Archive for November, 2010

Being away from home is not so unusual for me.  In fact, I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings away from home.  In college I spent a few with my extended fam.  While in Spain, the Americans cooked a feast fit for the Pilgrims and Indians on the first Thanksgiving day.  The year immediately following Spain, I found myself in the house of one of my newly found sisters from Spain.  Last year, after cooking a grand feast for my dad, I spent the holiday in my mentor’s house.  So being away from home is not so unusual for me.  This, however, is my first Middle Eastern Thanksgiving.  And I had lots of thanks to give.

This week in my Basic English class, I had my students use the word “Thankful” to make a list of what they’re thankful for.  After we jumped the hurdle of understanding the meaning of the word, and how they could choose an item that started with the “T”, the “H”, the “A”, the “N”, the “K”, etc, we finally started with the brief assignment.

From this exercise, I learned that thankfulness is always in the context of your experiences.

The group collectively struggled with words starting with the letter “K.”  Finally, when we each went through our lists out loud, we learned that one of the Jordanian student was thankful for King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, which of course starts with……that’s right!  The letter “K.”

Thankfulness is always in context.

Although I’m far away from my country, my family, my friends, my car, my cell phone, my former job, my easy flights around the country, my comfort, my church family, my Walgreens that is down the street and on every corner for that matter, my mom’s cooking and familiarity, I am thankful in the context of my current experience.  I am thankful for all the things that are far away, and I am thankful for those things that are near.

This Sunday, I shared an oft’ celebrated and oft’ under appreciated American holiday with my new friends.

For some, it was their first Thanksgiving.  A joyous occasion they had only witnessed on American sitcoms, like Friends and How I Met Your Mother, but never experienced.

For this reason, waiting 6 (or 7, depending on who’s counting) hours for the Turkey to cook was not too long.  This time frame wouldn’t have been so bad if the Turkey hadn’t been put in the oven at 6 PM on the day of the dinner.  I tried to explain we have hotlines in the states to help with Turkey emergencies.  Despite the persistent smoke, there was no emergency, unless you’d count the Turkey not finishing until 1:30 AM as an emergency.

Some people had turkey for dessert, and they were thankful!

So be thankful this Thanksgiving!  We all have so many things to be thankful for!  Hamdulillah!

Though brief, here is my list of things for which I am thankful:

  1. My Mom and Dad….and brother…..and my family in general
  2. My Friends both new and old
  3. New Experiences
  4. My relationship with God

Today, I ventured down the hill on foot sans bum smacking.  Was rather peaceful, save the zig zag of traffic and the incessant honking.  What’s important is that I survived the trek unscathed!  I credit it to two things:

1.  The grace of God

2.  The realization that pedestrians here have NO rights.  The only ones who are right are the cars.  This tidbit made me proceed with an enormous amount of caution.

I enjoy my periodic jaunts.  Each one makes me a little more confident, though I dare not get too confident.

Overconfidence will get you hit!

Everyone has stereotypes about people, places and things.  I know this because when friends post on my Facebook wall, they now greet me with “Be safe” and “Stay safe out there.”

To them, Middle East = Unsafe.

I know they also have stereotypes about the people of this region.

Men = Empowered.  Women = Oppressed.

Since I’ve only been here for three months, I can’t claim to have a ready-made-take-home box for male/female relations.  Nor can I say that I’m oppressed or that the women around me are oppressed, but I do have this small interaction with a friend of mine as an example of gender roles and expectations.

But first, my disclaimer. I am in no way a feminist in the American tradition of the word.  At home, I neither rallied nor protested nor fought.  I never attended a Women’s Lib meeting nor was I indoctrinated, brainwashed or inculcated.  I was simply a normal citizen, whose parents taught her to work hard for everything she got and to never make excuses for not receiving something because of race, gender or creed.

That being said, I recently read a blog post from a friend of mine here in Lebanon.  I think it’s quite commendable that he set-up a blog.  With a twinkle in his eye, he told me to check it out.  I read it with the understanding that it would be controversial, as he described it.

To understand my post, you’ll need to check out his.

I must respond, because this argument has been hashed, rehashed and done over easy in the States.

My take:  Woman receiving rights, or places of equality, and men being chivalrous are not mutually exclusive.  A man can be both polite and allow a woman to have a place of equality in society.  Just as a woman can be respectful and maintain a place of equality.  I believe in gender roles in an egalitarian society.

