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Daniel

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[29 Mar 2008|04:22am]
so, this journal is pretty much dead... but i've started a new one, which i will attempt to update more regularly, here:

http://syriaphotoguide.livejournal.com/

it will focus on my photography, experiences in syria, and social/political issues related to the middle east. i'm probably not going to post much in the way of personal entries. add me on facebook for that.
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[04 Apr 2007|03:20pm]
"I just don't know what got into her head, to be completely honest with you," GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said. "Her going to a state which is without question a sponsor of terror, and having her picture taken with (Bashar) Assad and being seen in a headscarf and so forth is sending the wrong signal to the people of Syria and to the people of the Middle East.

WTF...
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[22 Feb 2007|11:04am]
damn... 27.

i don't like this number at all. seems way too old for me.

but, on the positive side... i apparently have a job offer. or something. an english-language syrian magazine is expressing interest in my photography (and only after seeing the relatively unimpressive selection i've posted online). i'm traveling back to damascus to meet with them. i'm trying not to get my hopes up, as quite possibly they just think they can take advantage of me for some free photos, but perhaps upon seeing my catalog (20,000 photos from practically everywhere around syria) they'll be interested in hiring me seriously.

*crosses fingers*

hanadi and i are still in love with each other. i'm not sure what will come of it. she is still terrified of pursuing our relationship because of her family and other obstacles. but everyday she seems to feel more and more that she'll only be happy if she is with me. it seems i have little control over the situation except to reassure her that she'll be safe with me. but the reality is that she'll probably have to leave her family on negative terms in order for us to be together.

i'm going to go to ugarit (origin of the world's oldest phonetic alphabet). the weather is absolutely beautiful today.
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[17 Feb 2007|08:47pm]
well, it's been a pretty long absence, i know... i just really haven't had much to say. or, rather, i haven't felt there has been much point to put down in text the details of what has been occupying my life these past months. i never really look back on these journals, and doubt anything i say has much influence on anybody else, so whenever i've opened this update page it has sat idle while i've done other things.

shou...

i'm still in syria. still working on this photography guide to syria project i started almost one year ago, which is slowly nearly completion (well, the photography element of it, anyway). i have little doubt that i'm putting together the best and most comprehensive collection of photography for syria's sites, so i'm very proud of it. and most of those i've shared my photos with here in syria seem to really appreciate what i'm doing, which makes me happy. i still haven't uploaded any new photos... but at some point in the future there will be thousands of them up on my website.

since moving out of damascus the end of january, i've just been undertaking a final tour around syria. getting to a few sites i missed previously, and revisiting a few where i feel i could use some better photos. and, in addition, visiting friends around the country.

i was in aleppo for about ten days, with a short side-trip to al-raqqa to visit some sites in that region. i had a few memorable days... they generally involved lots of tea, invitations to peoples' homes, pleasant conversations, and strangers pulling over and giving me free rides (including once a taxi driver, who drove me 10km directly to my hotel, and refused to take any money).

i'm in lattakia at this very moment. i just returned from a lovely two-day hiking trip in the mountains and forest around kassab, near the mediterranean and the border with turkey. these hikes are organized by a local group, and usually about 200 people from around syria show up (with the occasional foreigner). they're mostly university age, so it is lots of fun. met some really nice people, as usual. and a really cute girl from homs. we'll see if anything comes of that... :)

there is one more hike around suweida in the end of march... probably around the time i'll be preparing to leave. perhaps a nice finish to my journey.

i am really, really, really, really, really not looking forward to returning to los angeles. a large part of this is because, as usual, i have no fucking clue what i'll do with myself once i'm back. no job set up (aside from working off some debts to my dad), not really sure where i'll live, and of course facing further alienation from my friends and family as none of whom have even the most remote understanding or comprehension of the place, history, culture, traditions and language i've been absorbed in for the last 14 months.

yani... at the same time i realize i can't be a traveler forever. and it seems that if i'm ever going to have a relationship with a syrian girl, i do need to establish some sort of stable life for myself. i've been here long enough and met enough syrian women to know my lifestyle isn't going to work with any of them. ;)

but, fuck... i'm really not sure what to do. i'm not a business-orientated person at all. i'm fairly miserable working jobs i feel are futile. i've done it before only because i was looking for a way to save money to travel, then leave. but none of those jobs ever came close to providing for a stable life, none of them provided prospects for the future. they paid bills and allowed me to pocket a few hundred dollars a month (by sacrificing my social life, generally). they were just jobs. and i want to find something i could be passionate about doing, but there isn't very much money in any of the things i feel i could be passionate about.

