I don't have anything intellectual and fascinating to say about Syria, but for the sake of recollection here are things I've written to inquiring people:
Damascus does indeed stand; it's full of interesting people as well as crazy people. (Same as anywhere, to an extent, but just wait.) The foreigners here are almost uniformly awesome people, since I think you have to be a bit odd and thus a bit interesting to come here. I'm sitting next to a Portuguese woman who has been a poet and ballet dancer and is now a singer of Arab music and a Muslim convert; my best friends here are mostly American students, but I've also got a British Iraqi optometrist, an American who was once an I-banker in Dubai, sundry Brits, a German guy studying Turkish education, and on and on. It's a fun time.
The crazies are mostly Arab. When you make friends with a Syrian, they think it means you're best friends forever and they can immediately start calling you all the time and hanging out every day. I have a good friend who has actually started just hanging out at my house and my friends' houses whether I'm there or not. I rolled out of my room at like 8 last night after a nap and he was just sitting there in my courtyard. And he's one of the more chilled out ones. I have recieved a few insanely poetic text messages full of stars and moons from people (plural, yes) I have never expressed any romantic interest in. Another one complains every time I go somewhere without them that I never invite them anywhere, and I have been offered $20,000 for my hand in marriage. One of my male British friends has said that Syrian girls just say "I love you" to him on the street every five minutes. It's all a bit mad. (This is not to imply that all Syrians are nuts or anything; some of it is cultural difference, and, as anywhere, the crazies stand out.)
But nonetheless, it's fun. People here make friends quickly and easily, so every time you go out you never know what will happen. I met one of my best Syrian friends because he worked in a cafe I went to to study in. I met a Syrian girl because she was at the next table. I met a Greek guy at my Syrian friend's house and a couple Syrian guys at a club last night. Today I met two Syrians and a Moroccan who are starting an art collective and wanted me and my friends to come to their show August 10th.
That's the other thing: this city is full of art. A Syrian alcoholic painter moved into my house two days ago.
I don't really have a point, but that's what's up, I guess. I had my final yesterday and inshallah I passed enough to go on to the next level. (If they make me do level three again I may shoot myself in the face. It was boring enough the first time.) My Arabic has improved massively, hamdulillah (thank god), and hopefully by the end of my time here I'll be pretty good. I didn't expect to have come as far as I have already by this point.