Greetings from Damascus! For those of you who are geographically-challenged (like my Grammy who said west was always a left turn), that is in Syria, which is in the middle east. It borders Turkey to the north, Iraq to the East, Lebanon and Israel to the West and Jordan to the South. I’m here for work, so the subjects on which I can blog at the moment are limited, but I’ll do my best! I’m staying in a beautiful old Damascene mansion house in the Old City. With just 20 rooms in the hotel, my delegation and I are getting quite a bit of attention to say the least. The overwhelming (almost crushing) sense of hospitality is unlike any other country I have visited in recent past. Upon arrival, I was immediately brought a glass of fresh banana juice and presented with what looked to be a cigar box. As I was preparing to light up a Syrian (I guess using the word Cubans to describe their cigars doesn’t really work for other countries, eh?), I was delighted to see that actually the box was filled with middle eastern sweets instead. Just what I needed to give me a 5am pick-me-up and get me through my jet lag! I was then led through the marble and stone courtyard and up a set of stairs to my room, which was filled with ornate woodwork on the bed and ceiling, lush tapestries hanging on the walls, and yes, more sweets. I feel as if I’ve stepped into a world where the furniture is made of pastry, the floor is lined with pistachios, and honey comes out of the bathroom taps. I was joking with my interpreter about having to go out and buy new clothes later this week and he responded quite matter-of-factly, “yes, you should expect to gain much weight.”
Here’s how things played out at my hotel earlier today:
“Would you like some rice?”
No, thank you so much, but I ate very well at breakfast.
“How about some rice. I’ve already set a table for you. It is here.”
Thank you, but no, I’m really fine.
“Just a little. On the house. Here, I will pull out a chair for you. And some juice?”
Really, I am fine. I am still enjoying the third cup of tea you brought me.
“Tea? I will bring more sugar then. Perhaps a fresh tea. And some pineapple juice. A beer?”
You are too kind, but I’m really quite fine.
“Here is your pineapple juice. And some bread and humus to go with your rice. More rice?”
You get the idea… It is actually fine that I can’t run here because of my injury because I fear I wouldn’t be able to run here anyway for many other reasons had I not been injured. The heat combined with the conservative culture would have made prancing around in the morning in my usual spandex difficult and inappropriate to say the least. So for now, I’m trying to embrace a life of food gluttony and not worry about the fact that I will be missing an entire week and a half without cardio exercise (horrors!!). Like I said, I’m trying….