i can't say i'm always overwhelmed with joy being in syria. i do go through periods of loneliness. i do go through periods where i wish i wouldn't have to explain my political views so often (or continue giving excuses for you assholes that put people like bush into power). i do miss being able to pursue 'normal' relationships and not have to deal with all the obstacles traditional arab culture throws in the way.

but i'm very comfortable here. i really adore this country. the history and culture are fascinating and easy to be absorbed by, while the people never cease to amaze me with their generosity and hospitality. i love walking down streets that have existed for over 2,000 years, with little evidence of western-dominated globalism to pollute the scene. and i like the fact when i explain my political views to people, they're admired and appreciated rather than misunderstood due to widespread, self-imposed [and media reinforced] ignorance about the world.

really, i miss californian cuisine and punk shows more than anything else. syrian food is awesome, for sure, but not everyday. i'd even get tired of indian food everyday, and i love that stuff. of course i do miss my friends and family quite a bit, it's nothing that a short visit back to l.a. wouldn't satisfy.

this post shouldn't be misunderstood as a request for advice... in truth, i really don't like receiving advice. especially through the internet. i've noticed people here have a habit of thinking they understand a person even from rare, vague journal entries that are often composed as the result of specific moods. if you want to comment, don't tell me what you think i should do. because you don't know me (nobody on livejournal does), and it's not like i haven't considered my options. eventually i'll figure something out. though if anyone wants to donate to the Keep Daniel From Having to Return to the United States Fund, feel free to inquire. ;)

okay, i'm out to get some food.
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[23 Nov 2006|02:47am]
A few nights ago I attended my first Syrian metal show, something which I'm sure very few of my non-Arab friends even realize exist. I thought taking some photos and making known the Syrian metal scene would be a good opportunity to reveal that side of the Middle East that is rarely, if ever, displayed in Western media.

While there is no punk scene in Syria, there is a fairly large metal scene here, with local bands from most of the major cities. Many of them cover songs from western metal bands, no doubt in part because western metal bands never tour here (though some of them do tour in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon). Not surprisingly, many of them sing in English.

The show was held in a run-down cinema in downtown Aleppo which generally plays decade-old American action flicks or Egyptian comedies, and was surprisingly reminiscent of some smaller punk shows I've been to. Granted, I haven't been to any metal shows back home, but I can't imagine the atmosphere being terribly different, and I felt right at home. Most of the crowd was, not surprisingly, in the 16-30 age range, far more guys than girls. There was lots of long hair, metal band t-shirts, tattoos, and everything else that one would associate with metal music. There was a mosh pit, and even a fight broke out! Oh, and the police decided to shut down the show (thankfully not until their last song). It felt all so familiar...

The members of this particular band, Orion, were, as far as I know, all Armenians from Aleppo. Apparently most of the songs they played were covers of western groups, but I didn't really know any of them except the obligatory Metallica song.

Anyhow... photos:













The longer I've been here the more bothered I've become by the one-dimensional view of this region held by nearly everyone not from here. I've become sick of discussing politics, because I've become tired of this being the only perspective from which outsiders seem capable of viewing the Middle East. Most of those who find fascination in the politics of the region seem content to ignore everything else about the society, culture, and lifestyle.

I've met a disturbing number of foreigners here recently who are more interested in seeing the destruction inflicted on southern Lebanon during the recent conflict than are interested in admiring the monuments that are testiment to the thousands of years of civilization in the region. They seem far more interested in discovering the image of the Middle East they see in the western news media than they are interested in truly coming to understand the depths of this society.

Some people, after looking at my photos from the region, have suggested I should travel to Lebanon specifically to photograph the destruction from the war. But I think the last thing the world needs are more images to reinforce the idea of the Middle East as a place of eternal conflict, violence, war, extremism.

