Sorry I haven’t been able to post much lately; we’re in class from 8:30am-3:30pm every day, then I take a break and get a frappucino, go to tutoring from 4-5pm, do homework for 3 hours, get a leisurely (and mustafawaq, y’anee [that means] “outstanding”) Lebanese dinner around 8 and then do homework from 10-1am…c’est à dire that I’m pretty overwhelmed by this program (as is everyone), although I’m learning a ton and I’ve got loads to write about at some point…
Today after class we had a presentation by an NGO about an opportunity to go next week to play some games with kids at one of the Palestinian/Syrian Refugee camps in South Beirut, so I’ll probably be doing that next week and, security permitting insha’allah maybe returning on my own or with some friends to volunteer again (which the organization said some students have done before).
After the presentation I went and got ice cream (buuTHa, although the “th” letters are pronounced “z” in Lebanese so I guess I got some chocolate, caramel and oreo booza?) and walked along La Corniche to wasat al-medina, where I sat in a coffeeshop and downloaded J.Cole’s new album “Born Sinner” (I really, really like it). Also watching the music video for Ciara’s single “I’m Out” from her upcoming album made me extremely happy.
Next as a treat (instead of starting the endless spectre of weekend wajib) I decided to go exploring in Daoura, which I had heard described as kind of the banlieue of north Beirut.
After walking around for about a half an hour throughout the neighborhood (as inconspicuously as possible for an obruni/muzungu/ajnabi) I found myself sitting on some plastic stools in this random alley chatting in colloquial Arabic and drinking Lebanese al-Maza (meaning “diamond”) beer and 7-Up and chewing qat (I did not realize what this was until I was already eating the leaves because everyone called it chat) with a 50ish-year-old Lebanese man (Zuzu), who had more positive energy than almost any human I’ve ever met, a 16-year old Nigerian girl (Marie) who had gorgeously braided hair, some gorgeous camo-print skinny jeans and high stilletos, a 30-year-old Ethiopian woman named Saron who was smoking a delicious-smelling limon/ananas arguileh (hookah), Saron’s husband (Younes), her sister (Tina), her mother (Bayush), who decided after an hour or two to randomly cook shiro and tibs for all of us and bring it down to the alley for dinner, Saron’s brother (Abbai) and Abbai’s Sudanese best friend (bas [also] named Abbai, which everyone kept making jokes about) and Saron’s six-year-old niece Yarah, who is casually fluent in Amharic, Arabic, French and English and an aspiring ballerina (she danced up and down the alley for us while singing alternately in all four languages).
Anyways I stayed there until about 10pm…other than Yarah (who didn’t arrive till I’d been there for about an hour already) no one spoke English, so it was an AWESOME and much needed opportunity for me to practice my Arabic (especially my Ameeya, or colloquial). Zuzu offered to drive me home on his motorcycle, but he’d had a LOT of qat and at least three beers and it was already dark so I decided to just get a cab (Daoura is about a 15-minute, $4 taxi ride from Hamra).
When I got home, I shared some of the fresh injera, shiro, mesir wat, gomen and tibs that Bayush had given me for the road with Hélin and one of our Lebanese suitemates, Rula, neither of whom had never had Ethiopian food. After that the three of us went out dancing for almosts an hour and came home to talk about the situation in Egypt and to prepare for our field trip tomorrow to the Jeddah Caves and the pilgrimage site of the Holy Virgin at Harissa (tomorrow at 8:30am)…time for bed!!!
Also sorry I haven’t been taking many pictures…since I got here my gut instinct has been that it’s not really the kind of place where I would feel comfortable walking around with my DSLR camera on my chest; this is particularly interesting because physically I have felt extremely safe here in every other way, at least compared to any other big city I’ve been in. Beirut is stereotypically “volatile,” but simultaneously very chill (Beirut’s not the only one haha).
Everyone seems to agree that the proverbial “sectarian leaders” are rabble-rousing per usual, but as far as Beirut is concerned, all is pretty hamdolilleh [in colloquial they drop the “al”], life goes on. Anyways, especially with Andrew Pochter’s (also a 21-year-old American college student of Arabic, photography, religion, politics etc.) murder in Alexandria last week, I’m not really trying to carry a big camera around. Mumkin (maybe) at some point I will get to take more suuwar (photos), insha’allah.