Marhaba blogosphere! It’s not that I’ve forgotten you, it’s just hard to be in such a committed relationship at this juncture. But I’m not giving up on us! You now have the next 30-40 minutes of my undivided attention.
That aside, I’m going to spend all of it talking about myself. Let’s discuss the past (almost) 2 weeks since I last posted. A few weekends ago, a bunch of us drove to a city outside of Beirut called Jeita for a nice little barbecue. Or at least this was what I was expecting when I was invited to said bbq. My friend Dave has been nice enough to introduce me to his Lebanese friends in exchange for meeting the people I’ve met at AUB. It was one of his Lebanese friends who hosted the meat-feasting get-together.
The drive there was beautiful – Lebanon is so vibrant and topographically diverse. You can see all the buildings scattered along the mountains and valleys and as you get higher and higher you can see where Beirut’s bright lights meet the mouth of the Mediterranean.
We pull up to the house only to realize it is not a house, but in fact a mansion. A gated mansion. A gated mansion five stories high with a fountain in the front. The resident (Ryan) rides down the driveway to fetch us on his four-wheeler. All 15 of us make our way through the house opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator for a chance to see as much of the place as possible. I abandon any preconceived notions that this would resemble a typical Memorial Day family bbq once three live-in Ethiopian maids come into what seems like a banquet hall, but is actually their basement with platters upon platters of food. I later find out Ryan’s parents own the Lebanese equivalent of Kleenex. Makes sense.
One maid prepares chicken and lamb kebabs on the patio off the basement hall as the other two fill a table with homemade hummus, fatoosh, pita bread, and lots of little fun snacks (haha Matt shoutout). Ryan comes back from the basement bar with wine glasses, three bottles of red wine, a bottle of Stoli, and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Double Black.
We spent the next 8 hours feasting, drinking, and being merry. On a cultural level, it was a really interesting experience. Ryan and his friends’ points of view on politics and religion were fascinating and at some points surprising. We listened to all types of music as we feasted from American top 40s to Arabic to reggae. I admit I’ve never listened to Busta Rhymes’s “Arab Money” in a more perfect/surreal setting.
Ahhh there’s SO much more to write about, but I am running out of time! I’ve taken on three extracurricular activities in addition to my classes and exploring/enjoying Lebanont:
1.) Interning at Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs. Lots of work, but so interesting. I really like this internship so far. The director for the Institute, Rami Khouri, is kind of a big deal in both the Middle Eastern studies and journalism spheres. I produce the monthly newsletters for the IFI and cover events and what not. I’ve learned so much already and met a lot of brilliant people.
2.) Volunteering at a UN-sponsored Palestinian refugees school. Every Saturday I tutor sophomores and juniors at the school and help them to prepare for the SATs. Any American university in Lebanon or the surrounding area and obviously all American schools in America require the SATs. The first day was the math section. When I realized I couldn’t do half of the problems, I decided to employ “learn by teaching me method” with the students. Example: Student: “Is this the right answer?” Me: “Well, why don’t you walk me through what you did and you’ll learn from teaching me.” Works like a charm and I still get to keep my dignity.
3.) Playing on AUB’s Women’s Volleyball team. They are conference champions for the past I don’t know how many years, BUT I get to practice with them and travel with them. Whether or not I actually play in a game mehhhh not sure. It’s really nice to play again though and the girls are really friendly (and good eek).
Well, that’s all the time we have for now, kids. I’m off to practice at 6:30 and then, you know, celebrating that great college drinking holiday we call “Thursday night.”