The vast majority of the photography I have done here has been of the historical and archaeological sites, as well as cultural sites such as the traditional souqs/markets, and religious shrines. This is because the website I'm putting together will be a guide to Syria's historical and cultural sites. I'm hoping this will also serve somewhat to show people there is far more to this region than politics.

I'm also hoping to have a chance, before leaving Syria, to photograph the more "modern" elements of Syrian society, because I think most of those who have never visited this region fail to realize how modern it really is. There are plenty of coffeeshops with WiFi internet access serving expresso and cappacino, and there are probably more camels in California than in Syria.

Oh, yeah... and I discovered photography in concert lighting without a flash is really fucking difficult. It was my first attempt, and maybe 400ISO wasn't high enough sensitivity.
15 comments|post comment

[02 Aug 2006|07:05pm]
I'm planning to head over to Lebanon once there is some sort of ceasefire called or a safe way in. The border from Damascus to Beirut is still closed, and the road completely fucked up anyway. The Homs to Baalbek road is the same story, I believe. I read the bridge south of Hermel leading to Baalbek was destroyed, and they've been bombing the Bekka pretty intensely. The only reliable way in seems to be from Tartus to Tripoli and along the coast, but I'm in wait-and-see mode right now.

They're going to need a lot of volunteers, and I have a few friends that work for a couple environmental organizations in Beirut. The oil spill has covered the entire Lebanese coast from Beirut north to Syria, so they're going to need a lot of help cleaning that up, which I've heard will take 6 months to a year. I could also volunteer helping displaced people or in cleaning up various other the destruction that Israel has made... we'll see.

I know there are many people of Lebanese background among my friends, anyone else have similar plans?
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[30 Jul 2006|12:09pm]
Hasn't Qana experienced enough of your massacres, Israel?
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[26 Jul 2006|01:10pm]
So, I opened up a news article about "Bush's plan" to quell violence in Iraq, and found roughly half of the article to be about the pissing match between Democrats and Republicans over who can kiss more Zionist/AIPAC ass.

I hate the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Really, they are the biggest bunch of pussies. They're like fundamentally incapable of taking a moral stance on ANYTHING that could threaten their political careers.

The two leaders [President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki] disagreed openly on how to end hostilities between the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon and Israel, with al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim leader, reiterating his support for an immediate cease-fire and Bush sticking by the administration opposition to one.

Okay, good, maybe the leadership in Iraq will represent its populace after all. Democracy is a positive thing, right?

A group of House Democrats called on GOP leaders to cancel al-Maliki's address to Congress on Wednesday. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he doubted he would attend and that there were a "large number of people (in Congress) who were uncomfortable" with al-Maliki's condemnation of Israel's attacks in Lebanon and apparent support for Hezbollah.

Ohhhhh, wait. We can't support democracy if it goes against Israel! Who cares if this guy is supposed to represent the democratic will of the Iraqi people, if he's against anything Israel does, we can't support him! We can't even listen to him speak!

Democrats criticized al-Maliki's comments. "Prime Minister Maliki missed an important opportunity to state his position on Hezbollah, and instead left the impression that he does not oppose this terrorist organization's outrageous attacks on Israel," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Because attacking/capturing enemy combatants is outrageous, but destroying billions and billions of dollars of civilian infrastructure, killing hundreds, wounding thousands, and displacing over 1/2 million people isn't. Got it. Oh, and using your only means of retaliation over said destruction/murder (launching missiles) is outrageous. Check.

I wonder, if al-Maliki was criticizing Hezbollah and made no mention of the Israeli bombardment, would you suggest he missed an important opportunity to state his position on Israel's attacks?

I guess not.

Kerry called on Maliki to strongly condemn the use of terror anywhere — including by Hezbollah against Israel — in his speech to Congress on Thursday.

Oh, right, including by Hezbollah against Israel! Thanks for the reminder! Poor, victimized Israel. Always being attacked without cause, and always forgotten...

What about state terrorism? Shouldn't condemn that, right, Mr. Kerry? Good work, douchebag. This is why I didn't vote for you.

I think American politicians are accustomed to these Arab monarchs who will say whatever the U.S. wants them to say in order to maintain American support. American politicians are going to have to think again if they believe "democracy" in the Middle East is ever going to result in anything remotely pro-Israel.

I wish the Democrats would just shut up. Stop talking. Stop reminding me how pathetic and worthless our only realistic alternative to Bush is. Grrrrrrrr.

