Hi From Aleppo

I’m back in Syria again. I write ‘again’ because this is my 4th visit. I’ve now visited Syria as many times as I’ve visited Australia, believe it or not!

Ah, Syria, the country still obsessed with the Lambada tune. When cars reverse and mobile phones ring, out comes Lambada – I like it.

East of Adana on the bus from Mersin to Antakya I saw two interesting things:
1) At a roadside stop and on two different bridges there were soldiers observing the traffic. This military presence is unusual for around Adana. I don’t recall seeing it before. I wonder if the military received a tip-off for something.

2) Six or seven Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay) trucks in random intervals passed us travelling west in the opposite lane. I (again) wonder if the trucks were coming from delivering aid to Iraq. I’ve never seen Red Cross trucks before.

In Antakya, on a previously vacant plot of land, what seemed like hundreds of utes and small trucks were parked. In between the trucks were hundreds of men and hundreds of calves (young cattle). My guess is the cattle were being bought and sold to be killed for the Sacrifice Holiday which will begin on the 20th. Funnily, I again hope to be in Syria then.

The taxi across from Antakya to Aleppo was only USD $10. This time I came with Zead. Unfortunately we could not complete the Turkish border procedures before the officials went on their 12 pm lunch break. Also at the border were several busloads of Macedonian Muslims heading to Mecca for the Hadj religious pilgrimage. The men and women looked very pale compared to the Turkish and Syrians.

Finally we exited the Turkish border. At the Syrian border, some bureaucracy and USD $30 later I recieved my Syrian visa. To obtain a Syrian visa one must change the USD into Syrian pounds. You can’t just pay with pounds, even if you already have them!

So far in Aleppo I’ve checked into the Spring Flower Hostel (where I stayed two years ago), walked right around the fort and drunk a fresh fruit juice cocktail at the juice shop where I first met Bangali and Celine more than 1 year ago. Unfortunately, Bangali, Celine and Yuko are not in Aleppo but I hope to see them in a few weeks. I will, however, see Alicia, who should be arriving from Tartus later tonight.

I’ve had enough pan pipe music in the Internet cafe, so I’m leaving…