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7/02/2011 (julian solo)– Deir Mar Musa to Dayr Atiyah

March 6, 2011
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Final goodbyes after prayers and then breakfast, I have a prayer said for me and feel religiously endowed for the next section of my journey.  Climbing down the steps I notice some red panniers nearing, unmistakably Sasha’s garb.  We chat about our experiences so far and I hand him the monastery baton.

The road to An Nabk is clear and sunny and its good to be back on the road after a great experience at the monastery.  The weather takes a turn for the worse when I enter the city and finding a money exchange and somewhere to buy a new battery for my bicycle computer proves difficult, luckily an English speaking Syrian guides me in the right direction and all I head out of the city with the rain growing in intensity.

At the edge of the city a huge white curtain awaits me the rain picks up pace and the weather becomes thoroughly shite.  I cannot see further than 30metres and the prospect of even finding a decent camping spot let alone a dry one are low.  Completely soaked I stop off at  a petrol station to put on full waterproofs and assess what to do.  I’m invited in for tea and join a group of guys sitting around a heater on which is put my gloves.  One is burning something in a glass and in this small petrol station with one way glass my mind starts to wander as to whether these people are taking drugs or not.  Theyre eyes appear quite wide but I can’t be sure, I watch them burn the green substance in a glass but then add water, are they going to inhale it, what the hell is it?  They spot im interested and say ‘Mate’ and show me a packet of the tea- drink from Argentina.  I oblige, its very good.

I make my way back out into the ever worsening fog and rain, I decide that I’m going to use my Arabic for “can I put my tent here for one night?” in the next town and see what comes of it.  I arrived drenched and pick up some veg.  I decide to eat a bit of late lunch under an awning and then return to the shop to ask if they have a WC.  An young buying bread tells me in perfect English to come with him next door.

I use his toilet, hearing his perfect English I ask him how he learnt.  Rami goes to the university up the road, the café I’m in belongs to him and he offers me a tea.  I explain my situation and ask if he knows somewhere near I can put my tent.  He tells me to dry off relax and drink some tea, sounds good to me.

So we chat about his café, his course in computer engineering and Syria.  He’s very chilled and has a good attitude to life, he likes to ensure everyone is having a good time and is partly the reason he opened the café, in which has done all the low-fi interior design.  The place has a real charm to it with copied cds on display for sale, cardboard on the walls embellished by his father’s painted portraits and peoples drawings all over the wall upstairs.

He goes on to explain another reason he opened the café – He met a girl through facebook with whom he subsequently fell in love with, for about 2 years they chatted online and developed a strong bond.  She lives in Poland and being Palestinian getting a visa was very hard, he was rejected a number of times, the Polish immigration convinced he would stay there.  So inroder to convince them he was going to return to Syria he set up the café so he had a commitment to return to and also to say to the Polish that he was coming to their country to pick up supplies and then return.  So he got to go and see her for the first time and had an amazing time.  He’s now going on holiday with her this summer, when she comes to Syria.

So I chill out in the café all evening, we eat and drink with his friends whio all go to the university down the road and speak perfect English.  I get some Arabic lessons and improve my numbers and general niceties and some less than niceties.  Rami even goes out and buys some beers, I try to pay but every time I’m refused.  Originally Rami was going to head to Damascus and I was to sleep on his friends floor but it falls through and he decides to stay and we talk for the rest of the evening.  I go to sleep upstairs amazed at how the day has unfolded and thinking about where I could be cold and soaking nearby.

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