It is a good feeling to have left. I feel relieved, even the nights before going to the airpot I was still nervous about potential stresses that I may encounter leaving and had been having bad dreams about being strip searched, wholey unpleasant. I guess this was my unconscious playing out much of the paranoia that comes when you live in a state, on security lock down.
Damascus, especially downtown where we lived, remained largely 'free' from the "anti". Pro-Assad moving demos littered Damascus over many evenings at the start of the 'reported disturbances' and more recently began again with renewed gusto. None of these manifestations seemed threataning nor the security response, but the reported crowd control tactics of the goverment forces made me not want to be anywhere near any large gathering.
My paranoia is, I think, easy to understand. The internet was messed around with, was up and down like pants in a swimming pool changing room. Sites like twitter, facebook and youtube seemed to be the most effected. This combined with travel advice that we shouldn't leave the city, as it wasn't safe, and the (self-imposed) Friday afternoon curfew meant freedom of movement was curtailed. We saw the army and plain clothes mahrabat, or others preparing for their Friday trips out, all excitied like school boys on a school trip, banging their maces / battons into their, sometimes gloved, hands.
We didn't know any locals well enough to expect much opinion other than an expression of reverence for Bashar alAssad. There were a handful of people who understood that I was no threat, and shared something alternative to this. Anyway, in this context where there was a lack of reliable information, I was uncertain of trusting western media as they weren't in the country, or the state's offering, this meant clouds of uncertainty hung. The cumulative effect was fogging and suffocating. I didn't know nuffink. I couldn't go nowhere, outside downtown Damas. We woz a bit trapped. But it was a nice trap, I liked Syrian people, the warm weather, playing rugby, starting to learn arabic, the cost of food and living (rent aside) was cheap.
Back in blighty now, doing the family tour. More on Syria, my TEFLer existential crisis, and the UK soon. I am a slightly unwell, straight, thirty-something man in Sussex, not a gay girl in Damascus.