So far, every Syrian who has asked me where I am from has said, "Welcome," with a big smile. Almost nobody assumes I'm an American, they guess British or Russian most often, sometimes Italian. But when I say, "America," the response is always favorable.
Today a soldier guarding the port, complete with rifle slung over his shoulder, smiled, asked where I was from ("Britannia, Russiya?), then gave me the big welcome smile, shook my hand enthusiastically, and put his hand to his heart (a characteristic Syrian gesture). A Syrian soldier with a gun, shaking hands with an American!
I need to write a letter to Barack Obama, advising him on U.S. Syrian relations. These people really want to be friends with us.