Posted by Tiglath from cache01.flow.com.au (22.214.171.124) on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 at 2:42AM :
After 6 months in the Middle East it was finally time to go home.
Having arrived in beautiful Damsacus one day early in order to arrange the permit in my passport needed to officially leave the country I hoped that things would run smoothly. The people of Syria are definately the friendliest I've ever met in the world.
It was not uncommon to ask for directions in broken-Arabic to have them grab your arm and walk you to your intended destination.
Their government and bearacrats, on the other-hand are totally different.
Nicholas Aljeloo, another Aussie-born Assyrian accompanied me to the Passports office where I had a chance to witness their "system" again on the day before my flight.
From the start we knew that if we paid "baksheesh" (bribe) to one of the officials that my passport would be stamped quickly with little or no problems. But we both refused to support the endemic corruption and decided to stick it out. We were put through a battery of tasks.
Paperwork was shuffled between the offcials who juggled us amongest themselves and came up with ficticious rubber-stamps, computer approvals and signatures in order to delay us as long as possible hoping that we'd bribe them.
We jumped all the hurdles and at 2:00pm the office closed for lunch and they finally aquieced allowing us to go after approving my passport.
Next day we packed and arrived at the airport in time for our flight.
Here we had to endure a gauntlet of corrupt officials who questioned and queried us at every turn.
One even took out a magnifying glass and checked my passport to ensure that it wasn't fake!
Passing through the Syrian airport could best be described as the 4th level of Dante's inferno.
After a grueling journey through customs we finally arrived and boarded the Emirates flight home.
We had finally made it and as we sat in our seat and the plane took off the Doc and I felt like the hostages who had been freed by Chuck Norris in that Delta Force movie. Almost broke into a chorus of "USA! USA! USA!", but stopped because we knew that we were Aussies.
We were finally on the plane comfortable and safe.
"If there's a Doctor in the house could you please make yourself known to the cabin crew!" came the plane's loudspeaker.
After Sankho made himself known to the cabin crew they took him to a passenger who had breathing problems and he administered to her.
She got well pretty quickly after that and as a gesture of their appreciation the Doc and I were upgraded to Business Class!
There we sat in Business class legs elevated and spread as the stewardesses brought us more Scotch and coke.
"Not bad Doc. I told him...if their flight computer crashes I think I should handle that one!"
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