Meanwhile, Israel murders more U.N. peacekeepers. Of course that world-renowned anti-Semite, Kofi Annan, says the attack was "apparently deliberate."

In another article: On Tuesday, Rice said her effort was designed "to bring about an urgent but enduring cease-fire in Lebanon, one that can deal with the causes of extremism that began this crisis and that can also lead to the establishment of the sovereignty of the Lebanese government throughout its territory."

Causes of extremism? Well, the extremism in this case was no doubt the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon. If you want to talk about extremism, look at how the capture of two enemy combatants results in the wholesale destruction of an entire country. And the cause of this extremism is the unwavering U.S. support of Israel no matter how horrible the atrocities it commits. If anyone in power in the U.S. was willing to challenge Israel on anything it does, Israel wouldn't be able to retaliate with such extremism.

Oh, but I guess the "extremism" Rice is referring to is the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, regardless of the fact Israel holds thousands of Arab political prisoners and prisoners of war.

Rice claims "the region needs enduring solutions." Apparently for the U.S., the only "enduring solution" is getting every Arab state in the region to support Israel's "right to attack/destroy/murder anything/anyone, anytime, anyplace defend itself", preferably through a "democracy" which will support Israel's "right" over representing it's own people or it's own interests.

Of course, the U.S. still wants to take credit for rescuing Lebanon at the same time:

[Assistant Secretary of State David Welch] noted that the U.S. led the way in an international humanitarian assistance campaign by offering $30 million in aid to Lebanon, which will come mostly in goods such as blankets and sheets. Saudi Arabia pledged $1.5 billion in aid on Tuesday.

Actually, the U.S. didn't "led the way" at all, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait donated millions of dollars a couple days after fighting began. Not to say Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are all that noble, the Saudis and Kuwaits just don't want their favorite vacation spot destroyed.

"It is important that these voices be there and be gathered for this purpose because if you look at what the outcome of this crisis will be, it is going to be a stronger Lebanon where its freedoms are preserved and strengthened."

Yeah, because the complete destruction of a country's infrastructure always puts it on the path to becoming "stronger". These people are fucking nuts. Lebanon could be a complete disaster zone as far as they're concerned, as long as nobody was capable of harming an Israeli soldier everything would be lovely.

Proposals for disarming the Shiite Islamic militant group and assembling an international peacekeeping force to be deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border were on the agenda Wednesday as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other key Mideast players gathered in Rome for a meeting on the crisis.

Why don't we disarm Israel, and have an international peacekeeping force deployed to protect it? That sounds better to me.

"[The Israeli defense minister] hinted that Israel might enforce the no-go zone from a distance, saying that "we will continue to control with our fire toward anyone who will get close to the defined security zone."

That seems to be implying that Israel has plans to kill any civilians that attempt to return to their homes in villages near the border.

I don't support Hezbollah's ideology, but I do support their right to defend their country. I might get shit from certain segments of Lebanon's populace for saying this, but Hezbollah not only represents the south, they are the south. They have every right to defend that territory, and I hope they continue to inflict casualties on Israeli soldiers marching into their country. I'm quite impressed by the defense they're putting up, even after two weeks of bombing Israel hasn't been able to advance very far and take loses every time they try. Go Hezbollah.
16 comments|post comment

this one is not satire... [15 Jul 2006|02:19pm]
Israel tells villagers to flee, and then massacres them while they're doing so...

---------------------------------------------------------------

At least 12 Lebanese villagers, including women and children, were killed on Saturday in an Israeli air strike on vehicles fleeing a village in southern Lebanon, a witness said.

The convoy was leaving the border village of Marwahin when it was attacked.

An Associated Press photographer said he counted 12 bodies in two cars that were destroyed by the attack shortly after midday (0900GMT).

An adviser to Lebanon's health minister put the toll at about 15. Hasan Hutait told Aljazeera that two cars had been directly hit by Israeli fire.

The deaths brought the toll in Israel's offensive in Lebanon to 79, Hutait said, adding that a total of 250 have been wounded.

Hours earlier, Israeli forces across the border told villagers by loudspeaker to leave the area or else the village would be destroyed. They did not give a reason for the ultimatum.

