The Ever-Evolving World Through Her Eyes

One Month in Lebanon
February 18, 2008, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Raining in Beirut

So it is the eve of my one month anniversary with Lebanon. Oh Libnan what we have experienced in the past 30 days. Beautiful, sunny days, that warm more than the body, harsh, chilly days, that seep in your skin with the rain. O Lebnan with your complicating things and your never resolving anything, with your normalizing gun-shots and explosions. I’m in constant negotiations and analyzation- which apparently isn’t even a word- of who I am. I was ‘going home,’ I was finding what it was to be me among ‘my people.’ But discouragement settles in deep with disillusion. Moving forward is muddied with the complications of Lebanon’s realities.

I am home in a sense, as I have never really felt this at home in this skin. Although, my tongue feels a little out of the loop, when I’m expected to respond. I guess it’s the ideal of my homeland that has been removed from it’s pedestal, as it should. Lebanon isn’t everything, and at the same time she is. She is a paradox, at once unified and sorely divided. She is in psychological terms, a world of individualism and collectivism, focusing on the individual and at the same time the group. She is a contradiction as all truths are. She would be the personification of real beauty, with expensive shoes, if she were a person. She is returning and she is leaving. She is home.

hocine-and-brook.jpgFor the past few weeks, I’ve been constantly running somewhere, anywhere, to make sure that this school endeavor could be a success. Run here, run there, and then come back here, sign this paper, and this one too but with your eyes closed this time, pay for this piece of paper so that you can get your loan to pay for school, talk to your family doctor, “you don’t have one in Lebanon?” The interesting part is that, just like the US, the American University of Beirut, is just a reflection of the disorganization on a national level. The United States for example, is a business, and thus their institutions of higher learning are businesses that happen to give you an education at the same time. A damn good one, no doubt. And while the country, runs on processes that are rarely broken or changed, save the current administration, thus their schools run on strict processes and guidance that one can come to count on. In Lebanon, the country at large is having trouble even electing their president on time, AUB has similar problems of a lesser magnitude that leaves no room for any type of handholding. There is no guiding, yet the processes are unknown and unfamiliar to most students. Which then leaves the students in frantic disarray, running around the campus, searching for signatures and other stitches left undone. The orientation program does a great job of trying to fill the gaps for the new arrivals, but like all successful change, it has to be a joint effort between the grassroots and the top down.

my new dewOtherwise, AUB has been amazing. Unlike large Universities in the US, each class is no more than 25-30 people, so the learning is a rich experience combined with the atmosphere of a large University filled with variety, yet it’s classrooms have the feel of a small liberal arts college. In my Art Appreciation class, which is basically an analysis of different cultural art in different time periods, the classroom is packed with my classmates, intrigue bubbling, everyone has something interesting to add. Of course I do as well, but sometimes when distraction creeps over me I look at the bulletin board which has Kurt Cobain written in chalk on it. My mind brings me back to eight years old and ripped jeans and flannel, Edna’s Housethe epitome of cool, even to me now. Which I guess is a good lead to my Psych 102 class. We’ve been studying the different perspectives of what it is that influences us, why we are, the way we are. Each view so specific to a certain aspect of life- our upbringing, our environment, our genetics, our culture. It seems the psychologists have deemed each of their studies the most true but the interesting part is, they’re all true. You can’t have one without the other, and for the most part it seems we have had little control over why we are these certain ways, but we can and must take an active part in who we will become.

Green Oval

Most days you can find me with a coffee in hand at the green oval, with many different characters in my life. But mainly three people Hocine, Zalfa, and Doua. Hocine and Zalfa are professors at AUB and are friends of my brother Radney when he lived in Lebanon. They have become a constant in my life, helping me with any sort of problem and are often there laughing loudly and analyzing most things to finite detail. It’s been a wonderful transition with them as most of my friends back home have been at least four years older than me, and as a twenty year old freshman most of my classmates are three years younger. Doua is a freshman as well, a New Yorker from Staten Island and a Palestinian from Jordan. She grew up in both places constantly moving. It’s been great to find a New Yorker who has a similar love for the region in which we reside.

Ok now for small details-

• Grocery men in Hamra are my Arabic teachers – testing me with the names of their fruits (fweki) and vegetables (khoura)

• Nine bulbs of garlic is less than a dollar
• A veggie cheese sandwhich or in Arabic – Sage (Saj) Gibne w khoura is also $1.30
• My classes are all on MWF
• My brothers are coming to see me in a couple weeks
• I had my hair professionally done and it cost about $10
• I have straight hair for a little while – weird

 it’s new


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