Monday, August 01, 2005
Some general stuff
As people come out to work on the project, their response is always the same: it's quite different from what they expected. Women from the UK often visit with feelings of caution about what they should and shouldn't wear and how they will be treated, and are surprised by how varied and tolerant life here is. Yes, you will see fully-covered women here, and many others wear headscarves, but many others don't, and jeans and t-shirts are normal. There's a great readiness to live and let live that takes some getting used to, but is a huge plus. Even in the soukhs, the attitude is easy - compared to some markets round the world with the constant "you buy, you buy" pressure, here it's much more of a social affair, where walking away empty-handed after a half hour's conversation and a cup of tea is not an issue. Eating out is easy, wine and beer are available in many places. Life, in fact, is very pleasant.
There certainly are men with machine guns. They sit or stand outside embassy buildings or diplomatic residences, some in uniform, some in suits. I noticed it for a day or two when I first arrived, now I take it for granted. There are lots of policemen as well, mainly on traffic duty where they act as some minute sort of reinforcement to the traffic lights, which otherwise are totally ignored. None of this is threatening; ordinary Syrians blithely pay no attention and just do what they want, and very soon you find yourself doing the same.
Time for work. More to come.
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