Saturday, January 20, 2007

rain rain rain ,,,

Tartous is as charming in the rain as when basking in the sun. It has been a long while in the waiting. Winter has fallen dry this year. The good earth is thirsty, the stone walls, the lonely trees, the narrow alleys, the souls of men. Then a flash of light pierced the sky and thunder shook the ground. Rain had come at last and as the downpour flooded the streets, ancient memories floated swiftly in the gullies of the mind.


I was a little kid again, unwillingly marching to school. I made it in a soaking parka and muddy rubber boots. In threesomes, we huddled close together sharing wet wooden desks. The cold classroom was meagerly illuminated by a couple of feeble light bulbs. The pompous teacher proudly walked in and ordered us boys to open our books to page seventy three. He was the master within the confines of a single book. He had been regurgitating its content ever since he was appointed for the thankless job. A bovine preaching a flock of parrots for twelve years in anticipation for one ultimate test that would either make or break their future. The bell rang and the herd released. The grubby streets became fields of dreams, the showers enhancing the joy of the experience. We played marbles in the mud while slowly eating soggy falafel sandwiches at a quarter of a Syrian pound each. The ten-minute walk home took at least an hour. We made a detour and headed to the corniche by the sea. Sneezing, coughing and wiping mucus with the back of our sleeves, we sat on the rocks and let the spray of the breaking waves cleanse our minds from the rubbish of brainwashing. The seagulls were sweeping the sky above searching for a bite to eat. The froth was murky and the surge carried logs and debris. It also brought discarded treasures from distant ships. The bigger-than-life Sea was our way out someday. Unlike our peers from the inland most of us broke free at eighteen. The implanted desire to travel, to reach the other invisible coast was overwhelming. Even among the best of parrots at school, those who scored high on the Bacalorea exam, the craving for the voyage was irresistible. We would rather cross the Atlantic then be left high and dry in Damascus or Aleppo.


As the years have gone, I remain an outsider in my own country once I cross the mountains shielding Tartous from the east. While the rain bathes my balding head, notions of a new journey seduce me, to board a ship and leave to a new shore where I am not a stranger among strangers. In the company of pipe-smoking fishermen and tattooed sailors of different tongues I can laze in a small café by a harbor in an unfamiliar city and feel right at home. I would be gazing at the chimneys of ships taking to the sea, dreaming of my Tartous and the day I shall return.

21 comments:

Omar said...

I used to sit down on the rocks surrounding the sea shore in Al Rimal (where us in-landers get to experience the sea.and fall in love with Tartous.. in my case at least).

I used to gaze at this endless sometimes grayish monster of water.. close my eyes and pretend to hear the cries and the conversations from a paralell universe that exists on some shore miles awa from where i sit.. I used to wonder who would be sitting on the rocks on that shores, wondering about my existence.. and i used to feel a rush of adrenaline pass through my system, demanding that I gather my courage to start my first voyage.. and I finally did.. and if I miss anything in Syria, it is those moment on the Tartous shores.. this awsome sea and the tender wind of a summer afternoon, the meaningless noise of beach people, and that rush to go away and see this other life on the other side.

on another note... man you have an amazing writing style... something that compares to and competes with the books I read here.. with a perfect English like this, and such a sensitivity.. you shouldn't be only blogging.. we should see the book titled: the world according to a tartousi ;)

abufares said...

Hello Omar
Ah, the magic of the sea. It stirs awe and inspiration in the mind. It nags at you with images of adventures in exotic and far away lands.
The sea puts matters in perspective. Whether calm or at the crest of its wrath, one cannot help but admire and respect its awesome power and mistery.
Even you, the inlander, were touched and motivated by its power.
If one day, I can come up with a book, I promise to use the title you've suggested: "the world according to a tartoussi".
Thank you for being by my shore.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Hi Abu Fares, it seems that your blog indeed has become a safe shore for all stranded bloggers' souls!
I quote Robert De Nero from his Blockbuster movie 'Taxi Driver' :
"They're all animals anyway. All the criminals come out at night. Whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a REAL RAIN will come and wash all this scum off the streets."
I've been waiting for this real cleansing rain for so long.
Thanks for allowing me (inlander) to post a comment, and for putting up with my rather vulgar quote!
Regards

abufares said...

Dubai Jazz my friend
There's a total absence of malice in my reference to "our peers from the inland". It was not a judgmental statement. I see "us" the inhabitants of coastal towns all over the world with something in common, that's all. While the Syrian inlanders are mostly established in business and industry, we initiated the expatriate movement simply for our love of travel. What had motivated many of us to leave home and kin was the sense of adventure rather than the pursuit of happiness.
You're always welcome to comment any way you see fit.

GraY FoX said...

damn
that was amazing
could make anyone fall in love with tartous ,even through who dont know it :P
but still, the memories of school is even more amazing and brought back ancient memories :)

Ayman said...

This post brought back some memories about rainy Tartous: The ultimate joy of wearing rain boots when I was a little kid, and the stinky smell that I had all over me after falling into a large muddy pond in That-ul-Nitaqain School in Tartous.

For those who don't know, the author of the "Damascene Blog" is actually a Tartoussi.

Abufares, I add my voice to Omar's. You have a very elegant style in writing. Thanks for a great blog.

Soraya said...

Okay i almost Sensed the smell of rain coming out of your post abu fares :)
it also rained in Damascus today 7 hrs of rain it was so refreshing and soul cleaning. as they said rain wash away my pain.

cheerz

Black Hawk said...