If my friend’s argument were true that there should be an inverse relationship between women’s rights and men’s chivalry or in other words that a society where women have less rights, men can be expected to be more chivalrous, I should have observed an abundance of gentlemanly behavior here relative to the States.  However, I haven’t found that to be the case.  (This is not to say that we have achieved perfect equality in the States; this is just to show that this argument does not hold to be true.)

Men in the Southern states of the US are notoriously polite relative to the North, even earning the title of “Southern Gentlemen.”  At least this was my experience from living there for 4 years during college.  Many are accustomed to opening car doors for ladies, helping them down the stairs, assisting them with heavy loads, giving up their seats should a woman be standing and many other gentlemanly traits.  Even up North, men still showed signs of acquiescence: allowing women to exit elevators first, in the company of a large group of men (this is awesome and I always appreciated this!), permitting women to enter revolving doors after a man, so that he may bear the brunt of pushing the door, and simply opening doors for women.

A man can still be a gentleman, while allowing a woman to have rights.

I am very live and let live.  You live in the context of your culture, and I’ll live in the context of mine.  It is not my goal to impose my culture upon others when traveling but to observe and take part in it.  Otherwise, I could have just stayed at home if it were my goal to experience my culture in another country.  It is not my goal to change this culture.  But what I see as being at the heart of the matter is the question of gender roles in a society.  The answer varies among cultures, and this is where worlds begin to collide.

My first week here, I had such fresh eyes.  Everything was new and exciting.  Now, things are still exciting, but not so new.  So, it was nice to go back and check out some of my old pictures and video from that time. It’s been kindof like reading an old diary now that I’m an adult.

Here I am gushing about my favorite place on campus:

What’s your favorite view where you live?

The Cedars of Lebanon

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Lebanon, Travel
Tags: , ,

According to Wikipedia, the Cedars of Lebanon are mentioned at least 70 times in the Bible.  I haven’t tried counting, but I know of at least one significant reference that influenced my decision to come here.

During one of my morning worships, at a time when I was praying for direction, I happened upon the verse found in Psalms 92:12: “ “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar in Lebanon.”  It may seem insignificant to read the verse now, but in the context of my life at the time, it was quite significant.

I got to see the verse in real life this weekend, when we took a trip to visit the Cedars of God.  2 hours in the car, 1 long stop at Wooden Bakery, incessant singing from grown men, Arabic flashcards and seemingly-near-death-driving experiences later, I finally saw what all of the fuss was about.  Though I didn’t expect it, I was wowed.

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There are an abundance of cats here in Lebanon, but dogs seem to be a bit of a rarity.  So we should have considered ourselves lucky to get a stray on campus, though it really depends on whom you ask.

I spent one of my childhood summers at my grandparents’ home in Alabama.  It was quite the experience.  While there, we had a dog named Homeless.  A fitting name.  The same name can be attached to this dog: “Homeless.”

“Homeless” gladly found a home on our campus.  She came wounded, with a big gash on her leg that caused her to limp about.  As the days and weeks passed, she recovered fairly well.  She always followed close behind most anyone who passed her by, as though she were fiercely loyal.  Thinking back, I want to say it was just hunger.

One night, when I was working late, she curled up in a small ball in front of my office, as though she were a watchdog.  Truth be told, had an intruder come, I would have been the one doing the protecting.

In the end, the powers that be had their say and kindly escorted the dog from the campus.  I’m not sure how Animal Control works in Lebanon, but I did hear a suggestion that they drive her far, far away, and drop her off, so that she was unable to find her way back to the place she was beginning to call home.  (it’d be rather amusing if she found her way back)

I don’t judge the administration’s decision, as I know they were looking out for the interest of the University.  Nonetheless, the softer side of me does hope that “Homeless” eventually finds a place to call home.

All my life I’ve been busy!

Busy with school.

Busy with extracurricular activities.

Busy with work.

Many people warned me that I’d find a different type of “busy” when I got to the Middle East.  They told fanciful tales that I’d now compare to Aladdin, his flying carpet and his magic Genie of people who worked only half a day and drank tea, while sitting crossed legged on a Persian rug.  I’m not sure where this place is or who has stolen my light workload, but if you see them, please tell them I want it back.

Perhaps I’m the problem.

Maybe I brought America with me, or maybe this Middle Eastern country didn’t get the memo about the slackness and the low work expectations people have of it.

Nonetheless, I am experiencing none of it.  My work hours rival and often surpass those of both of my Corporate America jobs.  Perhaps it’s because there’s so much to do, and I see this place that’s fighting to capture my affections as having so much potential.

Even now, I am working on writing ad copy that presents Middle East University as a place where you can write “Your Story.”  If nothing else, this has been true for me.

Take a look at our advertising video and let me know what you think….