Scott’s Middle East Journal, Syria ’17 trip day one
It’s Friday, and this first weekend I’ll be with Elmarie and our six team members from Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. We’ll be in the village of Yezdiah today, then Lattakia tomorrow, Homs on Sunday. On Monday, I’ll part with the group, meet up with my interpreter and driver with Middle East Council of Churches, and drive into Damascus to check out the MECC programs there, then drive back to Yezdiah for the weekend and head back to Beirut on Monday.
This whole mess started in 2011. Now it’s 2017.
It’s getting harder. People are worn.
A major suicide bombing in Homs five days after I was there.
More checkpoints being set up in the “safe” places.
Much of the day can go by with no electricity.
Fuel is scarce, most stations you pass are empty.
Six years of getting by with less and less. Now even less.
You can even taste it in the bread.
Getting through the border crossing.
There’s an issue with my new passport, so I get held back for a couple hours while they track down my travel history. Our group goes on ahead I stay behind with my driver/interpreter/military guy.
Maybe I’d be worried three years ago, but now, I trust our guides. And the guys at the border are doing their job to keep things secure. So, I wait and sit on the curb while watching The Avengers on my Laptop.
A couple hours and everything is cool now. Tarek and I get back in the car and cross the border.
The multiple check points and armed men always sober me up—no matter how excited I am to return, no matter how many times I’ve done the drill. It’s always the same: a solid scouring of my passport, then “Welcome to Syria.”
It destroys me. Every time.
If anyone’s got reason to give this white American a hassle it’s these Syrian soldiers. And the worse I ever get is politeness.
This is my fifth time to Syria. The border is no longer foreign and daunting. The roads and hills and villages are familiar. The “Martyr” banners are too familiar.
I meet up with our US group at the Yezdiah church, which has become my “home base” when in Syria.
In the evening, a group of displaced families comes to the church to meet with us. Many share their needs and requests for help. Our team feels overwhelmed.
We hear from
-a woman whose husband was beheaded by ISIS/Da3sh
A young man and wife. He removes his prosthetic legs to show his battle scars. They were engaged when he was wounded. He begged her to leave him, but she refused. His message: “I want young people to stay in Syria and be part of our future.”
I lost track of how many times the power went out in the hotel that night. Even with a generator, electricity is a luxury. After only an hour of this I was going nuts, trying to get basic tasks done.
And this was in the village of Safita, far from the fighting. Everyone is feeling the effects of the war. Fuel, electricity, food, it all is scarce. This has been going on for over six years now. It’s taking a toll. People are worn.