate!

    Ammena – I’m glad you think so!! Writing it made me realize exactly that, and every time I feel a little down, I think of all the new things that I could add to this list. It really lifts my spirits up!

  10. serendipitouslife

    Thank you for the very vivid clarifications & translations!
    You’ve certainly made ‘ishtuf’ sound like a skillful art.
    Stick-shift is known here as ‘driving manual’ car.
    We dance debka here as well…mostly women during weddings.
    Aweehas is foreign but zalgouta is very common in the Emarati weddings.

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