Sunday, November 7, 2010

7 November

Instead of writing a fully paragraphed entry, I’m going to hit some interesting points about living in Lebanon.

            Things that are Cool

- As night falls and we sit playing backgammon on the balcony, hearing the call to prayer echo through the darkening city.  Every time I hear it, I feel that I am somewhere different.

- Delicious, thin bread called manakeesh with various different toppings.  I love to watch the street vendor heat manakeesh on the big, rounded griddle and then add the ingredients to the top, before folding it in half to hand to the salivating customer.  Maybe the most delicious kind is zaatar, made from thyme and other spices mixed together and placed on the bread.

- Wandering through the hippodrome (horse track), in a light rain, going from booth to booth tasting the wines of Lebanon with newfound friends.  Then, after an evening of laughter and strolling, finding the booth with free gingersnaps and banana fritters.

- Living in a small, international community of incredibly nice people.  We eat every meal and have every class with the same twenty people, but everyone is so nice, it is actually very pleasant.

- Jaunting away for the weekend to the nearby Qadisha Valley, exploring the Maronite hermitages and monasteries- talk about gorgeous and historically fascinating!  In order to avoid persecutions and escape the high taxes imposed by the Muslim government, the Maronite Christians escaped to the mountains, where they built a plethora of hermit caves, monasteries, and terraced gardens to survive.  While there are many predominately Maronite villages still in this area, most of the monasteries and hermitages are largely empty and many are only ruins.  Our guide kept pointing out aged caves in the cliff where chapels once were, in addition to visiting a Colombian hermit and the monastery where the Patriarchs used to live and where many are buried.  

            Things I will Never Take for Granted

- Lanes and reflectors on the highway.  For that matter, I will never take for granted lights in tunnels or taillights, which both seem to be optional here.

- Guardrails.  At some points on our journey in the mountains, I could look out the window of our bus and see straight down a sheer cliff with nothing protecting me from certain death it except the driver’s ability to stay on the tiny, crooked road.

- Eating in a reputable restaurant and knowing that I will not wake up at 4am, deathly ill.  I think I traveled probably a total of 2 miles that day between my bed and the bathroom.   I guess I should consider that my training for the 10k I ran this morning.

- The ability to flush my toilet paper.  I won’t elaborate on that.

- I’m still a bit freaked out that there are so many stray cats roaming the streets.  In fact, I’m unsure if there are more cats or more cranes in Beirut.

- Grass, trees, anything that might remind me of nature.

So, these are just a few notes about things I miss in America and things I really like about Lebanon, just to give you a different look at our lives here.

From Beirut, where I ran my first 10k today in what resembled more a parade than a race, with people in costumes and on stilts, bands on multiple corners, and something like 20,000 people walking in mass,


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