Shaun Ellis

This is what happens when you cross the border from Akçakale, Turkey, into Syria. Specifically, Syria in the Summer of 2010, not long before things fell apart.
The first thing you should know about is the heat. It is incomprehensible heat. Impossible heat. As you queue, there will be surprise that you are American. Border Guard #1 will ask to speak to Border Guard #2, and Border Guard #2 will ask to speak to his supervisor, who will ask his supervisor and his supervisor’s supervisor to examine your passport. There will be intense scrutiny over every stamp. You will reassure them. These reassurances will be in vain because the guards will, of course, not understand anything you say. It’s best just to smile and be patient. Your belongings will be under constant threat of search, but they will not be searched. A presidential portrait will loom. An old fan will spin slowly, pointlessly. When you do finally cross, insha'allah, it will be to no fanfare. There will be no exotic fruit stands. No taxi taunts taunting. It’s not that kind of border, see.
Oddly enough, there is an intense beauty in these moments of travel. Or maybe more to the point: Part of what makes travel special is that it can yield so many moments that are beautiful almost purely because of their intensity. Here it’s a will-we-or-won’t-we-make-it-across moment. Another day it’s an I’m-not-sure-if-I-can-survive-this-bus-ride moment. Or perhaps a seasick-ferry-ride-to-somewhere moment. Or an unscheduled-pit-stop-in-nowhere moment. Threshold moments, you might say.

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