Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Osijek, Croatia. 7-8 June 2010

On the morning of the 7th I took a train over the border to a Croatian town called Osijek, off the beaten path but nonetheless interesting and full of history. In 1991, the Yugoslav-Serb forces surrounded the town and put it under a nine-month seige, and the town remained in the front lines throughout the war. You can still see evidence of this in the multiple shell and bullet holes in buildings throughout the city.

I went down a side street because I saw this beautiful building from afar. Upon closer inspection, it was covered in shell and bullet holes.

A kid, Ivan, gave us a tour of the town. He was 11 when the war began, and is one of the few people who are more than happy to talk about it and have moderate views. Later that night we talked after everyone else had gone to bed and he said that at the time, he was really nationalistic, really angry because all he knew was his life was being turned upside-down and his dad had to go to the trenches. But now he recongnizes that the war was more in shades of gray, that both (in fact, all, international forces included) were party to atrocities. He thought that communication between ethnicities would go a long way toward peaceful coexistance. He told me an example of this, how throughout Croatia they use these 'Hepo' cubes to help light fires. Everyone pronounces it like you probably just read it, kind of like 'hippo.' But these cubes are made in Serbia, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Read in Cyrillic, it's pronounced 'Nero,' like the emperor. But no one in Croatia had ever talked to a Serb or even realized it was in a different alphabet. His friends are still amazed when he corrects their pronounciation. He says it's like an epiphany.

The next day my fellow travelers took a canoe (sp?) trip. It was a bit expensive and not really my cup of tea, so I stayed back and wandered around town for a few hours. I started off in the daily Central Market, a huge farmers market with fresh produce and some clothes. Then I wandered around, through the underground mall and all around town. I did a bit of shopping-clothes are much cheaper here- and then managed to get myself lost for a good hour and a half in this tiny town. Go figure.

Welcome to Budapest! 4-6 June 2010

I arrived somewhat late to my hotel in Budapest after dealing with lost luggage and navigating stand-still traffic for a few hours. Despite the complications, I didn't really care. I was just happy to be there! Budapest was a beautiful city, and I booked my first night there at the Marriott, overlooking the Danube with a great view across the river. I walked around for a few hours that evening, crossing the Chain Bridge, walking past the Parliament Building, and eventually found my way to St. Stephen's Basilica.

Outside the Basilica was a rally marking the 90th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, which divided Hungary into a smaller state following the end of WWI. I was first a bit nervous because there were a disproportionate amount of white, mustachioed, camo-wearing men than I'm used to. But since it was part of a mass going on in the Basilica, I'm pretty sure it was legit.

The next day, I grabbed an amazing hotel breakfast on the patio overlooking the river, then transferred to my cheaper hotel... sad!! I then went to the House of Terror, located on 62 Andrassy Avenue, and the former headquarters of both the Nazi and Communist regimes. Today it is a museum and monument to the victims of both regimes. The basement, used in the past as a prison, torture chamber, and execution hall, was also open to visitors.

Wall of Victims, House of Terror

I then continued down Andrassy and ran into a street festival full of different foods, wines, beers, crafts, and art projects. It was a really interesting way for me to see a lot of Hungarian culture all at once, and culture packaged for Hungarian consumption, not for foreigners. I saved all the climbing for my last day in Budapest. I crossed over to Buda on the opposite side of the river and climbed up Castle Hill, a really old part of town complete with tiny, cobble-stoned streets.
View of Pest from Castle Hill

I spent a few hours there, then went back for a proper visit to St. Stephen's and visited the Dohany Street Synagogue, the oldest in Europe.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keifa naqool, "Leave me alone or I'll throw a shoe?"

May 11, 2010

I haven't really kept up the blog because every day here is like the other-- morning run, class from 10 to 12, a break for lunch, class from 2 to 4, homework and dinner until bed, repeat. The classes are really challenging, and we're learning a bunch of incredibly complicated words and rules. My teachers try to convince me Arabic is actually really easy, but I must confess, I think they're lying. And now my brain is so full of this new stuff it's forgetting the old stuff.

I love Fes. It's a beautiful city, and everywhere you look is an amazing view. While dealing with the men is difficult, the good people here far outweigh the bad. I absolutely love the shopkeeper down the street from whom I buy water just about every other day. Ahsan and I are on a first-name basis and I leave every interaction with him smiling. He's just so kind and genuine and welcoming. The lady who cleans our house, Leila, is also really amazing. She's like my older sister here. Next week she's taking me to get a jalaba, traditional Moroccan dress. The women wear theirs in really beautiful colors, while the men's jalabas are much more dull. When I first saw them, I thought they looked straight out of Star Wars.

