Syrians Friendly to American Travelers
“Can you tell us why we love everybody but nobody loves us?” -an anonymous Syrian man
I learned early on from travel that I should line up all of my preconceived notions about places, put them upon a chopping block, and give them a good wack from the great axe of personal experience. I have found it great fun to travel to places that I have been taught to believe that I know something about just to find out that I know nothing. I have also found myself becoming more drawn to the places that my home culture warns me about, as I know that there stands a very good possibility that I will be surprised at how differently these places are from how they are perceived.
I am in Syria now, and, thus far, Syrians have the tendency of being some of the friendliest people that I have ever met.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Aleppo, Syria- April 14, 2009
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Journalism serves to reinforce the status quo of its target audience, governments want power, and NGO’s want money. It is my impression that these three media outlets cannot be trusted as guides to how places and people around the world really are. They all make their life blood off of scrounging up extreme exceptions and publishing them as the rule. All three media outlets often flourish by using the practice of omission and show an off handed segment of an issue as if it were the whole story.
I am in Syria. I am in a country that the former president of my homeland labeled apocalyptic as being a part of the “Axis of Evil.” I am in a land whose very name the media and politicians of the Western world delight in running through the muck. Yet when I walk through the streets here I am only met by smiles and the warm gestures of hospitality. When I tell people that I am from America they become excited and offer me a place to sit down and talk. They tell me that George Bush was very bad, but they show no animosity towards me.
Syria is cool.
Men in Syria photographing me as I photograph them
Syria and the Middle East is projected as a scary, unfriendly place by the country that I was born in. My mother is worried about me, my friends tell me not to say that I am from the USA, and the media never ceases to show this region as being fully unstable. But after crossing the border into Syria I have found that this is one of the most hospitable, welcoming, and well ordered places that I have ever stepped foot in. I have not had a single person yet scrunch up their nose when I tell them that I am from the USA, rather they smile big and ask me questions about my country. The people here seem to be just as interested in my as I am in them.
I walk down the streets of Aleppo greeting every one I meet. If I see someone staring at me, I look at them and say “salaam,” and they usually respond in kind with a huge smile, a handshake, and sometimes a glass of tea.
Kids in a park in Aleppo
“Welcome to Syria!” the shopkeepers, shoeshine men, and military convoy drivers yell to me as I walk down the street.
I was sitting in a park with Chaya yesterday when a group of kids walked up to us and began talking. I could not figure out what they were saying. A Syrian man who was walking by stopped and told me that the kids wanted to know where I was from. I told him that I was from the USA.
The man smiled big, “Oh! you are an Obama!”
He then proceeded to tell the group of kids that Chaya and I were “Obamas.”
The kids laughed at this and then ran away. Chaya and I laughed a little about our new nationality designation.
The group of playing kids soon returned. “Where are you from?” they hesitantly asked again to practice their English.
I told them again that we were Americans, and they all laughed and ran away.
Aleppo Syria park kids playing with the English language
But a minute later they were back.
“What is . . . . your . . .name?” a bold boy asked.
I answered, and the troupe ran away again laughing. It became evident that they were being fed English language questions to ask us from their mothers who were sitting together in a circle in a nearby field. Asking the foreigners questions had become a great Saturday afternoon game.
Each time they returned, the group of kids grew exponentially. Soon, there were more than a dozen little kids running all over the park mining English words out of any adult they could find. Chaya and I became the center of a great new game.
The kids returned a half dozen more times: “Do you like Syria?” “Do you like Aleppo” “Do you like football” “What city are you from?” and finally my favorite, “I am I love you.”
“I am I love you, too,” was the only response that I could muster.
Soon a plate of food and two glasses of tea were sent over to us from the picnic that the kids previously had eaten with their families. Chaya and I ate the food gratefully and drank the tea. I have no idea what it was that I ate, but it was bright orange and had little round pieces of rice or pasta or something in it. It tasted good.
So far, in Aleppo, Syria has been real enjoyable. I go out in the streets and I meet people. This is what traveling is all about.
Syrians Friendly to American Travelers