between the lands

Jessica and Andrew’s travel journal

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Ma-ah salama—Leaving the Arab world2

Posted by Andrew in MOROCCO, TUNISIA, SYRIA, LEBANON (September 15, 2007 at 1:44 pm)

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We’ll be writing more about Turkey soon—it’s a huge country, and in 3 weeks we only saw a few small bits of it. (we are in Greece now) You’ve probably heard the debate about whether turkey should be part of Europe (the EU at least) or is it really a part of Asia, or the Middle East. For my cent and a half, I’ll just say that once we crossed the Syrian border and left the south of Turkey behind, it was clear that something had changed, starting with the language.
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The people were speaking Turkish, leaving the 20 or so Arabic phrases we had picked up virtually useless, and suddenly, we had left the Arab world after 5 months of immersion.

Fortunately, our last stop was one of the best. In Haleb (Aleppo to the non-Syrian), we were guests of Jamal, our favorite couchsurfing host so far (no offense to many other great hosts—you guys rocked as well). Jamal’s family treated us like we were relatives, and his mom cooked us some really great food.
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We hung out with Jamal, his best friend Jamal, 20070812269 a 2 jamalls in grass.jpg

…and their gang of friends, and we got to have lots of good discussions about life, politics and everything in between.CIMG4384 shoe shine jamal.jpgCIMG7806 2 jamals at home.jpgCIMG7684 da haleb gang over cityscape.jpgCIMG7736 3 js and mosque.jpg

JESSICA SEZ: We also went to Aleppo’s new (and maybe Syria’s first?) waterpark. Unfortunately, we don’t have a picture, but they had a waterslide that was totally new to both of us. It shot you down a long enclosed tube, then dropped you into a giant open-top funnel, where you went round and round and then finally dropped out the bottom into a pool. Just like being flushed down a toilet!
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ANDREW RETURNZ: Like Damascus, Aleppo is also a very old city with lots of history, and a huge covered market.(they say 30 kilometers worth of shops)

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I’m defintely sad to be leaving the arab word, and missing many things about the culture already. To try and give yall a little taste, click here to watch a video I put together with some clips from various countries we’ve visited since March —it includes a carpet auction in Tunisia, a 1-day-old baby goat in the Moroccan Saraha, election day on the streets of Beiruit, and several views of the Mediterranean. (some of the clips were ones I wanted to post when we were in Tunisia but had no real internet access.)

If you sat through that video and are wondering about the call to prayer and why it wasn’t included, we just have to much video and Im skeptical that many people are willing to watch even the 7 minute long movie above. Coming soon is a short video “The Call”. any day now, I promise.
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Looking forward, we have sketched out the next (and last) leg of our trip—and we only have about 6 weeks to go. Rome is on the horizon and the Balkans await!!
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Hangin with the Hez…1

Posted by Andrew in LEBANON (August 20, 2007 at 4:49 pm)

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When I was growing up, the word Beirut basically meant violence and war. I didn’t even know where it was, but that’s the impression I had from somewhere. Its those kind of places (you have some impression that you don’t know where it comes from) which are some of the best to go to, so you can find out the real deal.
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Well the war thing was pretty much true. The scars of war are all over Lebanon. The civil war in the 1980s and now the war last year with Israel.
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We were staying with my friend Jackson (a great journalist-click here for his blog) and his so-hospitable roommates Arbi and Daniel.
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JESSICA SEZ: Daniel wrote the teensy weensy Arabic script on this chopstick, and Arbi has introduced capoeira to Beirut
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ANDREW RETURNZ:We were up in the mix of a mass of cool people, doing their best to keep Beiruits proud party tradition alive. Thats right, its also the party capital of the middle east. Our first night there, we were having too much fun at a house party to go to the club where BOY GEORGE was Dj’ing. Yes it would have been a great story to tell, but we’ve had to make hard choices all throughout this trip.
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Unsurprisingly, politics are everywhere in Lebanon. We asked a lot of questions, and learned a lot, but left still very confused as to whats really happening there.
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To boot we were there on election day so people were out in the streets and driv?ng through town promot?ng their particular favorite.
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There are so many factions and sub factions of Sunnis, Shia, Christians, Armenians, and others playing political games and making alliances with each other that I might defer to another friend and colleague Simba, who on my last night remarked that ‘its all politricks’, and the issues that matter to real people are never addressed by any of them. That’s the view I always had back home, but I was hoping it had a little more meaning over here. Maybe, maybe not….
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And of course, Hezbollah was on the scene.
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For those who don’t know, they are a legal political party with elected members in the Lebanese government. They have a great deal of support from the people. They’ve got a huge camp set up in downtown Beirut, as a sit-in to protest the current government. And they have a gift shop next to the roman ruins at Baalbek in Northern Lebanon.
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I spoke to a few members and got their take on things. In a tiny nutshell—they dont like the Zionist agenda, and they think the US supports it. Ask me for more details in person.
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Almost forgot, aside from all the politics, Lebanon ?s a beautiful country.
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Roman Ruins, beaches, mountains. We would have liked to have spent a lot longer exploring. (and cook?ng at Jacksons house–weve really m?ssed being able to cook our own food)
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Were behind again on the pics. We spent an awesome few days in Northern Syria, and are now in Southern Turkey. Its feelin more European every day…

And back on the profess?onal tip, you can click here to check out a story I just wrote for the St Petersburg Times about Burning Man, and how the fest?val this year is stepp?ng up its environmental consciousness.
? really w?sh I was going to be there, but, again…sacr?fices must be made.
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