They keep me from going Dr. Evil and throwing a shoe at every schmuck who acts like a creeper. Especially the guy this morning who actually invaded my personal bubble and touched me. Makes me so angry because Islam is such a beautiful religion and there is none of that blatant disrespect there.

We also found a sushi place and I've been there three times already; needless to say, the servers there recognize my face. KaiTai, the restaurant, serves legit sushi, which surprised me. Even better, when I went there last, the cute server asked Francesco if he was my father and then told Francesco he thought I was beautiful... doing it the legit way!!

Before I came here, I figured I would do more traveling on the weekends, but I'm so busy with class and homework during the week there isn't much time to explore this city. Instead of running around like a crazy tourist trying to see all the different cities (and I already saw most of them last time), I'm enjoying taking it slow here and soaking up my surroundings. I love seeing tourists totally lost then walking up to them and telling them exactly how to get to where they're trying to go. I'm sure they're thankful when an English speaker offers to help them without asking for money.

People ask me to compare Morocco and Lebanon, and they couldn't be any more different. I see almost no parallel between the two. Morocco is a much more traditional society, and the relations between the different religions give it a dynamic Morocco could never duplicate. In Morocco, men sit around in cafes and drink tea. In Lebanon, men and women go out for tea, for dinner, and in many cases, for drinks. The closest thing to that in Fes is the McDonald's down the street. I feel more at home in Morocco, though, and am thankful Fes doesn't have the whole clusterf*ck thing going on.

Two more weeks to go, and it's a bit bittersweet. I don't really want to leave, and am actually considering coming back next summer or something for more Arabic courses.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Welcome to Fez! I've been here for about a week and am just about settled. I arrived in the wee hours of Tuesday, April 13, even later then anticipated because the immigration line went wicked slow and I was literally the last person in line. I guess I can't complain because I actually made it to Fez, which is more than I can say about my first trip to Morocco a few years ago when the Moroccan airline nearly stranded me in Casa. I had a driver pick me up at the airport and bring me to the hotel so I wouldn't have to deal with cabbies at 1 in the morning.

I spent the first two nights in Fez in Hotel Menzeh Zalegh, about half a block from ALIF, the school I will be attending for the next few weeks. The school, the hotel, and the villa in which I am now living is in the Ville Nouvelle, about a 10 minute drive from the medina. I'm actually okay with it, because there's more space, things are cheaper, I don't get as lost as I would in the labrynth, and men out in the Ville Nouvelle are much less pushy then those in the medina. And there would be no way I could run in the medina. Here, people look at me like, "What the hell is that girl doing?" but no one bothers me. I was a bit suprised about the extent to which Morocco is a cash-based society (no one except the banks and supermarket take credit cards), but the Ville Nouvelle is pretty modern. Menzeh Zalegh is apparently one of the nicest hotels in the area, and my room was huge with a wicked view of Fez.

View of Fez el-Bali from the Ville Nouvelle

After breakfast the first day, I went on an AMAZING run, then over to ALIF to secure a room in the villa, and then hopped in a cab and went down to Fez el-Bali, or the medina. I think the people at the hotel thought I was crazy to go there alone, but it was okay. Just ignore the men and keep on walking. I entered through the Bab Bou Jeloud, the main entrance to the old city, and wandered around for a few hours. I got to see the Medersa Bou Inania, built between 1350 and 1357 by the Merenid sultan. Unlike most medersas, it had an elaborate mosque and minaret. I peeked inside the Kairaouine Mosque, which is the focal point of Fez' religious community, and the mausoleum of Moulay Idris II. It's huge, accomidating up to 20,000 during prayers, but closed to non-Muslims. I also visited the Medersa el-Attarine.

Panorama of Fez

At one point, I was relaxing just outside the old city's walls, reading my Lonely Planet to try to catch my bearings and see what other sites I missed. Two women sat down near me, and without me even looking over, gave me one of the yummiest oranges ever. Little things like that remind me why I fell in love with this country in the first place. Despite the pushy and disrespectful Arab men, most are welcoming and want visitors to feel comfortable.

