Nine more hours to go. ...Ugh! It may as well have been nine more days as far as my comfort level was concerned. I was on my way home from a three week trip to Syria and the flight back seemed like it was lasting forever. Stuck between my burly friend and a hairy, middle-aged man who had yet to learn about the wonders of deodorant, my options to kill time were severely limited. Both had figured out a way to sleep vertically leaving my attempts at conversation at a standstill. I wish I could’ve joined them but in all my years traveling, I’ve never managed to contort myself to the proper angle in a plane seat to maintain comfortable sleep. The only way I’ve ever guessed it was possible was to lean on the shoulder of a flight mate. I wasn’t too keen on having the right side of my face smell like boiled onions by choosing the sweaty man’s shoulder, nor was I willing to risk getting punched in the face for snuggling my impulsively violent sound-asleep friend. Sleeping was out.
I tried listening to the radio stations available through Egypt Air’s in-flight entertainment, but those options were also lacking. Most of the stations were Arabic. Everything sounded like hour long whines set to rapid synthesizer tracks (other than Herbie Hancock or a dog barking Jingle Bells at me, I’ve never been a big fan of the synthesizer). I spent ten minutes browsing the stations with no luck before moving on to Euro Mix. I had to stop myself after a few minutes of that before a strong desire for black lights and glow sticks began taking over. Radio was out as well. I was bored, tired and restless so I did the only thing I had left… I thought.
I thought about my trip and what I had experienced over the course of the past three weeks. I thought about the wedding I had come to attend. The ceremony took place at the Old Saint George Monastery. A church with a rich history built in the 5th century, which was home to ancient religious manuscripts, crosses, carvings and tools.
I thought about the many relatives I was fortunate to stay with in the village of Mishtayeh, Syria. I thought about the exhilarating views from each of their homes. The village was set on a mountain that gave every resident of the town miles of beauty to set their eyes upon at any moment of the day. With one glimpse, the famous Krak des Chevaliers castle, Saint George Monastery and rows upon rows of olive trees came into view.
I thought about the taxi ride in Damascus that took me past the seven ancient doors that surround the city on my way to the Souk Medhat Pasha Market. The sights, smells and tastes of that market I’ll never forget, but no matter where my thoughts wandered, they kept returning to the events of one specific day.
I had come to the country with a slew of American and Australian-born Syrians, all excited to celebrate our cousin’s upcoming nuptials. In the days prior to the wedding we passed the time by attending Hafli's (typical Arab parties that offer food and are hosted by a singer), eating Shawarma (a sandwich wrap with vegetables and shaved, roasted lamb meat), haggling with market vendors and enjoying big family dinners. A great time was being had by all.