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Friday, May 27, 2005

Finally in Lebanon

Sorry for not posting anything these past 2 days. I was recovering from jetlag yesterday and today. But I arrived at BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in one piece, so that's good. :P I have some pics, but I took them while in the car and the window wasn't exactly clean. I will take more pics soon, upload them, and post a link to the gallery.

Did I say MEA (Middle East Airlines) sucks big time? My flight was with Air France, but my connection flight to Beirut was operated by the MEA. Oh, and kudos to the airport personnel (passport checking) at BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, they really did their jobs quickly and spared newly arrived passengers (at least me!) some major pain in the arse that we are routinely honoured with when traveling to the States. This has been my best flight ever, even though I literally had to run to my gate at Charles de Gaulle to reach my flight in time...

What can I say... Lebanon is.. unchanged. Same old, same old. Beautiful as ever, the gap between the rich and the poor even bigger, though. On the trip from the airport, passing by the refugee camps was a grim reminder of the injustice that the majority of Lebanese and "aliens" live through, and the vain luxuries that the minority of rich, spoiled Lebanese blindly and stupidly enjoy. I had the honour to see it all in person. I am very dismayed at what I'm seeing in Lebanon, and even though I'm glad I'm back, every minute since my landing has been painful. It's sad, I tell you. Very sad. But today for the first time in my life, I was in West Beirut (never mind the jetlag! :P ) on a Friday, and I saw Muslim Lebanese going to prayers, and heard the verses (? or is that call to prayer?) from the Qur'an being recited from the top of the mosques. It was amazing to tell you the truth. I mean, I HAVE heard it before in Lebanon, but I've never done so in West Beirut, never done so without having my mom tell me that I'm not supposed to go to West Beirut because there are "too many Muslims there" (I guess it's OK when there are "too many Christians"...). I passed by the site of Hariri's assassination. I also went to my childhood school in East Beirut, saw my elementary teachers there (who amazingly did remember me - I was either too quiet or too quarrelsome), went to AUB to check on my admission stats (but with no luck, since they were on lunch break). It was a good day. Given that I woke up at 3 am anyway. Hah. My hours are pretty screwed at the moment, but I didn't (and don't) care one bit about that. I was very restless; I HAD to get out and do something.

Surprisingly, I didn't feel much when I landed at Beirut Int'l Airport. I was thinking I might get really upset (for many a reason), but I didn't feel anything. Maybe I just didn't have the time to think about it. After all, I had too many luggages to think about. :)

Walla, I'm happy, but not as happy as I thought I'd be. And I'm upset, but not as upset as I thought I'd be - well, at least not about the things I thought I'd be upset about.

I am staying at our condo at the moment. I finally got my hands on my dad's camera - actually, make that plural - he also has a USSR-make Zenith camera (my mom bought it for him when she was in Moscow). ;) I also got my hands on 2 ancient books/scripts. One is more than 1000 years old. It belongs to my family - or it came into my family's possession at some point in time in the past 200 years. It's amazing I tell you. Simply amazing. The other one is something like 400 years old. I really don't know anything about how to maintain them, so I might give them to a museum for free or sell it (if it brings in a considerable sum - although I'm very much reluctant to sell items that belong to my family, especially over the course of so many years). I HAVE taken photos of those. I had once posted about one of the books on my other online journal. One is a prayer book by Krikor Naregatsi. It's rather big and heavy, with black leather cover, which has round circles on it. Those circles have a story to them. They were once filled with gold. You see, those books survived the Armenian Genocide. But the gold was taken out by the mercenaries who perpetrated the massacres.

The other book (the 1000-year-old one) was kept in a HONEY JAR because whatever the mercenaries could lay their hand on they would destroy or steal immediately. In fact, some PEOPLE survived that way too.

Will update soon. Did I say that dial-up here simply costs too much (and wireless of course has to be "for those who can afford it" i.e. the rich, because they want to feel... unique. After all, that's the only thing that gives meaning to their otherwise miserable lives and ideologies - if they have any. "Israelis" ring a bell?)?!?!? Well, the phone line does, not the ISP.

And yes, I have decided against voting on Sunday.

Comments:
Glad to hear you landed safely, and the emotion in your post just seeped right through!

I want to wish you luck on your new experience, but also want to give you a small advice: DO NOT sell the books! I am an art restorer, and I know that they are hard to conserve, but there are some decent books written on that for the general public; how to dust the pages, how to turn them, how to store the books, etc. You will not regret holding onto something so precious that has come to you through all that time. You may actually find collectors willing to pay a lot of money, but the affective value is priceless, so do consider that.

(Here in Italy dial up costs an arm and a leg too.... I've been on the waiting list for ADSL since December, and they have YET to set me up...Sometimes it would have been better to be in the Pacific Basin, where at least all the lines are new and getting this kind of service is easy).
 
I don't think they have ADSL here. :( The dial-up I had in Canada connected at 56K. The one here connects at 31K. And the one in Lebanon costs almost four times as much as the one in Canada did. I am always told that "the government is working on a plan for reducing the phone rates for internet users" but I've been hearing this for as long as I can remember. And still no such plan has been executed. In fact, no such thing that's worthy of being called a "government" here in Lebanon.

I heard that the Tashnags (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) are boyoctting the elections because Hariri, Inc. (copyright Angry Arab) are selecting the MPs. What fun!

In fact, I got a chance to hear the views of a Maronite (my Arabic teacher at my old school) on the elections, and it was very critical of the Hariri Selection gang.

I did take pics of the two books. I will post them soon. But first I need to disconnect so that I can take my time to resize them on Photoshop. The joys of having dial-up in Lebanon!
 
Hi Dan ....
Pls keep posting, so i can follow ur life there. Really wishing u the best and good luck. What is ur plan next?
 
Hey there, Novita! :)

Thanks!

Right now I've got no plans. So far I haven't been called up for army service. lol. So all's well. :P If I can't get into grad school, I'll have to get a job (and that's not an easy thing to do in Lebanon) or get drafted, which I don't have a problem with but prefer if it happens AFTER I get my M.A.

Take care.
 
Are you in some university exchange program there in Lebanon, or what are u doung there? And how long will you stay there than?
Wish you all the luck.
 
Hey Dan brother, how are you doing, i'm so happy for you that you are in Lebanon, i am jealous too, i already drove to the airport twice dropping off family members going to Lebanon, and i have to drop the rest of my family on the 15 to go to Lebanon.

I'm trying to go down as well like in the end of July, if you have a phone number i'll try to get it from you or i'll email you before i go. It would be cool to hook up, you can come to Tripoli with me if you want, Tripoli is really nice as well but i haven't been ther in like 4 years so there might be many changes or maybe not.

I'd like to visit AUB as well, maybe you can show me around if i come, i'm not going to stay that long cause i have work, maybe like 10 days to 2 weeks, maybe we can hook up one day. WEll have a good time and enjoy all the sweets like Kanafi and Ka'ak and zaatar and cheese pies. Ok brother,be safe and i don't blame you for not voting in the elections, it really is a joke.
 
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