Friday, February 28, 2003

Bonjourak Beyrouth!



Well, we're here, in what some people have called the Paris of the Middle East - Beirut (بيروت‎)! Barely two months ago I got a letter on my desk informing me I had been posted to Beirut and that I was supposed to move there as soon as possible.

Barely two months ago I told my partner that we were moving. I asked him to guess where to. I told him to picture a cedar tree. And he bewilderedly got it right away. And even better, he didn't waver in his decision to begin this adventure together!

Barely two months ago we held a huge farewell party with numerous friends and with family. 

And now, here we are. By the Mediterranean, trying to figure out this new world. And that's been rather interesting...

- Surprise, we're not actually staying in Beirut per se! I've come to realize this is a suburban area on Mount Lebanon  (جبل لبنان) called Naccache (نقاش). Awesome views of the sea, close to work, but right now it seems so distant from Beirut, which we can see in the distance!

- Are there any straight streets here? The drive to work is such a maze of tiny, winding streets up the mountain. I'll never ever memorize this!

- We tried going to what we had been told was one of the most lively and famous streets of Beirut, Rue Monot (شارع مونو‎). It was a rainy Sunday. The street was empty. Apparently part of it under repair. I hope this is not how the liveliest city usually looks like, so desolate! And so small!

- Parlez-vous français? Yikes, I think I'll have to start learning French seriously. On Rue Monot we entered this fancy pizza place (the only thing that seemed to be open). We heard French. I used what little I could remember, aided by my partner. Oh my, this was embarrassing.

- A week in, though, I'm beginning to learn a few words of Lebanese Arabic, and to get rid of the accent I picked up while studying my courses in Mexico City! It's weird! They change so many sounds! Like, I learned to say "ustahz" for "Mr", but here they say "istehz"! And French appears everywhere: they say merci for thanks, bonjourak for good morning (bonjour, French for good morning, with -ak, the ending marking that you're addressing a single male speaker...). French, Lebanese Arabic, English... this is going to be one linguistic roller coaster...    

We'll try to find a place to live in Beirut proper. The views are pretty here, but you have to do everything by car, and it just doesn't seem like the sort of place we'd like.

This is definitely one new, strange world. But I think (hope? assume? misguidedly believe?) we're ready! Yalla!

BTW, the two photos are views of  Beirut from our hotel in Naccache on our very first day in Lebanon.