You know you've been in Syria too long if...

We leave Syria tomorrow. As we attempt to cope with the idea of returning to the land of emissions controls and awkward public transportation systems (America), my husband and I came up with a short list of “You Know You’ve Been in Syria Too Long If…”

You know you’ve been in Syria too long if…

…you plan the events of your day around when you will take a shower or do the dishes in order to heat up the hot water in time.
…you know what a VCD is, and you use them as a main source of entertainment.
…you’ve lost the motivation to read, even in English.
…you know just when to speak Arabic like a person from Shagur.
…you’ll never be satisfied with Jamba Juice again – it’s all about Damascus juice shops!
…you have become an expert at entering or exiting a service while it is still in motion.
…before you came, you were not a fan of the Bush administration, and now you are even less so; or, before you came, you were in favor of the Bush administration, and now are even more so.
…you can predict the exact moment in a conversation when the phrase “We love the American people, but we hate the American government” will come up.
…you know that those guys in suits standing along the side of the roads in Malki are packing heat. Bonus points if you’ve actually seen the gun underneath their suit coat (also bonus points if you have ever spotted a guard hidden in the foliage near the approach to the Presidential Palace).
…you get excited when an American movie debuts at the Cham within 3 months of its US release date.
…you a) feel bad for not being married to your girl/boyfriend, b) want to find someone to get married to, or c) feel bad for not having children and find yourself wanting to.
…during the summer, you subconsciously scowl when you see a gas-guzzling Suburban on the streets of Damascus bearing a Saudi license plate.
…you’ve come to appreciate the beauty of those rolling fields in the countryside dotted with black plastic bags.
…(on long distance buses): don’t mess with the assistant driver. Enough said.
…you expect things not to turn out as planned.
…you no longer flinch at the sound of loud explosions.
…you curse yourself for trying to get public transportation on a Thursday or a Saturday night.
…you’ve accepted that quality bookshops are a thing of the past.
…you’ve learned to drive while successfully seeing past various dashboard and windshield obstructions such as large, fake bunches of grapes or full-size hanging stuffed animals.
…you wave on a decrepit-looking taxi in hopes that one with a less sunken-in back seat will come by.
…you find yourself getting the same total amount of sleep, but in shifts from 2am-8am and then 3pm-5pm.
…you don’t go to bed until the neighbors do.
…you purchase fruit from a horse-drawn cart.
…you get really excited when your dial-up connection actually achieves a 50.6 Kbps speed.
…you don’t really notice that there are men around you holding hands or interlocking arms.
…you’re a man and you know the feeling of being kissed on the cheek by an Arab with a 5-o’clock shadow and scratched by the beard stubble (my husband finally understands what it’s like!).
…the names Nancy, Ruby, Haifa, and Elissa have taken on new meaning for you.
…you’ve learned not to call policemen “ustaaz.”
…you find yourself watching BBC for entertainment, or, if you are a man, Oprah/Buffy/Angel.
…you can singlehandedly work out everyone’s change on a service before handing it over to the driver.
…you find yourself hoarding small change.
…when haggling at the market, you find yourself arguing over 5 lira.
…you no longer notice the hoarse shouts of the sundry salesmen who hawk their wares outside your apartment. Bonus is if you actually understand what they’re saying.
…you have finally learned how to sleep through the pre-dawn call to prayer (we’re still working on that one).

And finally, you know you’ve been in Syria too long if you’ve become a nicer person (the friendliness of the population having rubbed off on you).

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