Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bosra, Syria

Getting out of Damascus was a little bit difficult. Fortunately, I was going the same way as the airport so getting directions was easy. Unfortunately, I was going the same direction as the airport so I was on a busy road. Once I passed the airport, things quieted down. They got so quiet that I even pulled into olive orchard to take a dirt nap. I had been tired for a couple hours and looking for grass, but there wasn't any. Finally, I just gave up and took what I could find.

After my nap, I had two guys stop to chat with me. The first one spoke Spanish and invited me back for a meal. The second guy only spoke French and Arabic. He gave up on me quickly, but I suspect it was the same type of offer. A couple hours down the road, I stopped at this bright orange market, smartly named the Orange Market, to grab a bite to eat. It made me feel silly for passing on the free meal earlier.

The Orange Market was different that most markets in Syria. It had a wider selection, was bigger, and things were laid out better. I didn't understand the difference until I started talking to the owners. They were three brothers who had been running T-mobile stores in the US for about a decade. The difference was a more American style of setting up a store. One brother had overstayed his visa by eight years. He walked away from his entire American life because he wanted to be able to see his family again and it was almost impossible for them to get visas to come to the USA. I can't imagine having to walk away from my life like that. It was really interesting to hear him talk about the differences and similarities in our countries.

Air Force jet hiders

The most exciting thing that I saw on the ride was a (hidden?) air base. Well, it wasn't terribly well hidden if I could see it from the road. However, the planes were all under grass covered cement structures. The one jet that I saw take off looked like it came out from an underground runway, but I think it might have just been an illusion of the landscape. The sentry booths discouraged me from climbing over to take a second look. Also in this area, I saw four attack choppers flying around. I saw them a bunch of times so I am guessing they were doing military exercises. Against my better judgment after my experience in Lebanon, I decided to take another picture of a foreign government's military position. I finished my ride getting nervous any time the military personnel carriers went by.

Roman ruins outside the theater.

When I arrived at Bosra, it was 5:15pm and the theater closed at 6pm. On my way in, a tout wanted to harass me about staying at his place. I politely told him I was in a hurry and would talk to him later. He just wasn't listening though. He started yelling excuse me, please come here, wait a minute, etc, while I biked to the ancient theater. He followed me inside where, after begging my way in because they were about to close, he got the ticket guy to ask me about staying the night. I finally lost my patience and curtly told him to bugger off because the theater was about to close and I didn't want to lose time talking to him. If anything, I'd talk to him on my way out.

Testing the acoustic center of the theater.

Part of the theater renovated for castle use.

Back stage entrances

The Bosra Theater is an ancient Roman theater. Most of the Roman theaters were built into a hills. This was free standing and, after the decline of the Roman Empire, reinforced to be defended. It was basically turned into a castle which is why it probably has lasted so long. The sun was setting when I arrived and the theater was pretty quiet. It was great to take sit in the ancient seats and imagine an ancient Cirque du Soleil being performed.

At 15,000 capacity, this holds 5,000 more people that my beloved Red Rocks.

Video tour of Bosra Theater.

Playing soccer among the Roman ruins.

After a quiet hour at the theater, it was time to find a place to stay. The tout from before must have known I was irritated and would do my best to stay anywhere except his place because he was no where to be seen. Beside the theater, I saw a few kids playing soccer among on and among the stone of the ancient ruins. It was probably the best impromptu soccer field I have ever seen. When I finally found a place to sleep, they gave their rate in Euros which is never a good sign. However, it was nice to treat myself. They had a great pool and a balcony overlooking the theater, but even this fancy hotel did not have a dedicated night worker. They just had a day worker sleep on the couch in the lobby to be woken up if anyone needed anything, which I did at 5am when I checked out.

Cham Palace pool and the Bosra theater.

The human memory amazes me. While we tend to forget things in general, it seems we do a better job of forgetting the bad stuff. Is this how resilience is built, not through the courage to get up again, but through simply forgetting how bad something was the first time was? I once heard a woman say her forgetfulness about the pain of her first childbirth was the only reason she had a second kid. Anyway, this is my long way of saying I forgot the bad of almost T-boning a motorcycle on this leg of the trip. I had found a great rhythm and was cruising down the quiet highway when a motorcycle came out from a side road on the right. Instead of stopping anywhere before the road (I doubt there was actually a stop sign), he decided to stop half way on the road and just have people go around him.

I didn't have time to go around him at my speed. I slammed on the breaks, fishtailed behind him, and stopped about 3 inches shy of falling into a 3 foot deep ditch. I was not happy. I knew it was an accident, so I didn't go with my original hostile reaction. I just kept breathing and looked at the ground until I mellowed out. The guy scrambled to find his best English to say excuse me and check on me before heading off. I was glad I didn't go with my gut instinct to go off on him. He wasn't like the guy in the car who just drove away.

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