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A man who lost his family

June 16, 2010

Our ride from Mar Musa to the motorway:

Max, Raj and I hitch-hiked down from Lattakia to Crak de Chevaliers then onwards to Maluula, Mar Musa and finally Damascus.  I’m mid-deciding whether or not to continue on my own.  There will be some parts of my journey that I won’t be able to do any other way (expensive taxis aren’t an option) and there’s also my wanting to see if I can put myself in the hands of others and escape being felt up.  I wish I wasn’t so dubious about that.

I’m also mid-deciding whether to continue or to begin my slow journey home.  If I continue I will see Jordan, Israel and maybe Egypt.  I have made links with a group in Jerusalem where I could work for two weeks and be given a place to stay in return.  I’ve begun researching boats from Haifa or Port Said to Cyprus.  So far no joy – unless I stand at either port and try to hitch a ride on a freight ship – terrifying prospect.  But I don’t want to fly.  Which will seem silly to most, or maybe just bloody-minded and oh-so-worthy.  I can’t explain it because flights home from a long journey, once every five or so years, are the sorts of flights that I think are worth the carbon, but it still feels uncomfortable, a betrayal somehow of the stories it will take to bring me to Israel.  Weird that it might be as simple as preferring to go overland.

Hitch-hiking is pretty carbon neutral, it’s a lift-share over a long distance.  In this journey alone I must have taken over 70 lifts and never been taken advantage of – it’s a way of saying that I live in a good world and it’s a way of creating the space for this world to be good.  In Syria it’s a bit of an anomaly (‘come with us, those foreigners are crazy?’).  Here is a story of a man who gave us a lift from Mar Musa to the highway.

He stopped and we jumped into the back of his pick-up truck. He drove very slowly which was great because if you’re in the back of an open backed truck and they drive too fast you get battered by the baking wind.  He stopped at a curve in the road and started to show photos on his phone to Raj and explain something.  Raj translated: this was the point where his son had driven a car, with his two daughters in it, over the bend.  It had tumbled over and everyone had died,  He made this drive every day to remember his children and try to make sense of their deaths.

He asked us to come into the front with him and when we did we smelt Arak (the aniseed flavoured local spirit) on his breath and in the air.  He was really drunk which explained how slow he’d been driving.  He played a song by a Syrian pop star and explained to Raj that he had paid 200,000 Syrian pounds for this pop star to sing this song in memory of his children.  He drove us far up the motorway towards Damascus before pulling us over and saying goodbye.

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