After my trip to the medina, I came back to the Ville Nouvelle for dinner. I found a yummy restaurant called Restaurant Marrakech. It was a wonderful experience (I got chicken tagine with prunes--yummm!) until the waitress asked me to leave the table before I was finished eating to make room for other people. Had she brought me my check with dessert, I would have eaten, paid, and left. But instead she moved me to the bar area, so I paid and left no tip. It was kind of embarrasing, being a solo traveler and all.

The next morning, I moved myself over to the ALIF villa, kind of a grown-up dorm for students in the school. My next-door neighbor is a British girl named Harriet, and we've been hanging out a bit. There's also a Danish musician named Simon, an American named Trevor (?), a couple from Bristol, Virginia, named Mark and Mona, an older Italian man named Francesco, a Japanese girl named Ayya, and another American girl from Maine whose name I can't quite remember.

I got myself settled, then tried to go out to find lunch. All cafes are very much male-dominated. They just sit there, drinking tea and looking at women. Needless to say, I wouldn't have felt very comfortable there. After searching for an hour, I just got some bread from a bakery and later asked the school for good places to get lunch.

Thursday was the first day of classes. Both of my teachers, Sana and Abdulhaziz, are really great. Friday we had a free couscous welcome lunch, and I went with Harriet down to the supermarket. I love going to the grocery store. I was able to get all the essentials--my yummy chocolate cereal from Leb, APPLES, mangoes, fish, and couscous. YUMMMM!

On Saturday, the school organized a trip to the medina, and since it was free I tagged along. Our tour guide was a very, very good looking Moroccan man, which definitely made the trip more fun. We were to meet for the tour at 9am, but since we're on Moroccan time, he didn't get there until 10:15. We walked from ALIF to the Fez el-Jadeed, or New Fez. "New" and "old" are somewhat loose terms. New Fez was built in the late 1200s, and "old' Fez in the 800s, I believe. We walked by the Royal Palace, which is not open to the public but used by the royal family when they are in town. The Palace's golden doors are framed by Moroccan mosaic, and our tour guide showed us how artisans always purposely made a 'mistake' in their mosaics to show nothing is perfect (i.e. put a green tile where a red one should be). The Palace's grounds cover about 1/4 of all of Fez, and the guide told us it would take about three hours to walk around the walls of the complex. We walked though the Mellah, or Jewish quarter, right outside the Royal Palace. Mellah is the Arabic word for salt, and the Jewish community was one of the main actors in the salt trade. The proximity of the Jewish quarter to the Royal Palace is meant to show the importance of the Jewish community to the Moroccan state. Even today, one of the king's main advisors is Jewish, which our guide said earned him the scorn of many Palestinians.

After walking through Fez el-Jadeed, we went to the medina, where we walked by the Fez river, now mostly covered by a street. One of the things we visited that I could not find in my first trip to the medina was the tanneries. Animal pelts are dipped into vats of dyes, which I believe are mixed with chemicals, cow pee, and pigeon poop, making work in the tanneries very dangerous. Visitors are given a sprig of mint to hold against their noses to take the edge off the stench.


After the tour, we grabbed a late lunch at a restaurant outside the city's walls, and then walked back to the villa rather quickly to beat the rain. It's been raining off and on since Wednesday, when it hailed and my room flooded. It's supposed to stop raining tomorrow, inshallah.

Perhaps this means it will stop raining soon?

After relaxing for a bit, Harriet, Simon, and Francesco and I went over to Menzeh Zalegh for some Moroccan wine (the men had Moroccan beer).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

10-12 April 2010: BCN > MAD

10-12 April 2010: Barcelona

Well, Barcelona was quite an experience. I loved the city, but my hotel was horrible. I stayed in a total of four different rooms over the two nights. The first room they gave me had no window and smelled like smoke, so I asked to move. They moved me into a really nice room on the top floor with a sky light. Then the second day I took a shower and the entire room flooded; there was about a quarter-inch of water on the floor and it seeped into the floor below. Big ol' mess. They offered me a new room--room number three--but it was midnight by that time so I accepted it as a place to brush my teeth and shower because they turned the water off in my room. The next morning, I went to talk to the manager who basically told me tough shit, that I should have moved, and then put me in another room for the final day there and as "compensation" let me stay there past checkout.

The city was amazing. The first two days had beautiful weather, sunny and warm. I walked around about 8 hours both days. After arriving the first day, I took a short nap then walked past the Placa de Catalunya, down the pedestrian shopping area and tourist trap Las Ramblas, and to the harbor, where I sat on the bridge and people-watched. After the rest, I continued to the maze-like Barri Gotic, where I saw people dancing in front of the Cathedral. Starving but not really wanting to eat Spanish food, I grabbed delish street shwarma and then went to a bar in the Barri Gotic to catch the Barcelona-Madrid football game.