Dear Abu Fares,
In fact..
it is too hard...t express my feelings...it is merely unexplained mixture of happiness..pleasure..
& ecstasy..accompanied with
good and mercy from Allah t people.. lands..trees..t everything...lots i can't express with my poor English!;)

Great post..thnx!

The Syrian Brit said...

A delightful post, as usual!..
I second Omar's comments!.. but if ever you publish your book, 'The World According to Tartoussi', promise me a signed copy!.. One day it will be worth a sizeable sum!..

Ihsan said...

I love the way you use words Abu Fares, so poetic that you turn everything into a beautiful painting, the school, the streets, the rain and the sea...everything feels warm.

I'm a sea lover myself, not a pro. swimmer, but I love to be near. Whenever I went to al-Rimal, I would leave my friend to go party at night and choose to sit alone by the water, near the rocks (makssar) and enjoy 3 quality hours throughout the night. One time I fell asleep on the rocks and was woken up at 4 AM by some people who thought I was a dead corpse thrown by the sea. I love the rain. I'm a winter person. I can feel the warmth of the winter when everybody is cold. I get the same warmth from your words. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

el 7amdella I was extremely happy that it rained. we have been waiting for a long time..let's hope there is more. Right abu fares.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Dear Abu Fares Al 3zeez, I am sure that there was no malice intended :) , as a matter of fact, you are absolutely right, people of coastal cities are more intrigued to travel and explore than those who live in a land-locked area.

abufares said...

Hi You Guys

GraY FoX
Some years ago it would've been very easy to fall in love with Tartous. I have to admit that it's a little harder nowadays. As with the rest of Syria, Tartous lost its charm and character due to brainless negligence.
Memories of school are almost universal. All kids share similar emotions and character building experiences. Good or bad, they are never forgotten.

Ayman
My kids go to Zat Al-Nitaquain now. Despite all that have been said and done, Tartous was a much nicer place. I know that you are a real Tartoussi and I've had the pleasure of casually meeting you in a wedding. Unfortunately, I am a friend of your cousin Z.

Soraya
I'm glad you're back. I miss both your posts and your comments on my blog.

Black Hawk
It's always a great pleasure hearing from you.

Syrian Brit
Ah, the illusion of grandeur. If I ever get to (first) write a book (then) have it published your name will definitely be on my dedication page.

Ihsan
How can anyone not be in love with the sea is beyond me. The only real way to enjoy it, besides actually taking a sea voyage is to do what you have done. To take sometime alone and meditate on its beauty and vastness.

Anonymous
Rain is always the most welcome manifestation of nature, at least in our part of the world. Our own basic life depends on it.

Dubai Jazz
Thank you for your second visit. I appreciate your presence on my blog.

Golaniya said...

am fascinated by this self-reflexive story. You don't just use beautiful vocabs, you actually fill the gabs beautifully, the small plots, the transitions, you do not just master English, you think in English.

i liked the most the part when you said "leave to a new shore where I am not a stranger among strangers"..

i think it is unusual to see people who are homesick and feel "stranger" to the people of their country. your homesickess was the land, and your familiarity with it, yet you excluded people form that memory..did i misread your short story?

i read stories for English speaking writers, man, you're the best.

salam
Razan

abufares said...

Hello Sham (what a beautiful name to be known by)
Welcome to my blog.
You read me well for the most part. I miss the land that is no longer.

There's a special unique trait in coastal people everywhere and this is what I feel as slipping away due to the mindless urbanization our country has gone through in the last few decades. I was born and raised in a place where one side has always been open and endless. Once I'm away from this absolute truth, I feel like a stranger, especially in my own country.
I am happy you liked my writing. I hope to see you here often and again.

Karin said...

That was GREAT!! I can literally hear the raindrops, smell the damp air and see you guys sitting there, wet, sniffling and sneezing - but happy, yearning for distant places!
I can understand your notion of a new journey ... I know the feeling! It hits people who consider this planet their home ... cosmopolitans! FABULOUS!! :-)

abufares said...

Hello Karin
You're right, the urge to embark on a voyage is nagging at me. It doesn't have to be long, just a week or two perhaps, but I need to get out. This is the longest stretch of immobility I've been through in years. I haven't spread my wings since last April. The nice thing though is the anticipation. I could be called upon any time, and off I go.

Angel said...

How beautiful is the rain after all that dust and heat......I always liked the pitter-patter of rain...The sound of the drops creates a feeling of privacy that is hard to match, as if you were alone in the world.

Walking in the rain is my absolute favourite thing to do ... There is something magical about it...very theraputic...making the troubles of the day, all seem to just slip away... washing away my confusions and worries......calming my nervous heart and awakening something deep inside my soul.....

"Just singing and dancing in the rain... :)"

Thank you Abufares for the GREAT though provoking post
Angel

abufares said...

Angel
Walking in the rain... there's nothing, absolutely nothing, I enjoy more than taking a stroll in the rain. I'm forever entwined with water. The sea and the rain! I don't know what I would've done without them

Shannon said...

Sorry for my tardiness in commenting! ;)

Oh, this makes me long for childhood. Your words have a way of making images dance in my head. I've always loved the sea and the rain, but have gone quite a while without either. Perhaps it's time for a trip to the ocean?

abufares said...

Hello Shannon
Since you haven't posted in a few days I assumed you've been away. You wrote:
"Your words have a way of making images dance in my head."
What a great compliment. The best I've ever heard.
Indeed it's time for you to make that trip to the ocean. I love the desert but can only take it in short dosages.
I can't wait till you comment on my "Stuffed Grape Leaves" post.
So nice to have you again.