I have a mild dislike of the French. And also, too many thoughts.
Got going later today. Still was completely exhausted by 5:30PM. Part of me keeps chastising myself for not spending every second possible exploring the city, but honestly, I know I would just get cranky if I forced myself to. Eight to nine hours a day is enough sightseeing for me. (Also, I keep heading back to the apartment when I exceed my budget for the day. See below.)
Also, am completely sunburned. Really need to buy sunscreen, but I can never remember the word in Arabic, and I am too proud to ask in English.
But! Good day anyway. Started out by heading to the National Museum, which would have been way cooler if ALL THE COOL STUFF WASN’T BEING RENOVATED. I mean, that’s not true. The Islamic gallery was and probably would have been my favorite gallery regardless. But the entire Classical wing was closed. AND (this is the worst part!) most of the Islamic manuscripts were missing from their cases! I took a pitiful self-portrait of myself standing next to an empty display case. I was heart-broken. Still, the rest of the museum was nice. Even though I had to pay full price for it, because the guard wouldn’t accept my Jordanian student ID (i.e. he actually had an idea about what the rules about that sort of thing are–the nerve!).
There is a tie for the second most annoying thing about the National Museum: the massive amounts of tourists (I know it’s a tourist attraction, and I’m coming to terms with the whole “being a tourist” thing, but there were SO MANY of them that the term “drove” seems appropriate to use here) and the lack of clear English labeling on some of the older (and therefore more interesting) exhibits. Most of the annoying tourists were French. And the lack of English labeling was because all of the old exhibits were labeled in Arabic and French, because of that whole occupation thing. Imperialism continues to make my life difficult!
(Yes, I know that I’m an American. Shut up.)
I ended up feeling very grumpy by the end of my museum visit, and didn’t particularly feel like doing anything. So, I sat down at a random hole-in-the-wall restaurant between the National Museum and the Old City. WOW. My philosophy on eating while traveling had been “the quicker and cheaper the better.” I have experienced a COMPLETE CONVERSION. Twenty minutes sitting down and eating a sandwich off of a plate and drinking out of a glass was all I needed to start feeling like a human being again. (I feel about 5698 years old saying that. But it’s true!) I’m still in the “cheaper is better” camp, but OMG the joys of sitting down to a real meal. It was wonderful.
So, I then began to wander Straight Street again. Note to self: never browse markets just for lulz. I ended up being cajoled (willingly, but still) into buying two souvenirs (well, only one, really–one was for charity) and a quarter kilo of nuts. Though I don’t *really* regret the nuts. It all just happened rather suddenly. I was just walking by this nut shop that was empty, without even really looking at it, when I saw this young man BOLTING towards me. Having become somewhat accustomed to moving aside to let people/cars through on Damascus’ narrow streets, I paused to let him buy. But then, before I could even think to say no, he swung into his shop, offered me an almond, and then a cashew, and then another type of almond, and then he was asking me how much I wanted and they were actually good and I probably could really use the protein so I got a quarter kilo. A few minutes later I did some budget-calculating in my head and realized that I don’t actually need to be *quite* as stingy as I’d been aiming for in the past few days, so I felt better about it after that.
Other adventures in the land of the Souq:
1. I was looking through a pile of bracelets, most of which were variations on the “I Love Syria!” and Bashir al-Assad theme. But then I saw another one with another portrait that was not al-Assad. And I was confused for a minute–who else could the Syrian people be compelled to honor on tacky tourist bracelets?
It was Hassan Nasrallah, obviously. With the Hezbollah logo. Don’t know what else I was expecting, really. (After this incident, I started spotting Nasrallah EVERYWHERE.)
2. Ran into another Yalie, randomly. The world is small.
3. Was wandering through one of the smaller souqs when I saw an alleyway leading to a courtyard with a small fountain and shops. So, I went to look at it. (Also, I thought I had seen a rack with bracelets, which, as you might have guessed because this is the second time I have mentioned bracelets, I am looking for! Unfortunately, all of the ones I’ve found are either pure gold or pure crap. Or proclaim support for Hezbollah. This is an unnecessarily long parenthetical note.)
A man came from a small food shop and said, “hello, welcome! Ahlan wa sahlan! Come, sit! You want coffee, tea?”
Since he was obviously trying to sell me something, I walked away.
And I suddenly became obsessed with guilt over the fact that I had left. Which didn’t make sense, because he was obviously trying to sell me something. I mean, he made his living selling water and coffee and tea. He probably wasn’t trying to be hospitable out of the goodness of his heart. He was trying to make a buck off me. But I still felt completely racked with guilt. Cue philosophical intervention:
I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian hospitality lately. And about, well, Christianity in general, but that’s a whole other thing. The point is, Mk 25:44-5 is starting to haunt me. (“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “) And I have to think: if hospitality is such a Christian virtue, how can I get away with being such a douche to people who are offering their hospitality to me?
I need to trust people more. Not necessarily in the “put my life in their hands without even knowing them” way (which is why I’m still wary of taxi drivers), but in the “mankind is inherently good and treating every person I meet on the street as a potential murderer is both detrimental to my nerves and contrary to the spirit of Charity” way.
