From the short series, “A Failed Adventure”
As I sat in the airport on Friday afternoon, I realized all of the irony surrounding my upcoming trip to Damascus, Syria. My parents had driven 4 hours to New York City from our family home in New Hampshire just to drop me at the airport, 20 minutes from my New York apartment. They had been forced to lug along our 50-pound, 6-year-old bulldog, wearing a “lamp shade” to protect her injured eye from her gnarling paws. The whole scene was a bit ridiculous. I certainly had not received the same treatment when flying to California this spring!
My father had been very nervous about my traveling to Syria. “You’ll have to call me every day,” he told me. “I’m going to be on pins and needles. My daughter is going to Syria!” I know he was concerned for my safety, and I tried to explain that Syria was incredibly safe. I bought travel books to share with him, directed him to the U.S. Embassy in Syria website, kept on top of Syrian news and such to keep him feeling as good as possible about my trip.
I, on the other hand, felt numb—or at least tried to ignore any feelings about—my trip. I focused on the superficial: buying “old lady” linen pants to keep my legs covered but cool in the Damascene heat, making sure I had note cards with important phrases like “I’m sorry” and “My Arabic is not very good,” and figuring out my international cell phone. The tiny details stressed me out—facebook is banned? (There’s a way, which I don’t know, to get around it.) My cell phone can’t receive text messages? (Miraculously, it somehow did.) How would the EgyptAir Flight attendants dress? (Turns out, they were all men.)
In the days before my trip, I started to feel nervous. I threw myself tiny going away parties to distract myself and share stories and facts about Damascus, but never got those real feelings of excitement that have usually preceeded my travels. As I sat in the airport, providing last minute phone explanations of my trip to friends and family, I realized that I in fact had no idea how I felt about it.