Archive for August, 2011

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The last thing I expected to hear in Lebanon was Portuguese, but surprisingly it was one of the first things I heard.

After arriving in Lebanon, and sleeping off a bit of jetlag, I started wandering the campus until I ran into our University President.  He quickly introduced me to the University chaplain, who happens to be….Brazilian.  In fact, he studied at the same University where I did Portuguese study abroad one summer during college.  After meeting him, I learned that there was a small army of Brazilians on our campus – some had come and gone before my arrival and some would come later in the year.

However it’s not only on our campus that we have a mini-Brazil; it’s within the country of Lebanon as well.  The blog Brazzil explains the phenomenon pretty succinctly here.  Over the course of time Lebanese have emigrated to countries around the world, Brazil included.  Nowadays, there are more Lebanese living outside of the country than inside of the country.

Over the course of the year, we’ve run into some of the hyphenated Lebanese (Brazilian-Lebanese).  We even saw the launch of the Brazilian-Lebanese Cultural Center.

Coming from the States, where Hispanics are the largest minority group, it’s hard to imagine them as being anything else, but the more I pay attention, the more I’m finding Hispanic Lebanese.  I study Arabic with a kind lady who’s Mexican-Lebanese, and more and more, I find myself hearing Portuguese in the mall and most recently at the airport on my way home.

These days, we all find a way to hyphenate our identities.  African-American, Korean-American, Mexican-Lebanese.  It’s like the noveau “I got some Indian in my family.” (only a few of you will understand what I mean by that one)

How do you hyphenate?


I’m experiencing the same sort of shock now in returning home from Lebanon that I experienced when I first returned from Spain almost 10 years ago – the shock of violence.  The sheer amount of violence, especially against the young and innocent is shocking in America.

While surfing the internet this morning, I couldn’t help but read the following article: “6-year-old killed, 2 teens wounded in Englewood shooting.”  The title caught my eye because Englewood is my mom’s old stomping grounds.

Many people draw back when I tell them I’m living in the Middle East and Lebanon no less.  Their faces scrunch up in worry and fear. They tell me I’m brave, as though I’m a fireman rushing into a burning building.  In my opinion, I face no more danger there than I did here in the states.  In fact, I told my dad the other day, generally, I feel safer in Lebanon in terms of violent crime and theft than I do in my own neighborhood.  According to the travel.state.gov site “The crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, but both car theft and burglaries do occur. Violent crime and sexual assault are rare, although petty theft — such as pick pocketing and purse snatching — is common in crowded public areas.”

We all know that there’s no place that’s absolutely safe on earth, but maybe our fear radar should be adjusted.  We’ve gotten desensitized to the crime du jour in our country so much so that we think everyone else’s version of danger – Kidnapping in South and Central America, Bombing in the Middle East and Tribal violence in Africa – is somehow worse than our own.  I’m sure the family of 6 year-old Arianna Gibson of Englewood in Chicago would disagree.

My heart goes out to the family of 6 year-old Arianna Gibson, whose main concern was getting her hair done in time for her first day of school that was supposed to be today.

Welcome to…Abu Dhabi

Posted: August 5, 2011 in Lebanon, Travel, U.A.E.
Tags: , ,

Ideally, I should be just hours away from landing in my beloved city of Chicago, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I find myself reclining in the Radisson Blu of Yas Island in UAE.  I’ve always wanted to make it to Dubai, and now I find myself just a mere hour away, with absolutely no energy to explore it.

It started when my Etihad flight took off late from Beirut.  I thought nothing of it, because normally pilots seem to magically make the time up in the air.  However, upon landing they informed us our connecting flight to Chicago had already left.  In all of this delay, I’m grateful to be safe and sound, but it’s still an annoyance.  Luckily for me, this time my over-packing and over-planning (that sometimes stalls me from making decisions) paid off, because I packed extras of most everything I need.

Though this is a small inconvenience for me, I feel bad for one of the other passengers this affected who does contract work in Iraq.  He’s only getting 5 days off between his two contracts and because of this delay that 5-day vacation has become a 4-day vacation.  Haram!

As you well know, August 1 marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan for the Muslim community.  Traveling during this time has its own challenges, as I’ve come to realize since this is the second time that I’ve traveled during this time of year.  This time it appeared in a new way to me.

As I mentioned, sitting to the right of me on the flight was the contractor, an attractive American guy who carried himself with the discipline of a soldier.  To my left was a Lebanese man with crystal blue eyes and a tunic that gave him the air of a free-spirit. In contrast to the American contractor, his body language did not speak of discipline.  In my initial thinking, he seemed a bit too at ease to be carrying out the Muslim discipline of fasting, which is designed to bring one closer to God.

In my deep exhaustion, I attempted to avoid conversation altogether – short answers, limited eye contact.  However, after a few minutes, the Lebanese man asked where I was coming from and where I was headed.  Within a few moments we were engaged in conversation.  Eventually he mentioned he was fasting.  I was a bit taken aback, because he stepped outside of my expectations.  I hadn’t immediately pegged him as being Muslim, and in my mind if he were, he certainly wasn’t fasting.  He explained Ramadan and fasting and told me I should try it sometime.  I responded, ”I have fasted and do fast from time to time” since fasting is also part of a Christian’s relationship with God.  Then he mentioned in passing, “I’m really hungry.”

I couldn’t help but quickly look outside – the sun had barely made its first appearance for the day.  I knew then that this would be a very long day for this guy.  At that moment, I knew I couldn’t eat.  I knew I couldn’t bring myself to savor the taste of food and juice (oh juice!!) while this young man was beginning  what would be a long day of fasting for him.  So for that moment I decided to fast as well – at least from that meal.

During those moments as I fought sleepiness and hunger, and I told myself I would eat when the plane landed and sleep when I got home.  However, as we began our descent, the flight attendant reminded us that eating, drinking and smoking in public places are prohibited during the holy month of Ramadan.

It’s been interesting exploring the differences in Middle Eastern countries, as this is not the custom, as I’ve seen in Lebanon, though it may vary from place to place in Lebanon.  Even still, I respected the customs of the country and refrained from eating, drinking and sleeping (comfortably) until I reached the privacy of my hotel room.  I’ll opt to explore the next time I’m in town.

Until then Ramadan Kareem to all of my Muslim friends, and  I’ll write again soon when I’m on the other side of the ocean, Inshallah.