Look – I’m doing my duty! I could be editing my resume (which does need doing), or memorizing a dialog for class tomorrow, or even doing one of my many personal projects, but no. I shall sit here and add a few more kilobytes to the already mind-blowing amount of data on the internet.
Yesterday was basically awesome. No class is great, but a day-trip to the capital is even better. With a free dinner to finish it off. I took way too many pictures and shall post some of them … eventually. The tour included not only some of the main, famous sites, but also others that were less-frequented, but still important to the history and current politics of the region.
One of the first few stops was a point just off a commercial road, at one of the dividing walls that has been a bit of an issue in the last few years. This particular portion had been erected because snipers on a roof just across the valley – about ten minutes’ walk away – had been fond of targeting civilian cars on the road. Hence the wall, to protect the cars from bullets. Just two or three years ago, we could not have stood there – we would have been caught in the middle of crossfire. It really brought home the reality of the conflict, as well as the complexities of the issues. The tour guide phrased it well: “Imagine two people pushing each other back and forth. It becomes much harder, and takes much longer, to fight when the two people are so close that they are hugging while they are pushing.” It spurred quite a discussion in the bus.
The city has many layers – I have a picture that illustrates this very well – there are significant remains from each of the cities eras, stacked right on top of each other. The residents of the city are living on and in a giant archaeological dig, and many portions have been restored to look as they did in the nineteenth century or earlier. As a result, the stone streets are the most winding, twisted, convoluted things I have ever seen – but clean. I was extremely grateful for our guide. I really don’t see how a first-time visitor could find an address without terribly descriptive instructions.
We visited several major religious sites, and at one point were left free to wander and admire the artwork, the jaw-dropping mosaics, and the labyrinthine, grandiose gauntness of a building half cut out of living rock and half built and re-built over the course of many centuries. There’s a lot of tradition surrounding it – who knows how much is true – but it definitely is ancient, and commemorates the greatest event in history.
We saw a lot, and I mean a lot, of soldiers, doing the same thing we were doing – touring. Apparently they are required to visit several cultural sites, all over the country, during their service. The idea is that they learn more about the country, the people, and the history behind it. Not a bad idea for something that you might possibly die for. I would conjecture that it works the other way, too, giving civilians the chance to have regular, normal interaction with their military. At one point, while we were waiting for the group to come together, we started talking to a group of soldiers. The unit commander started naming the different parts of his M-16 for us, and I got to translate. Not because I speak the language, but because I like guns.
All in all, it was an amazing trip, and I am definitely going to go back. There’s so much to see – and get lost in – that a person would certainly need more than one weekend to cover everything.
Life is again encroaching, so I will leave you, dear reader, with another completely random quote:
Maj. Sheppard: Well, we’ll just have to get to know each other a little better. I like Ferris wheels, Monday night football, and anything that goes more than 200 miles per hour.
Lt. Ford: Sir, that’s not going to mean anything to them.