I ended up getting lost while I was thinking about all of these things and ended up back at the same side street. I went back. The man was all happy: “you change your mind! Come! Sit down!”
And then this tourist woman (French, of course) comes up behind me and starts asking me if I know the way to the Umayyad Mosque. And I am very pleased, because I love when I know how to give people directions in a foreign country! But then the man kept talking to me, telling me to sit, asking if I wanted tea, and this tourist was like, “it’s okay, just ignore him.” And even after only knowing him in the context of him trying to sell me tea and causing me to have a great moral dilemma, her saying that made me want to punch someone.
I gave her directions, and then I asked the man if he had mango juice, which I had been planning to get sometime that day anyway (because I am developing an addiction), and his little brother pulled up a chair for me in the shade beside the fountain, and he served me the mango juice in a glass, and it was very pleasant. The kid brought me water, which I didn’t ask for, but appreciated anyway. And after I was done drinking and watching the cats play in the courtyard, I got up and gave him back his glass and he asked me for 65 SYP and I gave it to him.
I have no idea if that was the right thing to do, and you all probably think I’m crazy for going on about this so long, but these are the things I think about when I’m traveling alone. Reduced human interaction –> more thinking about seemingly insignificant bits of human interaction. Anyway, I’m done talking about it now. The last eight (eight?!) paragraphs could be condensed into “I had mango juice in a courtyard with a fountain, and it was nice.” Moving on.
I finally found the Chapel of Ananias! Apparently I had walked directly past it at least twice. Well done. Of course, when I found it, it was during the ONE HOUR A DAY when they close up shop (I presume for prayer or something similarly non-scoff-worthy), so I ended up wandering around the back streets of the Christian quarter again. I bought a 10 SYP slushy whose size was ridiculously disproportionate to the amount of joy it gave me. Then I went back to the church and my camera died. Dagnabbit. Well, I read the story of the Conversion of St Paul in Arabic (with English cheats) and spent a while being introspective on conversion in the chapel. Which meant that I saw two tour groups come and go. Both of them were led by Arabs speaking Italian. Can I just say how much I love to watch non-native Italian speakers speak Italian fluently? Do they teach you the right way to do the body language with all of the words, or are the Arabs just really good at that? Anyway, it was awesome. Especially because I could understand so much of it! Yay Romance languages!
Also, there was a picture of the basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome, where Paul’s grave is, in the tiny chapel (aka a place I visited less than a year ago). I recognized it before even reading the caption. It was… weird. The two places were just so radically, radically different. Cue more thinking on the significance of spaces! (Don’t worry, you are spared because this entry is way too long already.)
Wandered towards the Umayyad mosque with vague thoughts of going in again to watch the sunset. Got distracted by a guy with a shop. Bargained a silk scarf (which may, like, actually be silk? I know, I was shocked too) down to about half of the price he asked for it by opening up my wallet and showing him that I actually didn’t have any the money he was asking for with me, so it was either this or nothing. He caved, and was like, “only because you are a student, like my sister.” And, for the second time in a day, I was angry at myself for spending money I hadn’t planned to spend, and at allowing myself to get pulled into faux-friendships with shopkeepers so that they can sell me things. I KNOW IT’S WHAT EVERY SEASONED TRAVELER EVER TELLS YOU NOT TO DO. BELIEVE ME I KNOW. But these shopkeepers! They are PEOPLE! They have sisters, they have favorite types of nuts, they have distant family members who live in America, and many of them wouldn’t be able to feed their families without the income from tourism. So yeah, I probably could have gotten the same scarf for cheaper on the internet. But the more I allow the people calling out to me in the street become annoyances to shake off, the more I dehumanize me, and the worse human being I become.
ALL RIGHT THAT IS ENOUGH INTROSPECTION FOR THE DAY. That was pretty much my thought as I was leaving that shop. He was like, “weren’t you going the other way?” And I was like, “I don’t have money to spend anymore.” Or patience to deal with the introspection that my limited human interaction is causing to fall upon me in droves.
Speaking of not having money, here’s the daily breakdown:
150 SYP: National Museum entrance fee
165 SYP: lunch.
65 SYP: mango juice + water + moral dilemma
200 SYP: nuts.
1150 SYP (100 + 50 + 1000): souvenirs (I literally did not buy a single souvenir the entire 5 weeks I was in Jordan. I get to indulge a little here in that respect.)
10 SYP: slushy. It was strawberry and blackberry. So much joy.
25 SYP: entrance to Saint Ananias’ Chapel
Total: 1765 SYP, or $37.83. Not acceptable for an average day. But I’m actually mostly done with all of the gifts I need to buy for people, which means no more temptations.
Also speaking of not having money, I need to find an ATM that will take my US imperialist card tomorrow. And also to finally actually do the Umayyad mosque at sunset, visit the old Damascene houses, and maybe go to a hammam. Oh, and figure out how I’m getting to the monastery I’m going to the day after tomorrow. Should be an exciting day!