Archive for April, 2011

Who am I kidding?  The fire has never burned too bright between Lebanon and me.  It’s never been a torrid love affair.  There have been sparks here and there, but never anything that has lasted.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Lebanon, however in contrast, during my time in Brazil, I fell in love.  Not with a man, but with the country.  I can’t yet say the same about Lebanon.  My feelings are geared more towards intense curiosity – a strong desire to understand and be understood.  I’m still in some ways drawn to Lebanon.  Though, I think eventually I would grow to love the place, somehow I think the relationship would always be platonic.

Much of my opinion of the country and the people has been formed through my experiences during my 1st semester with my students, and that’s no way to experience a place.  If you’re a teacher, you can imagine what I mean.  Imagine if your primary impression of a place and a people were solely reflected through your experiences with a group of students.  How would it change your perspective?  And a group of students whose social mores are significantly different from you own.

For instance, in one class, after continuously interrupting myself to quiet or shush my students, I stopped and posed a cultural question.  Most who know me well, understand that I have a strong sarcastic streak.  In this instance, I was truly curious to understand.  I asked, “When you were children, did your mom allow you to interrupt her while she was speaking?”  I received a few blank stares, so I asked again.  “Did she allow you to interrupt her?”  While a few, especially the chronic interrupters convincingly nodded their heads and told me it was culturally acceptable, one of my trusted few shook her head in disagreement.  She said, “No Miss (my classroom alter-ego), we were not allowed to interrupt.”

It’s only been during this semester that I’ve had some counter-experiences.  In fact maybe my present experiences are the mainstream and my past experiences represent the counter-culture.  In any case, this isn’t a sociological study, just my mere observations.

In the first place, now, I’m teaching pre-Masters students, and in many ways they are re-shaping my opinion about the place.  They’ve removed the constant ringing that played in my mind after loud and boisterous exchanges with my students.  With my pre-Masters students, I am able to engage in conversation.  They share helpful insights about the country, customs, holidays and culture.

To further my understanding, just yesterday, I discovered a series of webisodes that are helping me capture all that is beautiful about Lebanon.

In “Beirut, I Love You”, the story line is simple, yet endearing.  Though each episode is a mere 4 minutes or so, so much of life, love and culture are revealed in them.  The Lebanese Arabic, which I’ve come to enjoy hearing, with its English subtitles reveals much about the character of the people.  When hearing simple phrases, like Shoo Badek, come across my screen in playful English words I can identify with, I feel as though I’m watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother (my most recent guilty pleasure).  Tarek and Yasmine are the Lebanese friends I’ve not yet made who give me a glimpse into their lives.

So the fire is not yet burning bright.  I’m no longer kidding anyone.  But as my best friend often tells me in her Jamaican patois “Hot love soon turn cold.”  So maybe it’s best that this fire grow hot gradually, as opposed to burning bright and then going out quickly.

Lebanon, there’s still room for you in my heart.


Spice, spice, spice it up!

Buckets of Spices at the Grocery Store

Olives Flavored with Lemon

Amazing variety of olives

The Biggest Cover-up

Posted: April 12, 2011 in France, Islam
Tags: , , , ,

Is France’s new ban on the niqab, a full face veil with an opening for the eyes, and the burqa, a loose body covering that includes a head covering or a hijab, along with the niqab, the biggest cover-up ever?  If so, what exactly are they covering up? Fear? Bigotry? National security?

If nothing else, the issue screams of a deliberate slim-down of religious freedom, and a loss of religious freedom for one group is a loss of religious freedom for us all, even if the god being served is the god of secularism.  What happens when secularism goes out of style?

I am not Muslim nor do I wear a niqab. I do not have a full understanding of the reason behind wearing the niqab. Frankly, I wouldn’t wear one.  My beef is with the way one group can forcibly require another group to play by its rules.  What happens when that group is no longer in charge.  Whose rules will be played by then?

How far is too far in the name of security?

A large picturesque statue keeps a watchful eye over the bay of Jounieh; she is Harissa, Lady of Lebanon.  Though less famed than O Cristo Redentor of Rio or Lady Liberty of the Big Apple, the view is every bit as breathtaking.


And the view on the ground is striking.  The faithful can be seen lighting candles and whispering faint prayers to the highly revered patron saint.

It was about midnight sometime last week.  A group of us was preparing for a big event at the school when we got a call to pick up some sweets for the visitors that would be coming on campus.  Normally, I hate looking like a tourist, but this time, I clicked away.  There were trays and trays of Lebanese delicacies gracing all over the countertops.  Here’s one of the treats I found: