This is Brocklesby, still in Beirut and trying to work out how to update you on what has happened in my life since July 31. Gosh. I suppose I could make a list?
Yes. I’m making a list.
1: I hiked a mountain in the south of Lebanon with a few good pals and a watermelon. I would say that the watermelon was the lucky one in this scenario as we kindly carried it up the mountain on our backs (it was 11kg or thereabouts), but then I suppose it more than repaid the kindness by letting us devour it at the top and throw its skin to the goats…
2. I completed the Advanced Fusha and the Elementary ‘Urban Arabic’ (Beirut Arabic) courses at Saifi. Thanks to my teachers, but also to those bonus points I got for attendance or something.
3. I went up to Faraya to see the Perseid Meteor Shower, and lay on a freezing, dusty ski slope with smoke from the bonfire in my eyes having, contrarily, one of the best nights of my summer. I was in great company and a chance meeting there has lead to some great times spent in with a lovely group of young Lebanese folk, who put up with a lot from the rest of us (and are mostly called Jad).
4. Jessica and I did a walking tour of Beirut, lead by the Demo bartender Mustafa, who took us to some of the lesser-known parts of the centre of the city including ruins of roman baths hidden below a high-rise building. We also had our picture taken as part of a grooms wedding photo, and we were out for hours. I thoroughly recommend this as way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Take water.
5. I went to AUB (American University of Beirut) for the third time and did exactly the same thing I did twice previously: stroke cats. I would describe the place as over-run with the things, except that makes it sound as though I think that ‘too many cats’ is a problem. It really isn’t. If I had to choose somewhere right this minute to do a one year masters course I would pick AUB. I will leave off making that decision definite until after I spent a little time back in the UK with home comforts and fewer mosquitos.
6. I completed those nasty Target Language Research Projects. Big shout out to everyone who helped me with the language, hugged me as I got more and more stressed, and those that were there when I finally submitted them and spent the whole afternoon eating with me in various venues around the city. I am proud of them both though I don’t know how well they went. Time will tell.
7. I had amazing Indian food at a place I will never be able to locate again.
8. I visited the ruins of a Roman temple at Baalbek in the east with Filippo, and the sheer size of the place struck us dumb for almost the entire day. It is vast, beautiful and everyone who visits either wishes they had lived there or that they could work out how it was built. Hercules had to have had something to do with it. [Go to my Instagram for pictures of this day as I don’t have the words]. Would like to congratulate the museum of the Baalbek site for its tunnel with slidey floors which provided the perfect end to an otherwise intellectual, sensible trip.
9. I met a lot of wonderful people and then said a lot of goodbyes.
10. I went to a magical waterfall lagoon (Baakline) that almost reminded me of the mermaid place in Peter Pan, but just with hundreds of other people having lunch, which they at least had the foresight to bring with them. We on the other hand, had to order sandwiches which took an age to arrive, tasted terrible and made most of us ill. Not worth the hassle. The swim though was lovely and refreshing.
11. I was in a quiz team that lost first place by one measly point because someone in the team though Frigophobia was ‘fear of refrigerators’. (Not quite as bitter about it now because…).
12. I was also in a quiz team that won the whole damn thing a week later. Victory was sweet that night.
13. I met a puppy that changed my life forever and is so fluffy I do in fact sometimes ‘wanna die’.
14. I have now managed to avoid my creepy upstairs neighbour Charbel for almost 40 days. This involves never leaving the door open if I’m working at home, turning off all the lights as soon as I hear him lock his door and begin the descent, and often having to hide in one of the rooms as he has a habit of peering in through the window to see if there is prey inside. Creep.
15. I was reunited with a pal from the Jordan days and the previously documented Tafileh Incident in 2015.
16. I argued with a stubborn taxi driver in Arabic and I should have felt angrier but that was the proudest I have ever been.
17. I have sung Arabic karaoke in class. We don’t do anything halfway.
18. I have cycled to school when I was running late one morning. It was fantastic and I felt oddly powerful weaving in and out of cars containing angry people on their way to work who all wish they were as carefree as I was. That said the traffic is mental and cycling could end pretty badly for the lighter, less-armoured party.
19. I took a (rather complicated: taxi – bus – taxi – bus – taxi – bus – feet) trip to Mleeta to see the ‘Mleeta Tourist Landmark’. It is in fact the museum to The Resistance that Hezbollah has developed. It shows remains of their enemies’ weapons, has a wonderfully translated propaganda video and very informative exhibits. It is crawling with weapons and everything is meticulously thought-out to give it maximum symbolic effect. I can now say that I have been there, done that, but that I did not buy the t-shirt.
20. Finally, I took an extremely random, slightly necessary trip to Larnaka in Cyprus. Any European who has travelled here will know that the visa situation in Lebanon is a bit confusing. When I first arrived, it was unclear how long I would be able to stay without a) renewing my visa or b) leaving the country. At the two month mark I completed a) then I discovered upon collection of the renewed visa last Monday that 3 months was really the limit it seemed, for me, so I had to leave Lebanon on September 9. Seeing as I’m officially leaving just a few days later on September 20 this was a little frustrating. I looked up flights and briefly considered flying home early but alas I did not have the $1700 or so required. Instead, Cyprus seemed like the obvious choice: a fifty minute flight to a country I’d never been to, with a beach and some historical things to see. So I went, rolling out of my final exam into a taxi bound for the airport.
I spent the weekend walking on the seafront, paddling, swimming in the early morning, eating frozen yoghurt and great food like Kleftiko, meeting lots of people (perks of travelling alone), some of whom I hope I see again, and others, like the Lebanese woman who started crying at breakfast after telling me she watched a film in which a man killed a goat, that I hope I don’t.
Now I’m back in Lebanon. As we flew into Beirut I felt an immense feeling of ‘thank goodness I’m back’. I am so happy today I can’t stop grinning. I think Lebanon may have got its hooks into me. Sorry friends and family.
Now I have 7 days left to enjoy the place until my flight early next Tuesday morning and no classes to give me any type of schedule. There are a few things I really want to see: the Sursock Museum, the film festival this week and Tripoli, but also some things I want to save for another trip (fingers crossed that’s a possibility). We’ll see. I think it is important I keep busy this week or I will start practice-packing and being desperate for home. Dangerous.
Until next time remember what I was taught last week by my wonderful teacher Manal: after لم we put a fatHa on the vowel, because it is an open sound and the future is an open place where anything could happen.