This is a little appreciation post of the years I lived in Syria as a high schooler, and the crazy things that I’ll never forget.
My name is Nora Dabas. I lived in Damascus, Syria for 3 years from 9th to 11th grade (2008-2010), and I’m originally from Texas. When I say that those were the best years of my life, I am not exaggerating!
I will only cover schooling in this blog post (btw, thank you Watani for making Kalam!).
I will spell out names…I went to SIS (Syrian International School) in 9th grade and then attended PISOD (Pakistan International School of Damascus) for 10th and 11th grade, since SIS closed for political reasons.
The sole purpose my parents sent me to live with my grandparents those years was to learn to read, write and speak Arabic better. A lot of people had asked me why I didn’t attend the American School, and it was because there were no Arabic courses and it defeated the purpose why I flew across the world. I took history, geography, social studies and Arabic classes in the Arabic language at PISOD. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. My grandma spent hoursssss as I asked her what every other word meant in the books. Don’t even get me started on reading newspapers!
The experience of living there had me looking at everything from a bigger picture. I was literally a nerd coming from a Montessori school in Texas. I was quiet, got decent grades and was a proud, little hijabi who was confident amongst, well, non-Muslims. When I entered the Arab world, without exaggeration, people thought I was shy or mute because I wasn’t loud, didn’t always joke around and wasn’t overly energetic. These words described the youth of that time.
Let me give you some examples. I don’t know if I should share these, but since I won’t put names, it won’t hurt. Students would climb through the classroom window to escape school. When the school put up metal window bars, they managed to squeeze underneath the bars to escape. Then, they dug a ditch under the school walls (it was a gated school), and would drive out of Damasacus, into a whole other country, Lebanon, and get McDonalds for lunch! These students were rich enough to have drivers waiting outside the school grounds for after-school pickup. They would bribe their drivers to keep quiet from their parents. When a student didn’t show up the next day, you knew the bribe didn’t work haha
There were two days of 10th grade when none of the boys showed up to school: the day of George Wassouf’s concert and Inna’s concert. Oh, and just to add, I met Enrique Iglesias and Edward Maya literally on the streets of Damascus!
Anyways, I remember building courage and decided to wear jeans (we had strict uniform policies) with the entire 11th grade class planning this together, and the school still called all of our parents as a warning. Since then, I went back to the American me that felt I had to follow authority lolLet me tell you this…I was once walking in the senior building (9th-12th grade) during lunch break, and lo and behold, there is a raging fire coming out of a window on the second floor. I ran to tell the head and found out that someone had lit a love letter on fire from jealousy and had thrown it into the trashcan. The trash went ablaze and lit the entire window drapes on fire. Irresponsibility at its finest.
You’re probably like what the heck. These memories are quite scary. But, when I compare them to my college days in the US, let’s say they were way more entertaining! Should I make a part 2 on Kalam?