Monday, May 19, 2008

The end of eight

Today was the last day we would all be together before we split into two groups, one bound for Turkey and the other for Israel. The day started at a reasonable hour. We caught a van to the ruins of St. Simeone Basilica, which is about 45 minutes outside of Aleppo. The basilica is on a hill overlooking a wide valley. In any direction you look, you're met with trees, grass, and poppy spatter-painted fields. Huge, graceful stone archways still carve over the grass, and we spent a peaceful hour exploring all the nooks and crannies of the ruins and gazing out at the scenery. Brian did not do much gazing. He of course was busy scrambling over every rock and tower, looking for new ways to tempt fate. Thankfully he and everyone else arrived safely back at the van and we drove back to Aleppo.

In the afternoon a group of us wanted to go back to the Armenian Church, but it was closed. Alison and I meandered back to the souk, but we both soon decided we would just rather take naps, so we returned to the hostel and passed out. We were awoken a few hours later by Dan and Andy, who barged into our room wearing police hats. To their glee they had discovered the army supply shop, and apparently the store owner had no qualms about selling uniform pieces as souvenirs. They insisted that we cease referring to them by their given names and that they be henceforth known only as 'immigration' and 'customs.' Brian went along for the ride and dubbed himself the Syrian D.A.R.E. officer. The boys had to take the hats off for dinner, but quickly put them back on when we headed back to our rooms for some final merrymaking before the Jew Crew had to head off to catch the bus. We had originally allocated two days for travel from Aleppo to Jerusalem, but had decided spur of the moment to leave at 3:00 in the morning and consolidate all of our travel into one day. We made the most of our last few hours as a group of eight, playing cards, watching MTV and finishing the last of our Duty Free Store purchases. Sadly, soon it was time to go, and Ainsley, Brian, Tim and I gathered our things and set out into the night for the bus station. Hopefully we'll get to the border before it closes today.