"Israeli forces threatened us on Saturday at 8 am to destroy our town if we do not evacuate it," Akram Ghannam, a resident of Marwahin, told Aljazeera on Saturday.
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[14 Jul 2006|03:47pm]
BENGKULU, INDONESIA - Israeli warplanes attacked a shoe factory in the Indonesian city of Bengkulu early Friday, destroying two buildings and setting a third ablaze. Thirteen deaths were reported and twenty-three more were wounded.

"It's well-known that terrorist groups operate in Indonesia," Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz said, "The factory targeted had supplied shoes worn by terrorists to attack Israel."

Defence Minister Amir Peretz announced that Israel intended to "destroy any elements which aid terrorists." He suggested this could extend to attacks against Indonesia's transportation system, as well as it's fishing industry. "Seafood is one of the primary sources of food eaten by Indonesian terrorist groups who transport shoes used in attacks against Israel."

Meanwhile, the United States blocked a U.N. resolution that would have demanded Israel halt its military offensive, saying that the resolution failed to hold Indonesia's shoe-manufacturing industry to account. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the resolution was unacceptable because it was "unbalanced."

In other violence, an Israeli civilian was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket launched against the Israeli city of Safed. "The doctor said I might require stitches," said 59-year-old Ben Gillerman. "It is really tramatizing." Gillerman's pet dog, Fluffy, has also been missing since the attack. In addition, 267 civilians were killed in Israeli attacks across Lebanon.

President Bush strongly defended Israel's attacks, saying "Israel has a right to defend herself." When asked whether Israel's attacks could lead to wider conflict, he added, "Israel... has... a right to defend herself."
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[13 Jul 2006|05:22pm]
Oh, man, I really fucking hate Israel.
30 comments|post comment

[18 Mar 2006|03:10pm]
Syria
Dec. 30 - Mar. 16, 2006

none of these images have been digitally edited in anyway, they are all original.

higher resolution coming soon... they take forever to upload here.



in other news, I've purchased the domain syriaphotoguide.com for my online travel guide to Syria, which I believe I'll have mostly completed around June. I've also started making a couple websites for hotels here in Syria in exchange for free accommodation, and to promote my site. :)

update: finished uploading gallery with higher resolution photos.
23 comments|post comment

[27 Feb 2006|01:10pm]
This has been a really crazy week and I'm not quite sure where to begin, but it deserves an update.

I guess it all started when, upon returning to Damascus last Sunday, I called up Salam, who I met at a demonstration about a month earlier. He's Palestinian, communist, and a really great guy: very open-minded, diplomatic, patient, understanding, and kind. We hung out a lot over the next couple days, talking politics and watching documentaries, often along with Nate (optimussven), who was witness to much of the craziness that went on this week.

The day before my birthday I was sitting in a cafe eating breakfast and started chatting with four tourism students, whom upon discovering it was my birthday insisted on throwing me a party a couple days later. One of them, named Media, was an incredibly cute Kurdish girl from Hassake. Later in the day when I was hanging out with Salam, I mentioned this to him, and he actually knew Media. She, too, was communist and joined him at many demonstrations.

Also that day, I went to a performance with Salam and met a friend of his named Hazem, a graduate in performing arts. Hazem and I have hung out together basically everyday since. He's Alawite, from the mountains outside of Tartus, and is also a great guy. He's become like my bestfriend in the span of 5 or 6 days, helping me find a room to rent, introducing me to countless people, and really keeping me inspired about staying in Syria and pursuing the various projects I want to work on here.

The day after my birthday, when the tourism students threw their party for me, Salam showed up and surprised Media. I had told Salam I was interested in her, and he arranged for us all to hang out the next evening. I'm generally pretty shy and reserved, but Hazem and Salam encouraged me to talk to her all night. It seems like I might have made some progress, but I've yet to find out if she's interested in me. She's really adorable; her conversational English isn't very good, but she's memorized information about dozens of historical sites throughout Syria in English for her studies (to become a tour guide). So, while she can detail the history of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus in English, it might be a little bit challenging to get to know each other. She's suggested she'd teach me Arabic, and I've offered to help her with her English, but I don't know how serious she is. But I'm hoping.

