Posts Tagged ‘Beirut’

So, suddenly Adel has blown in like a whirlwind onto Beirut, I Love You.  He’s taken every girl’s heart by storm, except for those hopeless romantics, who are blinded by Yasmine’s relationship already in progress with Tarek.

But if viewers were to be honest, especially those of the female persuasion, they’d admit that their bias goes beyond the prospect of rekindling an old flame, rather it has something to do with Adel himself.  I say this because when I searched my blog statistics today, I saw that many of the searches that led people to my blog were “Real name of Adel from Beirut, I Love you” and “Adel, Beirut, I Love you.”  As further evidence, on “Beirut, I Love You”‘s Facebook page, the top post is about…..drumroll please…..Adel.  There’s just something about Adel.

I believe it’s safe to say that if Adel were a warm knafeh, served up early in the morning, women throughout Beirut would eat him right up.  I surmise that if there were a Mr. Beirut contest, we’d throw Adel in the mix.

While I like to leave my TV crushes in the fantasy world, some like to project possibilities into the future.  I suppose this is why they want to know Adel’s real name.  I am here to satisfy your curiosities.  According to the credits at the end of Episode 20, his real name is Ghady Haidar.  What you will do with this information, I don’t know, but use it wisely.  And if you meet Adel, tell him Beirut loves him and so do I.

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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.

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.

I woke up this morning to the sound of gusts of wind banging the doors around, like a tempestuous child who didn’t get his way.  Then, as part of my morning routine, I rolled over and checked my e-mail.  With my 8 hour advanced schedule, sometimes things happen over night.  I was greeted with the following e-mail:

How was your day?

How is Lebanon? I heard the news about Lebanon’s government. Any changes to daily life in Lebanon?

My response:

Still in bed, so i dnt know yet. : )

“The news” being referenced is that 11 of the 30 ministers in the Lebanese government resently resigned, causing a collapse in the government and a vacuum of power. However, upon checking CNN.com, Aljazeera.com and BBC.co.uk, I realized that this was far and away not the day’s top news story.  CNN was focused on the shooting in Arizona; Al-Jazeera on a story in Israel and BBC on the floods in Brazil.

Having grown up in America, I wasn’t sure how to react to this news, but as I set off for class, I noticed that life was in tact.  I realize for most, this is life as they know it.  I’m definitely new to it all.  I’m familiar with a different type of unrest.  Americans refer to a crisis as bickering of politicians across the aisle.

Granted, I live outside of the city, so I don’t have an accurate feeling of life on the ground, in the heart of the city. But as far as my eye can see and my ear can hear (which isn’t too far considering I don’t speak Arabic), life seems to be marching on like normal.

So this is what crisis feels like?

Today, I was presented with the task of explaining the word “swag” to a couple of my new Lebanese friends and to my Brazilian co-worker.  I started off by saying, “you know, a cool guy.”  (Read: the cool guy, who gets all the chicks)  I accompanied my explanation with a little back and forth wave of my body, which in my mind represented cool.  I was met with blank stares, so I suggested we consult Urbandictionary.com.  Usually, this site, which is the urban version of Wikipedia meeting an Oxford dictionary, doesn’t let me down, but today…..well let’s just say if this were my first day on the job as an English teacher, I failed at getting my lesson across.

Later in the day, I decided to make my foray into running in Lebanon.  Our school, like many other Adventist universities, sits on top of a large hill overlooking the city.  And I planned to run it.  About 3 steps into the run, the cocky American runner, who recently completed her first half marathon, shriveled into a humble American runner, who hailed from the plains of Illinois and hadn’t run any hills in over 8 years.

My legs fought for every inch of ground as I struggled up the hill.  It was in that moment, after my first 3 steps, that I decided, before I boldly signed up for the Beirut marathon, as I initially planned to do, I should get to know the lay of the land and familiarize myself with the terrain.  I should avoid rushing in boldly using all of the methods that worked for me in the past.  I should toss aside my preconceived notions about what this run would be like.

My challenge of explaining swag, along with my mountainside run, helped me acknowledge the uphill climb that lies ahead of me.  The challenge of learning a language, learning about a new group of people and learning about myself, all while avoiding stereotypes, comes with a steep learning curve.  While it’s easy to identify other people’s stereotypes, I’ve had to also acknowledge my own and challenge them.  I have had to challenge what I’ve always been told.  Stereotypes and prejudices are a lazy man’s excuse for not constructing his own opinion.

It wasn’t easy to explain swag, but in the end, I think they got it, when I said, “think Muhammad Ali, before a big fight., or a basketball player on the court.”

This entire experience will surely be an uphill climb, especially as I’m teaching those essential phrases.

Maybe the scariest part about moving to a faraway land is that life goes on.  Life goes on where you are, and life goes on where you were.  Though I knew this to be true, I really started to accept it this weekend.

