Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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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?


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.

I heard the first wail of “Let’s Get it Started” by the Black Eyed Peas and I was off.  The hardest part was managing the bursts of adrenaline my body was shooting uncontrollably into my bloodstream.  This issue of adrenaline might be one of the biggest challenges I face during such events.  Don’t get me wrong, I need the adrenaline; I just wish my body would learn to pump it into my blood near the 75% finished mark instead of the 2% finished mark.

After a few minutes my body began to regulate itself and found a pace it could maintain throughout the race.  I carefully tuned into the playlist I put together the night before; each song was designed to pump me up and energize me to finish the race.  The songs ran the gamut from Bambaleo by the Gipsy Kings to Ring the Alarm by Beyonce to Canibal by Ivente Sangalo, a Brazilian artist.

I ventured out in this playlist to include Ivete’s Samba hit, Canibal, but going forward, I don’t think I’ll create a running playlist without it – and surely it will be strategically placed towards the end of the list.  The super double-time rhythm transported me into the middle of Carnival with the heavily decked out women in tall feather headdresses moving their hips and feet at an ungodly pace.  In the end it inspired me to move my bunda to finish the race.

Though I ran a 1/2 marathon last year, I basically stopped running since my arrival here in Lebanon.  It wasn’t until about 2 or 3 weeks ago I committed to myself that I would workout at least 20 minutes per day for 6 days a week, if for nothing else than my health.  From there I found the Inter-Lebanon Road Running & Athletics Club and they informed me of the Bickfaya Flowers 7k Race and the rest is history!

One explanation in the slowdown of my running schedule is my location.  Sidewalks are a novelty in Lebanon, and our school is currently working to construct in indoor gymnasium.  To combat this, I’ve taken to waking up early to run before the daring traffic and oogling gawkers come out.

In running outside, I’ve had to face one of my biggest running fears: hills.  Bickfaya loomed like a giant in my mind because I heard it would be a hilly course.  Given that I’m from Chicago, a place notorious for being slope-impaired, I felt as though I wasn’t trained properly to run a course with hills.  So this past week, and a bit before, I began to run hills, almost every day.  At first I ran them 6 times, with walks in between.  Then I took on a bigger hill.  Each day I added a set to the hill or I added slope to the hills I was running.  By the time I got to Bickfaya today, I was thinking, these hills ain’t got nothing on my Sabtieh (a place where the hills are quite steep and the incline to reach the school rises for almost a kilometer or more.

In the end, I’m more than happy that I participated and have begun to carve a semblance of a life out for myself.  I’m happy for the new running friends I’m making (especially my new friend Farah) and I hope to run more races in Lebanon.

To all the runners out there, no matter where you are, Happy Running!

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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.

We all need a little “Escape-o-therapy” every now and again, no matter what our latitude.  I had a small dose this weekend at a nearby cove.  Though it was small, it was beyond what I could have imagined.  It was great “Escape-0-therapy.”

Rock of Raouche, Beirut, Lebanon

The majority of life is normal and mundane.

We are often caught in its routine – the demands of work and family.  The musts, have tos, shoulds and should nots.  Seldom are we really able to just let go and be free.  To be captured.

There’s a very scenic place in downtown Beirut, along the Corniche, which in my mind is Beirut’s “Lakeshore Drive.”  The Corniche is a happening place to walk with family or friends or a lover.  Passers by are offered tea or coffee for a small price as they enjoy the view.  Everyday, the familiar buzz of city life is painted on the backdrop of a lazy sun dripping into the horizon until it is finally gone.

Last Friday, I was captured.