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5/02/2011 (julian solo) – Mneen to Deir Mar Musa monastery – Mist everywhere

March 6, 2011
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Porridge is back on the menu thanks to a special delivery from my parents, Scottish oats never tasted so good.  A thick fog envelopes everything and it’s not possible to see the end of the field so I put my bike lights on.  Speedo decides it’s going to pack up after working for 10seconds, seeing your speed and distance has become normal, looking down to the handlebars left me with a slightly unsettled feeling, but perhaps it’s not that bad to not know and kind of liberating.

The fog means I can’t see much more than 20metres in front of me, it’s quite fun riding into the abyss I sing the lines I remember from Bob Dylan’s …. At the top of my voice.  Sometimes is annoying and a bit scary, especially when you can’t see the edge of the road.

I pass through a few small muddy villages and people look in surprise mostly due to the fact I’m wearing shorts despite it being pretty cold.  I decide to go via Malula, a slight detour but it’s one of the few (if not only) place where they still speak Aramaic (Language of Jesus) and there are some ancient monasteries, so worth it.  When I arrive the fogs even thicker here and you can’t see anything, shame.

Fog starts to clear as I come into Yabrood, where I pick up a falafel wrap, first in a long time, it’s ok nothing to write home about and see these giant urns they have dotted throughout the town.

In Nabk I’m looking for signs to the monastery I’m heading to and given good directions by a local English speaking sculptor – “Past the funny roof then turn right.”  They’re bang on the money and I find the sign to Deir Mar Musa (A monastery in the mountains which allows and encourages people to join them for as long as you like, you stay for free but in return they ask for you to get involved in tasks to help with the running).  It says the monastery is 17km or is that 1.7km I can’t work out if it’s a dot or a well aimed gun shot….

Soldier on through the fog which is still preventing me from being able to see much.  As I follow the road I begin descending and I’m slightly concerned that this is the wrong way because the monastery is in the hills.  Luckily I see an Asian tourist replete with backpack zoom past in a taxi so I know I’m going the right way.

I pull up to the base of the monastery is nestled at the top of a small cliff with a pathway running down to where I am.  It’s stairs all the way up to it, bollocks.  Luckily there’s a gift shop and the guy gives me a key to the storage area where I can keep my bike.  I grab a few essentials – sleeping bag, diary, head torch and then begin the climb with two French girls that arrived at the same time.

After a bit of a climb come out at the stone monastery, it’s difficult to make out the details because it’s dark but all the doors are very low – they’re called humility doors.  I’m assigned a sleeping area in the boy’s dorms which happens to be a small cave with 4 mattresses on the floor.  Wandering around in my cycling shorts a tall Norwegian called Axle offers me some linen trousers as he points to a sign with a cross next to a cartoon wearing shorts and t-shirt.

Wearing my shiny and modest trousers we enter the monastery at 7 for an hour of meditation, the space is small but has a high ceiling with four columns and the walls are covered in religious paintings some right to the roof.  The floors are covered in carpets and people are sitting around, mostly young Europeans, some with bibles open.  At 7 the candles are lit and the main lights turned out.  The air is completely silent but not awkward, it’s very soothing, the glow of the candles just enough to illuminate some things but allowing for a reflective atmosphere.  I’ve never sat in silence for an hour with other people before so it’s quite strange, I try to think about God and wonder what other people are thinking about but my mind wanders and so does my stomach after the falafel sandwich at lunch, creating some quite embarrassing noises.

Prayers come at 8 and I try to follow in the Bible but get lost and just flick through reading random stuff.  Dinner is at 9 upstairs in a large wooden shack.  I meet Fabianna, an Italian architect who has decided to stay in the monastery for a year and is four months in.  Bed is at 10.00 which suits me; it’s well past normal bed time!

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