It was on Valentine’s Day in 2011 when I arrived at the Beirut International Airport and began my love affair with Lebanon. I first came to do my Masters here, but to be fair, it had started long before then. Somewhere during my high school years, I’d developed a curiosity for this tiny little Mediterranean, Middle Eastern country, and I promised myself I’d visit someday.
I’ve always had a fascination with anything and anyone “other” than what was familiar to me. In high school I became fixated on the Middle East. I remember one day my friends drew up caricatures of what they imagined the future loves of our classmates would look like. When they showed me mine, it was a man with a turban on his head. I looked at the drawing and smiled. Destiny. (C does not wear a turban.)
I’m coming up on one year of returning to live in Lebanon again, and I’m oh so glad that this lovely country will now always be a part of my life. While this year has been a beautiful one, there’s also been a good deal of adjustment. It’s felt very full and fast and somehow very slow and quiet at the same time. It’s been a year of struggling with my Arabic, sending job applications, receiving job rejections, and waiting for many many responses that never came. It’s been humbling and a little scary, but most good things are.
It’s also been the first year where C and I finished up the long distance chapter of our relationship for once and for all. It’s the year of Isla, and my first experience of pregnancy and childbirth (both of which were pretty amazing experiences despite –and perhaps because of–my tendency to expect worst case scenarios in which I give birth to a 14lb baby in my 10th month of pregnancy after 32 hours of excruciating labor. Thank you for going easy on me and arriving early, Sweet I).
In reminiscence of our many travels to visit each other in our long distance days, C and I took a romantic trip to Paris to celebrate our one year anniversary….in the Charles De Gaulle airport waiting for our layover flight back to Beirut after a trip to New Jersey. In our defense, we did bring some celebratory treats for the plane ride: nuts, dried fruits, and a knob of aged gouda, all washed down with wonderfully horrible airplane wine.
In the midst of a lot of change this year, I think what’s been most consistent to the daily routine is my morning walk or run. I cling so hard to this small space that’s all my own, where I can enjoy Lebanon’s many springtimes and bright hot summer. In the spirit of gratitude, I would like to thank some friends who have been a source of returning joy for me throughout this first year.
First off, I am grateful for my five little Syrian neighbors. There are three little girls and two little boys who are usually playing together on the gated ground floor of an apartment complex, and they are some of the happiest, sweetest little people I know. They always stop their play to run up and talk to me for a bit when I pass by, and their cheer is infectious.
And then there is this wonderful dog. He started walking alongside me way back in May of last year. I don’t know who he belongs to, but he usually finds me about ten minutes into my walk and accompanies me for around twenty minutes. When I was very obviously pregnant, he walked with me for almost the full hour of almost every day. He seemed to sense that I might need the extra care and company. He doesn’t want to be petted or played with; he’s just content to be there. I love his gentle comforting presence.
All in all, it’s been a good year. I’m glad I get to be here for the time-being, and I’m grateful for friends who bring me joy along the way.