Since I’ve recently settled on staying in Lebanon for another year, I’ve decided to get in where I fit in. In other words, I gotta figure out how I fit in here. While I’m often reminded that this is the Paris of the Middle East with an incomparable nightlife, I’m not much of a club head. If I’m honest with myself, it’s not really my scene. So, I gotta get in where I fit in.

Last year, around this time, I was training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago. I was so amped after the race that I decided I would try to train for the Beirut Marathon. Upon my arrival, I was a little disappointed to discover that there’s not much of a running scene – at least not an apparent one. Whereas in Chicago, I could easily find my way to Lake Shore Drive and find a bevy of runners, bikers and roller bladers, here, I struggle just to safely walk up and down the hill in my neighborhood to run necessary errands, let alone jog as a leisure activity. It’s kindof like running in the hood. You don’t ever see anyone doing it, unless it’s out of necessity.

Lately I’ve been on a hunt to find the running scene, and now I think I’m happening upon it. I’ve recently found the Inter-Lebanon Road Running and Athletic Club. So far, the organizers have been quite helpful in showing me the ropes. They’ve even told me about Bickfaya Flowers Race, a 7k on a hilly course, that’s coming up in about 10 days or so. While the hills sound a bit intimidating, considering I’m from a flat state, I might just whip up the courage to participate if I can manage my schedule.

For now, I’m excited to see where I fit in

Somehow the song “Lean on Me” helps me reminisce about my childhood – summer camp performance of it during a talent show, church song used to do a mini-step (not dance) routine, just singing with friends to show allegiance and friendship.

It’s the first song that comes to mind today.

The hardest part about being so far away from home, in a country where internet service is iffy, is being so far away from my support system.  Don’t get me wrong, I love new friends, but for a commitaphobe, who takes a while to trust people, there’s something about having your tried-and-trues just a short drive or a phone call away.  Sometimes a sistah just needs someone who gets it.

So in honor of all of those ex-pats, who find them selves on the other side of the ocean, divide, equator, continent or world, this one’s for you!

As far as I know, McDonald’s prides itself in the quick turnaround of its customers’ orders – hence the term fast food.  I mean they’re not cooking slow roasted baby back ribs.  We’re talking hamburgers and fries, dipped in boiling hot grease to ensure quick turnaround (and clogged arteries).  This is why I am assured that I have officially found the SLOWEST McDonald’s in the World.

Fix your eyes on this:

According to the receipt, the order was taken at 8:55 and the customer (in this case Ryan) did not receive his burger and nuggets until 9:21.  I’ve seen Mickey D’s that have little stop watches for their employees to push them to get their orders out more quickly.  The stop watch equivalent here is being pushy.  Pushing your way to the front of the line. Pushing past the other customers and pushing the person making the order.  The flipside of not pushing is waiting indefinitely for your order.

Unfortunately, it took less time to eat this than it did to make.

City Mall McDonald’s – I officially confer upon you the title “The Slowest McDonald’s in the World.”

2,500 Lebanese Pounds

Yesterday, I ate a Potato Sandwich – a sandwich made with a thin flat bread filled with coleslaw, ketchup, mayonnaise and french fries that is rolled up and eaten.  For all intents and purpose, it’s kindof like a burrito.  I paid for it with the money shown above.  Is that a US Dollar, you ask.  Why yes it is!

As in many countries around the world, US Dollars can be used along with the local currency – in this case Lebanese Pounds or Liras – in everyday transactions.  1500 Lebanese Pounds is roughly equal to a Dollar.  And this number remains fairly stable, because since 1999 (according to Wikipedia) the Lebanese Pound has been pegged to the US Dollar.  Thanks to undergrad International Finance classes, I can tell you that that means when the Lebanese Pound rises and falls with the Dollar.

I’m more fascinated with the ease that people deal with this mixture of currency than I am with their monetary policy.  In everyday transactions, you can easily see a US 20 Dollar bill right next to several Lebanese Lira.  And with ease the store attendant or cashier will give you precise change.

At least someone will take our money.

I remember during the lowest valley of the US economic crisis when one of my colleagues went to Canada for vacation.  She told us that she went to the store to pay for something and they refused to accept her US Dollars.  I thought to myself, what has this world come to when even Canada won’t take our money…

Oh the Places I’ll Go

Posted: May 30, 2011 in Adventure, Lebanon
Tags: ,

I’ve been getting so many questions lately about what I’m doing next.

First from my dad.

Dad: “So, what are you doing next?”  Me: “I’m not sure yet.”  Dad: “Do you at least have an idea?” Me: “No, not yet.” Dad: (sigh of resignation)

Then from my best friend.

BFF: “So, what are you doing next?”  Me: “I’m not sure yet.”  BFF: “But how will I choose what ice cream flavor to eat if you’re not here?”

Then from my peeps in Lebanon:

Leb Peeps: “So, what are you doing next?”  Me: I’m not sure yet.”  Leb Peeps: (indecisive woman, decide quickly)

Right now I find myself at a crossroad.  Actually, I’d be happy if I were at a crossroad; at least then there’d only be two options.

Oh, what place shall I go?

Then I remembered a book that I love.  The commencement speaker read it for our 8th grade graduation.  “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

If this video is any sort of fortune teller, I should be emerging from the Waiting Place any day now with my final decision.

Wait for it….Wait for it…

Before I left the states my hairdressser told me, in the hushed whisper that hairdressers use when they’re telling you a juicy secret, that she had heard that one of her customers had told her that Middle Eastern guys are cute.  She described them as dark and handsome with the most mysterious of eyes.

In many ways she’s right.  Many of them are just that.  It’s pleasantly surprising to see men who can wear facial hair, since it’s not so common for business men in the states to have a full beard or 5 o’clock shadow without judgment of some sort.

Now, I officially have a crush, and his name is Adel.  Okay, so he’s not someone I interact with everyday, but he’s a crush nonetheless.  Isn’t he lovely?  (you’ll have to wait til you get 1 minute in to meet him)

For the past two weeks we’ve been hosting a group of American college students from Andrews University on campus.  It’s been great seeing students make friendships and learn about other cultures.  I’ve totally enjoyed hearing the voices of other Americans on campus, though I know it’s short-lived.

To show-off some of the best of Lebanese culture, this past Saturday night, we had Shawarma and Cocktails.  Before coming here, the only Fruit Cocktail I knew was made by Dole and consisted of small cubed pieces of fruit doused in sickly sweet syrup.

This cocktail is a mix of strawberry and avocado (yes! avocado) juice with sweet chunks of fruit mixed inside.  It’s a delight!  (LOL.  I can’t believe I just called something a delight).

Fruit Cocktail

And Shawarma…when I think of Shawarma, I think of gyros.  Given that I don’t eat meat, I’m probably not the best person to explain this dish, but the picture should speak for itself.

Shawarma

Off to sleep as I prepare to finish up the last few weeks of the year….