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recapping lebanon

April 8, 2011

Lebanon is a truly beautiful and complex country. I made my way over there because I had to leave the country to renew my visa, but it was really a well-timed break for me. I relaxed, re-calibrated, and returned ready to jump back into my life here full-time. (And that I certainly have…a few people expressed concerns over the possibility of burnout just today, and I’m totally with them. I’m scrambling to reshuffle my schedule and just say no once in a while, as hard as that can be for me. I don’t think I can last much longer at this pace.)

Anyway, I took a ton of pictures, as per usual when I make an excursion (not so much during my daily life here). I wasn’t a very consistent photographer so I ended up with a kind of weird collection–IĀ  but I’ll let them do most of the talking anyway.

First of all…Lebanon is a different world from Jordan. Architecturally (and sometimes culturally) much more European. Its landscape is much more diverse–Mediterranean Sea, snow-capped mountains, and tons and tons of green. They don’t have water shortages there…just electricity ones.

The first few days, my roommate A and I stayed with a friend of hers who teaches at a school in the south of Lebanon, in Sur (aka Tyre). It’s a smallish city by the sea, with Roman ruins nestled right in the middle of it…alongside a Palestinian refugee camp, volatile neighborhoods (Tyre was hit hard during the 2006 war and there is substantial Hezbollah support there), and a breathtaking sea-front unfortunately thick with garbage in some areas. Just the same, I found it remarkably peaceful.

We also managed to spend about a half day exploring nearby Saida (aka Sidon) with some new friends from the area. Castles and fishermen and palm trees, oh my. Getting there and back was a public transportation headache that made me eminently grateful for the comparatively orderly (and cheap!) system we have here in Amman. I did have some fun chatting with the old lady sitting next to me on the mini-bus, though. And accidentally falling asleep on her shoulder. She didn’t seem to mind.

We moved on to Beirut for our final couple days, which kicked off its own new wave of culture shock. Back in the day–pre-civil war–Beirut was nicknamed the “Paris of the East,” and some people I’ve talked to still use that nickname to highlight the cultural differences between there and here. Even as it rebuilds, Beirut holds onto its reputation as a glittery, Westernized capital.

Speaking of rebuilding: you don’t have to look far to find crumbling, bullet-ridden buildings scattered among the plentiful cranes and construction plans. The top two pictures below show a building sitting near the old Green Line and, just a few blocks away, the stunning National Museum of Beirut. The first thing we did there was view a short documentary on the restoration of the museum after the war. Watching these men and women file into the bombed-out shell of a building and carefully unpack each artifact to see what damage was wrought…it was surprisingly moving. So was checking out the display of artifacts that had, indeed, survived thousands of years only to be irreparably changed by a 20th century war.

Other highlights: strolling along the Corniche (bottom right in the very first pic of the post), amazing food, the beautiful campus of AUB, and falling asleep on a rock by the sea. Also, people-watching and eavesdropping by the clock tower on Sunday afternoon, where it seems the posh crowd comes out to play. There were almost as many South/east Asian nannies as there were dyed and Botoxed mamas chatting amongst themselves. Surreal: realizing that a little boy who had Lebanese parents and lived in Lebanon did not speak even basic Arabic when he had to ask his dad how to say “cold” so he could buy a drink from a man on the street.

All in all, Lebanon is a beautiful and confusing country, and one I was thrilled to visit.

But like I said, I was glad to come home. Home is home, and not-home is…not. I leave you now with these wonderful words of wisdom because I’m exhausted and I used more words in this post than originally planned. Night y’all.

[P.S. Some of the pictures got fuzzy when WordPress compressed them, so click to enlarge if you wanna see them pretty. I promise they’re nicer that way.]

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    April 8, 2011 9:53 pm

    Awesome! I’m jealous.

  2. Hei-Jung Chin Kim permalink
    April 9, 2011 9:50 am

    I like looking at the world through your lenses. Great pictures and beautifu stories…To think I doubted your picture taking skills…Want more pictures!!!

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