Then in the last 3 or 4 days I've been hanging out with Hazem at the high institute of fine arts, where I've met countless people who all seem to share common characteristics in that they are not Sunni Muslim Syrians (who make up about 75% of Syria's population). It seems they are all Druze, Alawite, Ismaeli, Christian, Palestinian or Kurdish. If asked where they're from, the answer is almost always someplace like Misyaf (Ismaeli), Salamiyeh (Ismaeli), Suweida (Druze), Palestine, or some obscure Christian or Alawite village in the coastal mountains. I've met a girl from Deir ez-Zor (a nearly 99% Sunni city near Iraq), but she's Syriac Christian. Quite strange, I think, but it's interesting to meet more people from these minorities, and they're generally among the more open-minded portion of Syrian society. And being art students they're also all a little crazy, it seems. They're a lot of fun to hang out with.

Apparently a couple of the girls whom Hazem and I have been hanging out with lately have been expressing interest in me, which is something new for me. Basically the entire day yesterday was spent with Hazem and Dima, the Christian girl from Deir ez-Zor. She's really confident, loud, and aggressive, perhaps typical of people from Deir ez-Zor, and I found her rather intimidating at first. But, the more time we spent together, I started to like her a great deal. She's really beautiful, with amazing black eyes and a perfect smile. Her character is really unique, I've never met anyone quite like her. She's very clever, too. Apparently she took quite a liking to me, though I think I might have ruined any chances when at the end of the night she dragged me to a nightclub (and paid the ridiculous cover charge) where I refused to dance with her (I don't dance, at all, with anyone, ever, period. And I don't drink, and I generally hate places where there is pressure to be fashionable, so nightclubs generally aren't my favorite places.).

Oh, also I found a room near Bab Sharqi, the eastern end of the old city, for 3,500 Syrian pounds (about US$65) per month. It is basically the size of a closet, but it is enough for me. I'm moving in today.

I'm not sure how I feel right now. I'm confused, mostly. This week has been exciting, fun, different. I've met so many people, I seem to have a few very cute girls expressing interest in me, and I have invitations to stay with people around basically the entire country (since few of my new friends are actually from Damascus), and I have my own place now. That all this has happened in the space of 1 week has been a bit overwhelming, considering I'd spent over 7 months in Syria (combined) and hadn't ever had such luck in meeting so many people I actually enjoy hanging out with and can relate to. I've paid for 3 months rent for this room, so I guess I'll be in Damascus for awhile. And, if things remain this interesting I'll probably stick around much longer than that.
12 comments|post comment

update... [08 Feb 2006|04:12pm]
in Beirut now, staying with Razan in Achrifieh... relationship potential seems to have reached a dead end, unfortunately... though not for any of the reasons I ever expected (nothing to do with any religious, cultural, traditional differences whatsoever)... but, we can still be close friends, I think... back to searching for my Arab princess, I guess...

watched the Danish consulate burn (and an entire office building along with it) a few days ago... was quite surprised how freely I was allowed to wander around taking pictures of soldiers and the burning building... but naturally, the Lebanese have found ways to blame Syria and Palestinians for the whole event.

visited Harari's tomb/shrine thing... 6 days until the one year anniversary, which could prove to be an interesting day. I also took a peek at the site where the bomb went off... wow, that was a fucking serious explosion.

also visited Edward Said's grave in Broumana... which to me evoked far more emotion than Harari's, really.

spent a couple weeks between Hama, Lattakia, and Aleppo... ended up becoming a tour guide to this cool Brazilian traveler I met in Damascus, and I took him to Afamea, Qala'at Marqab, Safita, Hosn Suleiman, Amrit, Qala'at Salahaddin, etc... made some Syrian friends here and there, but nothing substantial...

weather has been quite good... it has been split between rainy days and sunny days, but the temperatures in Damascus averaged around 10-15C... it was actually warm in Beirut until today. I still haven't seen any snow aside from up on the Lebanese mountain ranges... :P

still, I'm looking forward to the spring.

as far as my budget... after splurging a bit the first month of travel, I'm being more conservative and seem to be getting back into the range of $300/month. I think I'll be able to stretch my funds a full 18 months if I continue this.

my Arabic vocabulary hasn't really improved much, but I pretty much have the alphabet down and my handwriting is legible now.

