Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1 October

Despite the stale humidity and raging sun, my incessant need to explore has beckoned me around Hamra.  I admit, the heat dissuades me from exploring much further, but I have heard it will break soon.  So, like everyone else, I find myself waiting.  Sweaters have made an appearance in the shops, so I take heart that some cool air will soon blow through Beirut.  Then again, sweaters come out in American shops in July, so who knows!

My favorite spot in Hamra has become the Corniche.  Stretching for several kilometers, this paved walkway circles around Hamra and follows the curve of the Mediterranean.  First green around the volcanic looking rocks of the coast and then growing into a deep blue, the Mediterranean is lovely.  I enjoy watching it swallow the rocks and then slowly reveal them again.  Men - well, mostly men- stand on the rocks and fish with incredibly long poles, and every so often, a large resort area with pools and posh cabanas juts out into the water.  The Corniche is home to joggers and walkers, men in white flowing robes and women in tiny tank-tops, babies in strollers and elderly couples out for some air.  At night the Corniche becomes the center of activity: some stroll with their children, others play loud Arabic rock from their parallel parked cars, and a few smoke water pipes, despite it being disallowed.

If you continue to follow the Corniche - past the hotels, past the gelato stand, past the Ferris wheel in the always empty amusement park- you will arrive to the Pigeon Rocks.  Although the large trucks belching black smoke in one’s face make it difficult to climb the hill and the barbed wire encasing a random military area seems strange, the Rocks are worth it.  Made of many lovely white layers and looming large above the water, the main Rock is an arch and the other simple stands beside it.  I’ve drug Nathan there several times, trying to catch the optimum light for photographing he rocks, but I’ve not found it yet, owing to clouds and a later-than-realized sunset.  

We did escape the bustle and noise of Hamra to visit a beach several kilometers north of Beirut.  I enjoyed walking a short distance along the coast (the beaches are demarcated so you stay in yours) and watching the sun sink into the sea, but the real story surrounds the transportation.  Having grown used to the organized, clean, indoor, bus depots of Korea, I felt very unprepared for the madness and chaos of the Beirut bus depot.  People stood helter-skelter amid the outdoor station, buying tickets from the counter outside the bus they wanted.  Never did I see a timetable or price notice.  For someone as seriously organized and anal as me, this was a trial.  Not to mention, the bus simply dropped at the side of a highway to get to the beach.  What happened to going to the town’s bus depot or at least a bus stop?  Luckily, the young Iraqi with us seemed to think this was business as usual, so I let it out of my mind.  Later that night, to return to Beirut, we merely walked up to the highway, waited two minutes, and a mini-bus arrived.  For two dollars, we got back to Beirut, but not before stopping along and picking up any random pedestrian until the bus was full.  Then it just dumped us off on the side of the road again!  We had to take a taxi back to NEST.  I know there must be a reason, a logic, an organization to this, but I don’t know what it is.  I surely hope I figure it out soon!  Anyway, it was quite the experience. 

So, before I lose the internet, signing off from Beirut, where I change clothes several times a day without fear because there are free laundry machines,

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