Archive for December, 2010

Yes!  To answer the oft’ asked question, the answer is yes.  We do celebrate Christmas in the Middle East.  As Lebanon is a country of multiple religions, including Christianity, Christmas time is a big time of year.

In an effort to meet our neighbors on Sabtieh Hill, we (being the community at Middle East University) celebrated by inviting neighbors, friends, family members and strangers to join us for our first ever Christmas Village.  The event presented a live walk-through of the Christmas story, with scenes of the Angels, King Herod, the Manger, the Census Booth and a display of Christmas Around the World.

Much hard work went into the whole process

I’d specifically like to thank all of my friends and family members who prayed without ceasing for us to have good weather and a good turnout during the event.  We were blessed with both.

Check out my sometimes shaky but very proud video footage of the event.

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Don’t worry Dad, there’s more to this blog post than meets the eye.

I start this way, because I know my father is a regular peruser of my blog, so I must set his mind at ease that I have not flipped the script and started a different type of blog : )

I had a brief, yet interesting, discussion with my students after one of them gave a presentation. The assignment required students to find a newspaper article and state whether or not they agreed with the topic presented.  One of my students chose the following:

“Dubai Customs Seize Sex Toys Ordered Online”

The article was about an expatriate woman who ordered several sex toys online and had them shipped to her residence in The United Arab Emirates.  However, the woman never received her purchases, because the items were seized by customs, and the woman was required to sign a document stating she would not repeat her offense.  Apparently sex toys are prohibited in The United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While the article was interesting, I found the response of my students to be more interesting. After the student finished, I asked her colleagues if they agreed or disagreed with the government’s involvement in the case.  With the exception of one student (the only guy in the midst), I received a room full of “yeses.”

My surprise is less about the sex toys and more about the students.  While I understand that some students may have felt uncomfortable disagreeing on this topic in class, I imagine this question being posed in another country, in another region of the world.  Were this another country, I am 99% sure that the response would have been different – not so much because of differences in sexual inhibitions but because of the students’ views on governmental involvement.

In my opinion, the responses of my students are mere whispers in comparison to the loud message about rights and freedoms being sent by the government of the UAE. Don’t count on me fighting anytime soon for the Emiriti to purchase and use sex toys, but do count on me to stare in amazement at various countries’ perceptions of the role government.

What do you think?  Should they say no to sex toys?

The subject of race makes some people uncomfortable, so often, I avoid talking about it, except with close friends – with them I am candid and open.  I feel comfortable getting otherwise uncomfortable things off of my chest.  Some prefer to avoid the topic altogether, as though the issue doesn’t exist.  Others choose to reverse the blame and place the responsibility on the offended.

I would be lying to say that the issue of race never crosses my mind.  As a child, I was always straddling racial lines.  The black kids in my church told me that I talked white, though I went to school primarily with Filipinos.  Similarly, the Filipino kids told me that I wanted to be one of them, because I took an interest in their language and culture.  I was always one of two or three black kids in my class, which was situated in a rich white neighborhood; I struggled to find my place in society.

My University was different.  As a historically black university, situated in the South, it presented a new set of challenges for me.

I experienced textbook culture shock.  Never had I been so completely surrounded by black people.  They came in every shape, size and color.  They spoke different languages, had different accents and were from different countries.  In a seemingly homogenous environment, there was so much diversity.  This was a total paradigm shift.

From then forward, I continued to see myself through these eyes.  There was a sense of awareness about my race and how it fit into who I am.

In each country I’ve visited, I’ve wondered about people who look like me.

In Korea, a seemingly homogenous society, I expected to stick out, and I felt as though I did but not in an uncomfortable way.

In Mozambique, I noticed the color of people’s skin seemed to get lighter, the closer I got to the city.

In Spain, the people were amazed to see black people, which in turn amazed me, seeing as they’re practically neighbors with Africa.  They stared, sometimes asked to touch our skin and sometimes yelled out phrases like “Cola Cao”, the name of a powdered chocolate drink.

Before arriving to Lebanon, I wondered how people of color are treated in this part of the world.  And while I haven’t completely gotten a handle on it, I have some ideas.  I asked a friend and he vaguely said that Americans are generally treated with respect here, which I have found to be true, but it seemed as though he was noticeably silent on the issue of race.

I recently found this blog about a white American couple who adopted a little Ethiopian girl; they are now living in Lebanon as missionaries and they share their take on race relations in Lebanon.  Their story, which is really very interesting, is posted here.  It’s worth the read!

In my eyes, everyone here (as far as I know), who looks like me, is a maid or a housekeeper, so it must but a strange concept for some people here (especially those who haven’t traveled) to accept a black woman in a professional position.  This is all fresh in my mind because of a comment a student made to me this week.  In a fit of anger (because he was not allowed to have his way) he blurted out that I should go home, since I probably left my country because I am the lowest person in my country and they didn’t want me there.  This idea has sat in my mind since.  I’m still sorting it all out.

So this blog post is a bit cathartic for me.

The most frustrating thing about placing people in racial boxes is that we limit who they are.  While Filipinos in this country are maids, at home, my childhood best friend is Filipino and is a resident anesthesiologist.  While Ethiopians are thought to be commonplace in this country, at home, they are thought to have the most beautiful black women and are found to be very desirable.

I know the Lebanese are not the only ones whose hands are dirty.  As Americans, we are guilty of this as well.  While here, Middle Eastern men are thought to be someone’s dad, brother, son or uncle, at home, they too are stereotyped.

We all need to allow people to step out of the small, race-bound boxes we place them to let them be the individuals they are.  They might surprise us.  Prejudice is a lazy man’s method of processing the world.

Lebanon has reinforced this idea for me.

Blogs that reference Blacks in Lebanon:

http://www.onelebanon.com/forum/7216-do-you-find-black-women-sexy-attractive.html

http://janerubio.blogspot.com/2009/01/being-black-in-lebanon.html

http://beirutbeauty.blogspot.com/2010/03/brut-al.html

http://web.me.com/wesleytillett/Site/Blog/Entries/2010/10/17_Ethiopians_in_Lebanon.html