Caitlin Coyle’s Blog

Syria: Part I

Posted in Uncategorized by caitlincoyle on May 25, 2009

Twenty-five seat changes, one dramatic fight, two prayers, a very unsteady landing and we made it to Damascus. The flight felt like a very odd dream. One of those dreams that make perfect sense while dreaming, but in the daytime are completely ridiculous.

The flight began with total disorder and confusion. Rather than following an assigned number, passengers chose their seats based on personal preference. I don’t think one person on the plane (aside from the captain and flight attendant) was sitting in the correct seat.

The seat fiasco caused a fight between two men on the flight. From what I gathered, one gentleman was furious that his wife was seated next to a stranger. Most importantly, that stranger was a man.

As the men’s words came close to becoming angry fists, I could not help but think how the incident would not be tolerated aboard most other aircrafts. Once the men were both calmed, seats were changed and they were allowed to remain on the flight. The entire situation reminded me just how far I am from home.

Before take off and landing a prayer was played on a screen depicting the Mohammad Ali Mosque in Cairo. Men and women, with their palms faced upward, repeated the prayer in perfect unison.

There was no need for headphones on the plane because the sound for the television played louder than the pilot’s announcement. Andrea and I reasoned that women must have trouble fitting the headphones under their headscarf. We wondered if that was why the sound was broadcast for everyone to hear.

I’ve noticed that landings in Cairo and Damascus are about as unpredictable and wild as a rollercoaster ride. The plane jolts from side to side, and drops down at unexpected moments. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I feel the plane come to a complete stop.

After landing, I began to realize the significance of our presence in Syria.

It is very rare for Americans to visit Syria.

After President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union our relations with Syria began to change. It was in this speech that President Bush introduced his notion of the “axis of evil.” He named three countries specifically, claiming they were evil entities that “murdered their own.” The three countries included: Iran, Iraq and North Korea. After blacklisting the three nations, he stated, “states like these and their terrorist allies threaten peace and stability.”

While President Bush did not name Syria directly, his assertion was clear. Syria has a diplomatic relationship with Iran and holds constructive dialogue with political parties that the US has deemed to be terrorist organizations.

As a result, it was very difficult for our program to receive permission to study in Syria for 10 days. This opportunity is truly extraordinary.

The importance of our visit is felt almost everywhere we go. The Syrian government has welcomed all 25 of us with open arms (and eyes). I include eyes because it is very clear that we are being watched, monitored even, while in Syria. After leaving a club in downtown Damascus, a couple of my friends and I noticed we were being followed. At the time we did not think much of it. However, it is entirely possible that they were sent from an organization. (Which organization I am not yet sure…) Other students had similar, and slightly more jarring incidents during their excursions last night. I would like to go into more detail, but such a post may have to wait until I return to the protection of the United States.

Our tour guide explained the current state of Syria perfectly during yesterday’s meeting.

“In Syria nothing is prohibited and nothing is allowed,” he said.

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2 Responses

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  1. Sandy Raymond said, on May 26, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Very interesting post…..I just shared with James how I love these personal views and details as for me they seem out of a page of a novel and I can’t wait for the next page. All the reporting is phenomenal, but by just a hair I’m totally enjoying seeing each country through your eyes and hearts.

    Sandy

  2. courtney said, on May 30, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Awesome jobs with your blog. I love when you add in pictures. And I was wondering if you have ever tinkered with becoming a photo journalist?


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