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Published: February 18th 2006
The threat from the back of the bus
John shows the bus who's boss
© David Holt
Since the times spent on the bus do not really count for any particular geographic region, and the random places stopped at along the road do not warrant their own entries, they have all been combined into one, entered under Syria because this is the middle of the three countries (Turkey, Syria Lebanon) that constituted the travel portion of the semester. If this entry is too boring for you, let me know. “Pete, if you keep writing like this you should really consider an advertising contract with NoDooze®” will do. Keep in mind that these entries are just as much for me as for any readers, but if they are really trying…
Our first random stop in Turkey (about 3 hours from Istanbul) lead to a leaf fight. Remember, we had been in Egypt since August, tries and the dead foliage that goes with them were a great sight. After five minutes of running around in the forest, we arrived back at the bus tacking in all kinds of debris from the woods (really made our drivers day).
Stop two was for lunch somewhere in southern Turkey. We split up for the meal, and a large group of us
Leaf fight in the forest
At a rest stop in Turkey
ended up in a restaurant where not a soul spoke English. Half the fun right? However, instead of randomly pointing something out on the menu, I ended up in the Kitchen. When I had gone in search of a menu (more for prices than any recognition of items on it, the cook invited me to see what was available, and had a tasting spoon ready should I need help in choosing. Well, I figured I would give it a go and just order what looked good and live with the consequences. Unlike the Arab world, I didn’t get gouged and the great meal came in at an entirely reasonable price.
We crossed over the border between Turkey and Syria in the early afternoon. It was the most militarized border I have ever experienced. Sure, there are lots of borders that are far more intimidating (such as Syria-Israel), but they have the distinction of being closed. Apparently, Syria and Turkey have never resolved a dispute over a sliver of land sandwiched between the existing borders. After miles of barbed wire, guard towers and pillboxes, we arrived at the border crossing where it was necessary to change to a different bus
Primate at rest stop in Syria
This little guy really liked my arm hair
(same story in Lebanon). On the Syrian side, the process of getting our visas took an incredibly long time. Upon our arrival in Istanbul, we only to wait for around for 10 minutes to get our whole group processed. My guess for Syria was well over an hour. In the meantime, our new bus was the best of all. It had a semi-circular seating arrangement in the back, with a table in the middle. Made for good times.
Random stop three was between Aleppo and Hama. The rest stop was very ordinary, save for the two monkeys that were in a huge cage close to the filling station. They were very friendly, and had an infatuation with my arm hair (they had plucked theirs out). I felt bad for the animals, which seemed to be displaying symptoms of stress. But it was cool to have a little primate playing with my arm hair. Definitely a life first.
The most notable form of entertainment on the rides came from a random rest stop in Turkey and manifested itself in the form of plastic guns that fired small yellow BBs. They left a little welt if fired within 5ft. We
Invited into the Kitchen
This Turkisk restaurant had no English menus. Instead, one was invited to go into the kitchen to choose
amassed a total of 2 handguns and 4 submachine guns (these packed a bigger punch). Oddly enough, we used these more in the bus than at any of our destinations (though we certainly didn’t shy away from employing their use during our hotel exploits either). Targets in the front of the bus where especially appealing (Those who didn’t join us in purchasing armaments compensated by wearing extra layers). We received minor warnings about being too visible to other vehicles on the road (it could look kinda odd if you saw several adult men holding authentic looking guns and shouting at people in the bus who ducked and cringed whenever the gun was pointed at them). Needless to say, these plastic weapons formed the best (and only) form of entertainment on the trip.
Crossing into Lebanon also took a surprisingly long time (considering that amount of illicit transactions which take place with the full complacency of the Syrian government. Nobody really enjoys long bus rides, but there was no doubting that the dynamic of gun-wielding ‘terrors’ and helpless victims made the hours more interesting for all and enjoyable for some.
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