The second day was my outdoors, hiking day--poorly planned, really, because the two sites I visited were literally day-long hikes. I walked to Montjuic, a mountain on the outskirts of the city, and then walked up it to get an amazing panorama of the city. There were also various sights and I believe a few museums up there, but I didn't wear shoes made for walking up mountains so basically ran back to the hotel to change after a few hours. After changing shoes and grabbing a snack, I headed to Park Guell, which was probably my favorite sight in the entire city and designed by Gaudi.

After the park, I treated myself to dinner in a square off Las Ramblas and then went to La Ovella Negra, a bar in the backpackers' district, per Payal's suggestion for the best sangria in town. Boy, was she right--best sangria ever. Puts La Tasca to shame.

I guess my planning on doing all the outdoor activities before my last day in Barcelona was actually good. The last day was rainy, but it didn't matter too much because the three main sights I had left to see--la Sagrada Familia, la Pedera, and la Boqueria were all indoors or covered. La Sagrada Familia is the city's cathedral designed by Gaudi, and La Pedera is one of his casas turned into a Gaudi museum. Payal, who had spent a semester in Barcelona and knows my love of apples, made me promise not to smuggle any fruit into the country and instead buy fresh fruit at La Boqueria. It was a great outdoor, covered market. You could get any shaped gummies imaginable, fruit, meat, veggies, alcohol, snacks. I got mango--YUM!-- and a couple of apples.

For photos, see my Facebook page or ask me for the link. I'm on a minicomputer and not sure it has enough memory to upload all the photos.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Another amazing day in Lebanon. This entry will be pretty short because the photos will speak for themselves.

Quadisha Valley

I took a trip through the Quadisha Valley, home to numerous waterfalls, villages, and monasteries. We stopped in Bcharre, a small village that is the birthplace of Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and artist.

We stopped at the Cedars, a ski resort and home to a forest of the Lebanese national symbol.

We couldn’t go in because it was closed for the winter—the snow hides the baby cedar trees and tourists would trample them.

The fog rolling in en route to the monastery.

After a mezze lunch, we visited Dier Mar Antonios Qozhaya, an 11th century monastery that established the first-known printing press in the Middle East.

The monastery is built near a cave where miracles are said to happen. When we were there, a priest was praying over a sick girl who had been escorted to the monastery by her family.

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of those with mental illnesses and fertility issues. Pots are piled on one wall of the cave. When women who are having difficulty conceiving come to pray for a baby, they leave a pot open side up in the cave. After they conceive, they come back with their baby and flip their pot upside down.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I’m pretty sure I walked most of Beirut today. I walked Downtown to get more photos of the stuff I missed. I got a good shot of the former cinema, which was bombarded in 2006, still standing. I went inside the Mohammed al-Amin mosque and revisited the burial site of Rafiq Hariri.

Inside the Mohammed al-Amin mosque

I went to the Virgin Megastore, then headed back toward Hamra. I walked by the Holiday Inn, which opened shortly before the civil war and was used as a sniper hideaway. Covered in firearm holes, it is apparently still structurally sound but stands the same as it did for the past few decades, as a shell of a building.

The Holiday Inn

From the Holiday Inn, walked down to the Corniche, where I hung out until sunset.

Corniche at sunset

It was a lot livelier than the first time I visited (no rain, and a Saturday night instead of Sunday). For a while I noticed some kid was always around me. Annoying kid. He walked up to me and said, “You have beautiful eyes. Can I take your picture?” “No.” “Please? It’s not for the internet, but for school.” “No.” He kept on talking, and asked me why I was taking pictures (because there’s pretty scenery, a-hole). He said his name was Hassan, but I probably met a lot of Hassans. And his last name was Mubarak, like the Egyptian president. Wow. He asked me where I was from, and I said the States. About Lebanon, he said, “Oh, I bet it’s not like in the news.” I told him it was exactly what I was expecting. Then he said he had a friend from America who hated the United States. I told him I loved my country. He then said it wasn’t the country she hated, but the politics. George Bush.