I went to a rooftop “gathering,” if you will, this past weekend that was for foreign teachers at two international schools in Beirut.  The space was filled with Americans, a few Canadians, a dotting of Europeans and a South African.  Some were Serial International Teachers, having done stints in Pakistan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  One couple met while doing Peace Corps in Moldova.  Others had found love and married into Lebanese families.

For the second time, I felt at home among a group of people.  The first was when I visited Georgetown’s MSFS (Masters of Science in Foreign Service) program.  It seemed like everyone there was speaking my language.

While shooting the breeze with some of the teachers, I asked a couple, who I would categorize as Serial International Teachers, how they manage to live in two time zones.  The wife looked at me and said in a matter of fact way, “You eventually stop living in your former time zone.”

I must admit, my heart sank a little.  I don’t know if I believe it to be true to that extent, but I do think that life goes on.  Children keep growing.  People fall in love.  The mail continues to be delivered.  Life moves on.

This past weekend, I was very active in church.  In fact, I was probably more active this weekend than I had been in a whole year at home, not because I didn’t want to be active, but because I never committed to a church community.  Now that I’m trying it on, commitment doesn’t feel so bad.

At our Friday night service we talked about seeds, and how we’re always planting them.  Not all of my readers are spiritual, but either way, I think this can be applied in all aspects of life.

In life, we’re always planting seeds.  Because we can never geographically be everywhere and life goes one whether we’re present or not, we should always be conscious of the seeds we’re planting.

After going into Beirut this weekend, I realized that our school offers an oasis from the congestion that is Beirut.  Here’s a glimpse into it.  These are all of the seeds we found on our campus:

I can’t say much these days to phase my mom.

My initial scare tactics began as a child, when I boldly announced my desire to go to summer camp.  My parents halfheartedly acquiesced.  I thanked them by yelling in protest when they came to pick me up.

My second attempt at freedom came when I boldly announced my desire to go to boarding school.  Contrary to popular belief, I went there willingly, in full sanity.  My parents neither shipped me off, nor did I commit a heinous crime.  Hey, some people like the taste of a fine wine.  I prefer the taste of freedom.  So, once again, I headed off, much to my dad’s chagrin.

From there I moved away from gateway travel and started hitting the hard stuff.  Spain for a year-long study abroad stint, followed by a summer in Brazil.  I started trying it all.  It didn’t matter what it was, as long as I could get my travel high.  I ventured to South Korea to visit a friend, returned to Brazil and hit up Mozambique, among a bevy of other less potent trips.

Through it all, my mom consistently maintained her cool.  My dad…not so much.

And then, while well-poised to keep my dad’s blood pressure at a cool 120/80, I dropped the unexpected:  “I’m going to Beirut.  Lebanon, that is.  Beirut, Lebanon.  Yes, dad, the one that’s just north of Israel.  Yes, the one that often makes the news.”

This announcement was followed, by a long bout of silence, from both of my parental units.  But I knew that for each parent the silence should be interpreted in different ways.

From my mom:  “I’m processing this.  This is my daughter, and she often comes up with crazy, harebrained ideas.  Has she thought this through?  Will she change her mind in a week?  I’ve always told her to travel and explore the world.  She’s living her life like I wish I would have at her age.  I’m trusting God to keep her safe.”

From my dad:  “I’m processing this.  This is my daughter, and she often comes up with crazy, harebrained ideas. #^@%@&@(#(#).”

I wish I could share the rest, but my dad’s a good Christian man, and even his thoughts are censored.

Let me give this whole thing some context.

While the two screens I was offered at my corporate gig seemed a step up from the laptop my previous Big 4 Accounting Firm offered me, I still couldn’t quite scratch the itch I was feeling to travel.  To see, explore and understand the world.  To put the news I watch on my TV screen into context and maybe even help write some of it.

I longed for the ten-times recycled air generously ventilated throughout the plane, crying babies, irritated by cabin pressure, who felt fully liberated in letting us know about it, and often cranky American flight attendants.  I needed a good adventure.

However, let me be clear, this is no quarter life crisis trip.  This fits into the whole scheme of things.  This is me stepping out in faith and taking a risk to accomplish “that which otherwise would not have been accomplish.”  This is an expansion of my Sand Pails and Beach Balls lists.  Goals can’t just be limited to the summer time.  I’ll clue you in more on how it all fits together in a later post.

You may have heard me say it before, but I ran (and walked) a ½ marathon in Spain, without any training.  The only thing I had to guide me were the words of Muhammad Ali, “When a man says I cannot, he has made a suggestion to himself.  He has weakened his power of accomplishing that which otherwise would have been accomplished.”  And I’m taking that attitude with me now, except this time, I’ve got a little somethin’ extra.

While Ali had all the cockiness of God, God he is not.  And that’s the main advantage I take with me on this trip.  I feel inspired and guided this time.  I’m excited for the adventure, excited to teach my students and excited to learn and grow.

Don’t worry mom, I plan to have an adventure that lets you maintain the ever- present calm that’s fitting of the diva you are.