Friday, July 10, 2009

Portrait #89: Two is better than one

Yesterday I was reminded of one of the most fundamental values of many Syrian girls: two is better than one. In fact, anything is better than one.

I was walking on the side of a highway that connected the President's Bridge, a major intersection connecting the different central parts of Damascus, with the neighbourhood where the University is located. With cars whizzing past, I was wandering up along the site of the old Fairgrounds, which is now an abandoned lot. The sidewalk was brick-tiled and smooth and wide. But it was also rather isolated.

A girl a few metres in front of me glanced back and stopped, with her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun as she peered back at me. Was she looking at someone behind me, or did she think she recognised me? Did she recognise me? I was afraid I didn't know her.

I kept walking and as I came near to me, she turned and started walking alongside me. "Are you going to the Administration Building as well?" she asked.

"No," I replied. "I'm headed to the Higher Institute for Arts at the University."

"Oh, do you study there?"

"No, my friend works there. I'm going to visit her."

We got to chatting, and I learned that she is from Mezze, the neighbhourhood beyond the university, that she studies Agricultural Engineering, teaches high school level science, and is 25 years old. She learned that I'm not Syrian (I was excited that I had to inform her of this fact!) and have been in Syria since about 8 years ago.

When we arrived at the gate I was to entered, I bode her farewell, we agreed it was good to meet, and we exchanged names.

A bit later, when I passed the Administration Building, I saw her walking out in the company of another young woman. I presumed that this was a new acquaintaince of hers as well.

How clever, I thought, to befriend a strange woman. On an isolated wide sidewalk like that, even if it was noontime, men might think anything of this girl walking along. Walking with someone else would trick them: now she's a respectable girl. And why would anyone want to walk by herself in the first place?

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