That’s when I got pretty annoyed. I told him I loved politics, and that I wasn’t a fan of Dubya. Honestly, he’s been out of office for over a year. I get that he fucked up, and if any region deserves to complain, it’s the Middle East. But just as Lebanon isn’t just the country of Hezbollah, the United States isn’t just the country of George W. Bush. There’s a lot more to the United States, and there’s a huge difference of opinions on everything. All comments like his show ignorance. Probably not the best way to hit on me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I took advantage of a mid-week day off classes and took a trip to Northern Lebanon. I took the coastal highway up and stopped at Rachana, an artists’ village. Three brothers, famous for their sculptures and carvings, live there and the area is dotted with their art.

One of the brothers and his wife live in (what I thought looked like) a Smurf home.

Unforunately, Papa Smurf wasn't home.

The village was also dotted with fruit (I can’t remember what I ate, but it wasn’t something available in the States) and almond trees. I had never seen almonds on a tree before—I had no idea they were green.

What almonds look like in nature. Who knew? Not I.

Hilla also put this weird plant that spun around on my coat. Better than a bug, I guess. We picked some fruit and almonds for a snack before heading back to the car.

Our last and most important stop was Tripoli, the second-largest city in Lebanon.

View of Tripoli from the Citadel.

It was huge, but we spent most of our time in the Old City. We climbed up to the top of the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, which was built in 1102.

Tripoli Citadel

It was another example of how the archaeological and architectural sights in Lebanon are the embodiment of Lebanon’s layered history. When one ruler comes in, he builds upon what the previous rulers had built—Ottoman upon Crusaders, etc. We also wandered through the souqs. At one bakery, we all got free bread because the owner thought I had beautiful eyes.

The bakery where I was given bread for mis ojos.

After getting most of my souvenirs, we got lunch at Rafaat Hallab and Sons, or the “Palace of Sweets.” Tripoli is apparently famous for its sweets, but it kind of tasted like all the other sweets I’ve tried.

I was told this was the spoils of war.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010-- Happy Milad-un-Nabi!

Last weekend I took advantage of some downtime to visit the Corniche, a beautiful walk on the Mediterranean...


Fishing off the rocks of the Corniche

...and Pigeon Rock. All week I have been crazy busy with classes.

Pigeon Rock

Yesterday was Milad un Nabi, the Prophet’s birthday and I celebrated with a trip out of the city to Bekaa Valley. Bekaa is infamous as Hezbollah’s strategic headquarters, and hawkers near the tourist sights definitely sought to capitalize on this by selling yellow Hezbollah tee-shirts and flags.

Hezbollah flag

I decided against purchasing such souvenirs, figuring that coming back from Leb with Hezbollah paraphernalia in my bag would be a surefire way to bring unwanted and time-consuming attention to myself from airport security officials on the way home.

Cardboard cutout?!

I went with this girl Hibbah, who lives in nearby Beiteddiene and some Greek guy, who had the really annoying habit of being stuck to my hip. Whenever I stopped to take a photo, he waited for and watched me. Drove me nuts. I told him that I wanted him out of my personal bubble and he thought I was being funny. One thing I have learned from my travels is men are retarded across the cultural spectrum.

Our drive out to Bekaa in the rain was a bit unnerving. We drove through windy mountain roads dotted with broken-down cars and standing water, undoubtedly made scarier by the Lebanese need for speed and tendency to pass slow cars into oncoming traffic. Hibbah took us to Aanjar first, which is a predominantly Armenian town founded by refugees from the Turkish genocide. We visited the Umayyad city ruins, the Umayyads being, I believe, the first Islamic dynasty.

Umayyad ruins

We drove to Baalbek, the site of amazing Roman ruins.

Temple of Jupiter

It’s a huge complex of three temples, one to Bacchus, one to Jupiter, and one to Venus.

Temple of Bacchus

Inside the Temple of Bacchus

The ruins are amazingly intact, and many of the ruins still had a lot of detail too.

We made a quick pit stop to the Biggest Stone in the World, as advertised by the gift shop nearby. It’s known as the hajar al-hubla (Stone of the Pregnant Woman) because women who touch it apparently get pregnant like magic. I stayed far, far away.

We went to a couple of vineyards after, the most notable being the Ksara Vineyard. Lebanon’s oldest vineyard, it was founded by Jesuit monks who were eventually ordered by the Vatican to sell their profitable wine-making complex, as, well, it’s not very Catholic to make mucho dinero off of alcohol. The vineyard had really cool underground caves where the wine matures. During World War I, the Jesuits hid men from Ottoman conscription in the caves, and in return the men widened the caves to their present state.

