THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Walking through the basalt ruins in Bosra.
Laura Fabrycky and her daughters look down at the stage from high up in the amphitheater at Bosra.
inside a smoky, modest café to escape a
torrential afternoon rain and had a satisfy-
ing meal just below the cliffs where the
Orthodox monastery of St. Thecla perches.
After visiting the shrine, we hiked
through a famous crack in the rock, bun-
dled against the rainy cold. The apocryphal
story tells of a rock that opened to allow an
elderly St. Thecla, a contemporary of the
Apostle Paul, to flee her persecutors after
having faced torture and death sentences
many times over in her life.
Two years later, the al-Qaida-linked
al-Nusra Front would wage battle with the
Syrian army here, taking lives and kidnap-
ping a dozen nuns.
Back in Damascus, the sights, smells,
tastes and faces of the ancient streets
left lasting impressions. We purchased
a set of glass-paneled copper lanterns
from a shopkeeper who, in his doting,
fatherly way, gave our daughters little
fabric-framed mirrors for their purses.
He had the lanterns wound tightly in
bubble-wrap for our trip back to Amman,
assuring us that if any of the panels broke,
he would be honored to repair them.
come back, no problem.
The lanterns have
by now even survived a
transoceanic voyage. But
five years on, our memo-
ries are in a kind of inter-
pretive ruin, and we have
no place to fix them. It
was a good trip. We still
say, as we did then, how
lovely a place Syria was,
even in the shadow of its
ruthless dictator and his
apparatus of fear.
Yet Bosra’s basalt structures have been
pocked by bullets, its mosaics punctured,
many of its residences demolished. The
destruction of sites like these, there and
elsewhere, makes us weep, but that pales
before the abject suffering and displace-
ment endured by the Syrian people.
Howmany times have I thought
of Thecla’s rock and said a prayer for
miraculous safe passages for the countless
refugees who have suffered unrelentingly
in the years since?
The diplomatic life comes with
enormous privilege—which, at its best, is
twined with a responsibility to venture far
beyond the safety of Disney-like surreal-
ity; to take real and complicated places
into one’s own life, as best one can; to
meet people, encounter cultures and
make memories in places that many will
While some among the American
public harbor fear about the unknown
and the “other,” we think back to the faces
we saw—including little ones with bright
pigtails and brown, doe-like eyes, just like
our Hannah; eyes that should have been
compelling enough for a taste of liberty,
for an end to the violence, for a livable,
human peace—smiling, waving, as our
daughters played farm in the gentle ruins