All interns joke about making coffee or photocopies, but my post-it run for ISP the other day was anything but boring. In fact, what followed in the office supplies shop up the street was so incredibly typical of Damascus errands-runs that simply had to write it down. I entered Khaled's little store, asked for post-its, and answered the typical questions: American, no I don't like Bush, yes I love Damascus, I'm living in the Old City, I'm here for the summer. I said goodbye and turned to leave (a typical Arabic farewell in a situation like this translates roughly to "I thank your hands; you have done the work of God; go with peace, my uncle")...not so fast. Five minutes later, I found myself sitting behind the old man's counter, chatting about Islam, the different societal expectations of Muslim men and women in the context of marriage, and particularly the different theoretical expectations for me, an American non-Muslim, and a Syrian Muslim woman. It was okay, I pointed out, for Khaled to ask me if I had a Syrian boyfriend, whereas such a question would likely not be tolerated had I been Syrian. He agreed. Khaled asked me if I was Orthodox or Catholic, and when I hesitated, wanting to explain that my attitude toward religion is not so clear-cut, he asked, "Oh, are you Jewish?" Out of curiosity, I smiled and asked, "why?" "Oh no no no," he quickly said, "I have no problem with any religion. All the religions believe in the same God, just with different names. I have no problem with any of them. The problem in the world is not religion, but money!" About that time, a giant chocolate concoction--fresh fruit, heaping piles of whipped creme and chocolate sauce, called a 'fruit salad' here--showed up. "Eat with me," said Khaled. "I have to get back to work! I have already been gone for too long!" Again, not so fast. The conversation turned to creationism. "So, what IS your religion?" he asked. I explained that I was raised Christian, but that strict concepts of religions were not that important to me. Khaled explained why Islam was important to him: "My religion says don't lie, don't steal, don't disrespect others. This is how I try to live." I agreed that those values were important, but he continued, "what about God? What do you think?" "I don't know." "You have to think SOMETHING." "I'm young! I'm 21!" "You're not so young. Don't you believe in God?" "I don't know. I don't think there's a person sitting in the sky, but I think it's an important idea. It's important to think of something other than yourself." Khaled smiled. "Yes, but what about the world? Who made it?" "I don't know," I answered again, knowing exactly where the conversation was headed. "The trees, the sky," he continued, "where did they come from if not from God?" I shrugged. "I need to think about it. I need time." Khaled pulled out a brand new calculator from a shelf of supplies for sale and opened the box. "See this?" he asked. "It was made in a factory, right?" "Right." "If this calculator is the world, this manual"--he opened the instruction manual--"is the Qur'an. The world is God's factory; that's what I think." I admitted the utter beauty of the analogy out loud. "But how do you know the manual is right?" "Because I believe Mohammad, my Prophet." Simple as that. Quite a run for post-its. That evening, the Iraqi refugees and I had dinner with a group of Mexican international relations students visiting Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon for three weeks in order to work in refugee camps. There I was, enjoying a Syrian meal with individuals from the world's two most violent places at the moment. The conversation shifted slowly from the weather, names and hometowns, to stories from home: searching for family members' body parts in Baghdad hospitals after explosions at restaurants, being afraid to walk in Mexico City after dark, and being astounded that walking around at any hour of the night felt same in Damascus, an area commonly thought of in Mexico as "full of terrorists." The students drew connections between their countries' histories with U.S. invasions. I suddenly felt self-conscious. The next day, we spoke with the Iraqi students on how they liked the dinner. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. "I can't wait to see them again!" exclaimed Zeinab. I felt a bit silly for being surprised that individuals with such sobering life stories even had room in their minds for sympathy toward other countries' situations and interest in issues of migration from Mexico to California and Texas. I truly am constantly surprised.