Ksara wine caves

After lunch at a nearby hotel restaurant (mezze, of course), we loaded into the car and headed back to Beirut. After a long, rainy day, we were greeted with a rainbow in the valley below the mountains.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 19, 2009--Hail Hezbollah, Stop Uncle Sam, but don't touch my KFC!

Today was my first journey out of Beirut, and I must admit I loved being outside of Beirut. Everything was so calm and beautiful. A definite breath of fresh air!

My first stop was Beiteddiene, a village and palace in the Chouf Mountains that is home to Byzantine mosaics that were found in a nearby village and moved there during the 2006 war.

It was so beautiful I couldn't choose one photo.

Beiteddiene village

View from the palace
View from the palace

After that, I stopped in Saida and saw the Sea Castle, but unfortunately the souqs—what I really wanted to see—was closed. Depending upon time, I may go back to see that.

View of Saida from the Sea Castle

After Saida, we went to Tyr, which was what I really wanted to see. After going through more than a handful of Lebanese army checkpoints and passing through miles upon miles of banana and orange groves, we reached Tyr.

al Bass, with a Palestinian camp in the background.

I am having difficulty putting into words my thoughts about Tyr. It was amazing to see the first site, the al Bass archaeological site. There are about either 300 or 3,000 sarcophagi there (I can’t remember which), and a roadway that leads past a Roman hippodrome and aqueducts. The site is in the shadows of one of the biggest Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. They’re not even camps anymore—now, these ‘camps’ are build up with permanent dwellings. Seeing the camps neighboring the Roman ruins puts American politics and our squabbling (see: death panels) into perspective.

It was interesting to contrast the propaganda in the south to that found in Beirut. In Beirut, one can’t go two feet without seeing a poster of Rafiq Hariri. In the south, the posters of Hariri were defaced and posters of Hassan Nasrallah, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Hezbollah martyrs were everywhere. In one traffic circle, there was a pyramid that said, “Stop Uncle Sam.” Despite the apparent hatred for all things Western, I saw about five KFC delivery guys running around.


What was Rafiq Hariri

Hassan Nasrallah

Ayatollah Khomeini

Lunch was so good. We ate little restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean, with plenty of mezze and steamed fish and rice for the main, with dessert of bananas and oranges. We walked along the beach for a while, where there was so much sea glass, I couldn’t believe it. In the States, my family and I scour the beaches for sea glass and consider ourselves lucky if we find one piece during our week-long vacation. Here, I grabbed about a handful but could have easily filled bags upon bags of the stuff. After lunch, we went to see the seaside ruins at the al Mina archaeological site. From there, you can see Israel in the distance.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 17, 2010

After the initial class meeting yesterday morning, I wandered from Ashrafiyeh, the neighborhood where I have my classes, to the Downtown area, where I saw the Place des Martyrs, an open area where notable national gatherings occur (14 March revolution, 5 year anniversary of Rafiq Hariri’s death), the Nejmeh Square, with Beirut’s famous clock tower, the main mosque, and some mosques, churches, and archaeological sites.

Inside memorial to Rafiq Hariri, slain prime minister.

It was really interesting to see some buildings still in ruins with bullet holes, and compare it to the Parisian, newly-rebuilt and kind of without soul, Downtown. I ran into a kid named Max who was in my class meeting, and we grabbed lunch at a neighborhood, hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which was really good. I got hummus and a Moroccan couscous dish, which wasn’t like any Moroccan couscous dish I’ve ever had, but that’s neither here nor there.

Bullet-riddled building

I finally made it back to my apartment after getting wicked lost (but helped by a hot policeman), studied a bit, and watched W. I’ve noticed there are no legit DVDs in Lebanon; they’re all burned.

Posters of Hariri are everywhere.

I didn’t have class or anything today, so I was a bit lazy. I made a stop at the grocery store for Raid. Last night I saw a ginormous bug, which I’m assuming was a cockroach, in my bathroom. I tried to kill it, but was too scared so just kind of swatted at it with a shoe and then it scurried away. I’ll admit, that was one moment I was wishing I was home, although I think cockroaches are more of an urban then Lebanese problem. I slept with the door to the bathroom closed (it’s always going to be closed now), closed the door to the bedroom, and put a scarf in the crack underneath the door. I feel a bit better now with the bug killer.

The city has some interesting, albeit politically-charged, graffiti.

I met up with some AUB kids I met two days ago, and we got went dinner to Kebab-ji, a good chain right behind my place, and then went to a café to sit around a bit and enjoy the weather.