I'm going to be putting together an online travel guide to Syria and Lebanon, with more details on the overlooked/obscure archaeological sites (basically everything in "Monuments of Syria" plus a few others)... though I'm saving most of the work for the spring, when it will be more pleasant (and better for photography) to travel.

that's it for now... I'll be in Beirut for a few weeks.
32 comments|post comment

[09 Jan 2006|02:49pm]
Hahahaha.

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[05 Jan 2006|11:05am]
there will be a KFC opening in Abu Romani any day now... :(
9 comments|post comment

[30 Dec 2005|11:33am]
so, coca-cola and pepsi have finally managed to launch a full scale invasion on syria... bummer.

it's a bit odd, too, since the promotion of nationalism is certainly at a height right now. syrian flags are 10 times more prominent than last time i was here. roughly every other shop and house is decorated with syrian flags. there are also a lot of political banners praising the president and calling for national unity and such. a lot of them are in french and/or english, too.

my camera is doing wonders. i love this thing. it is especially awesome in low-light situations, i've already got some stunning shots around souq hamadiyeh, which was a pain to photograph with film.

and, most importantly... i'm falling in love. i think we're perfect for each other. i'm such a lucky guy, and i'm so excited about our future together.

i love the direction our relationship is taking. we're already discussing all sorts of projects we want to work on together, mostly along the lines of a photojournalism blog collaboration. we've come up with a few concepts of articles to write together, and i'll handle the photography and she'll put together arabic translations.

she also has made some filmmaker friends in lebanon who have offered to help her make a documentary. she has a few ideas, mostly regarding syrian-lebanese relations. i think that will be a lot of fun to work on with her.

i think one of the reasons our relationship will be so amazing is that we have such similar ideas, views, goals, perspectives... and yet we came to them from a completely different set of experiences. there is so much for us to share with each other, so much we can learn from each other.

anyway, i only came online to get a phone number for someone... but i figured i'd post an update. more to come later.
7 comments|post comment

Damascus [28 Dec 2005|01:21pm]
I missed this place so, so much. It's so great being back. And I haven't even set foot in the old city yet, I've just been visiting with all my friends in Sarouja. I love these people... they're so wonderful.

I have a date with Razan tonight, we'll go to Qasr Nargus for dinner and wander around the old city together. :)

I realized I could never live in a city that gets as cold as Amsterdam does. I was only able to bare the cold for about 3 hours, then decided to go back and wait in the airport.

Beirut... I actually missed it, too. Didn't realize that until landing there, but I'm looking forward to spending more time there. Funny how well I remembered the city. Razan arranged for a friend to pick me up at the airport and take me to stay at her flat in Achrifieh (where nobody is staying at the moment), and I already knew the neighborhood...

Oh, and the mukhabarat still have an interest in me, apparently. I have to pay them another visit.

Anyway, I only signed on to e-mail my father and let him know I'm alive... I'm supposed to be avoiding these net cafes! :)
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[26 Dec 2005|09:21am]
... and i'm off to syria. :)

optimussven, i hope to see you out there this spring.
xaustraliax, you too!
juvenalian, i still haven't gotten any contact info for you (livejournal hasn't been sending me comment e-mails lately, which may be the problem), but i do want to meet up with you in beirut at some point! e-mail me.
arabianrose, perhaps i'll still be around when you take your next trip to aleppo. :)
candypanties, we most definitely will hang out again... we should take some road trips around lebanon!
montreality, hopefully we'll have a chance to meet up in lebanon. :)
sultansfavorite, let me know if you start making any plans to visit syria again in the next year!

masalami!
10 comments|post comment

[19 Dec 2005|10:58pm]
less than one week to go... :)

i'm excited. flying to beirut after a stopover to wander around amsterdam, and then heading straight to damascus... going to stay in damascus through new years, then probably go back to beirut to stay with razan... and see if i can have a successful relationship with a syrian girl. ;)

then i'll probably go back to syria in the beginning of march for a couple of months to travel around, visit all the sites, take lots of photos, etc... and back and forth between syria and lebanon as long as i can pull it off! maybe egypt next winter. maybe jordan and palestine the following spring. depends on how good i am with my money. *shrug*

after a rather shitty november, the last couple of weeks have been quite pleasant, my plans have been coming together nicely... i'm happy. the future is looking good.
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