Monday, February 15, 2010

February 15, 2010--Welcome to Beirut!

I arrived in Beirut last night, and after settling into my apartment walked to a nearby grocery store for the essentials—Nescafe, pita bread, couscous, hummus, Nutella, and fruit (Payal and Chandi, they have my apple H2Oh, like in Colombia!)

The apartment is pretty nice, big and spacious, but half the lights are burned out so it’s kind of dark. Before I left, my mom asked me if I wanted to pack toilet paper because she heard they use something else. Rest assured, mom, they do indeed have toilet paper in Lebanon, but there’s this thing near the toilet that I’m assuming she’s referring to. Not sure about that, but I’m pretty sure when the Daily Show’s Jason Jones went to Tehran and used it as a water fountain is not how it’s to be used.

I woke up this morning at noon, partly because of jet lag and partly because electricity was cut from 9am until noon and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed without coffee.

I’m beginning to think I definitely did this the hard way. Since I know absolutely no one, at times I felt a bit lost. Which way to Hamra? How do I get to my school tomorrow across town? People told me about a servees, but what is that, what does it look like, and how do I know I got in the right one? Where do I take out the garbage? Perhaps most importantly, what happens when I run out of clean underwear—where can I do laundry?! I guess I will find the answers to these things soon enough.

After walking around all day, I definitely feel a lot better. Hamra is a good area, there’s a bunch of shopping, cafes, and yes, a Starbucks (Madre and Padre, I can’t be in a place that’s all that dangerous if there’s a Starbucks).

After fighting with my converter and adapters for an embarrassingly long amount of time this morning, I went out and bought an international plug set for my laptop and a straightener. Honestly, why do we have to make things so difficult as Americans? Because we want to do things our way, whenever I go anywhere I have no idea how warm it is, how far I have to go, how much food I’m getting (perfect example: I bought two kilos worth of apricots at a stand in Morocco. It was a lot), and none of my plug-in electronics work.

I joined a local gym, which is probably the most interesting place ever. The people that work there kept on trying to talk to me while I was working out—a no-no in the States but here I don’t think they’re being shady about it. They were talking to everyone, and I was just being the grumpy American.

Lebanese women don’t sweat when they work out. They just walk or bike really slowly, making the sweaty American running on the treadmill (translation: me) feel a bit self-conscience. Lebanese men like to tell women how to work out. Also, I apparently run too fast for Lebanese treadmills. I got on one and asked the owner how to make it go faster. He looked at me like I was crazy and said that’s as fast as it goes. It only went up to 12, and were I not from the States and had a clue how to convert kilometers to miles I’d tell you how fast that was.

Despite the minor and major annoyances, I’m happy to be here. Everyone’s nice, people have (amazingly) mistook me for a Lebanese girl, I found the Colbert Report on TV, I love the smell of hookah, I love the music, and I love the call to prayer. Also, I’m not going to lie—the really, really good-looking police officers and military officers don’t hurt.


  1. On the Kilometers I always remember it by knowing that 120km is roughly 60 miles, just divide the number in half and you get a round the right distance/speed but I think the actual conversion is like 1.8.

  2. As always, I am so impressed with your photography. The shots of the 3 Roman temples are fantastic. Love your spirit. My wish is much good fortune for you.