Category Archives: Hamra

French Nails…Lebanese style

“My new social environment in Beirut demanded that I be more feminine-looking. It demanded that girls look like girls and boys like boys. It demanded that I style my hair weekly at the hairdresser. Adorn my fingernails with bright polish. Speak softly and giggle often. Wear clothes that hugged my body, to show off my childbearing hips. No one knew how to deal with my tomboyish personality. My aunt would sigh every time I walked in with dirty sandals. My grandmother would shrug her shoulders when she saw me in torn-up jeans. And my cousins believed I was a hopeless case and that no one would ever marry me. How could anyone marry someone who only wore white baggy T-shirts?” – Zeina el Khalil (Beirut, I Love You)

A few weeks ago, I read this paragraph in Beirut, I Love You, and started cracking up. I had to write it down. I could relate to every single word. And here I was thinking that I was the only one thrown by the stark contrast between the ultra feminine and ultra masculine looks women and men sport here in Beirut. How arrogant and naïve of me. A whole series of conversations with my ex-pat and Lebanese friends followed as we all bonded over our recognition of this cultural trend.

Take my Arabic teacher for example. Nadia would come to class every day with her hair perfectly crimped, curled or straightened, an adorable, color-coordinated outfit, matching heels (almost always adorned with sparkling jewels or sequins). Even her eye shadow and nail polish would be colored to match her blouse. It was amazing. She looked like she’d just stepped out of a teen magazine.

And then I would enter. Panting and sweaty, 20 minutes late. Wrinkled clothes that I had worn the day before. Tangled hair, sloppily pulled back into a twisted bun, with long, curly wisps sticking out from all sides of my head, making me look a bit insane. What little makeup I’d hurridly painted on, visibly melting off. Yeah guys, I’m a catch 😉

Once, just as I was walking in the room at 9:20, Nadia, glancing at the clock on the wall, asked me playfully, “Colette, ayya seeya fiati leeom?” (Colette, what time did you wake up today?)

Me: Ummm…Seeya tmanee wah khumsah… (Ummm…9:05…)

Nadia: (looking completely perplexed) Shou??? (What???)

Me: (More assuredly) Seeya tmanee wah khumsah.

Nadia: (staring at me blankly)

Me: (whispering to Omar, my friend and classmate) Wait, did I not say that correctly??

Omar: (also whispering) No, no. Your Arabic is fine. Colette, she doesn’t understand how a girl could get dressed and to class in only 15 minutes.

Me: Oh. Can’t she tell just by looking at me?

Omar: (Laughing) Habibti, I think she’s processing that now.

Lebanese pop star Elissa, all dressed up

Lebanese pop star Elissa, on a normal day

So yeah, I don’t fit the stereotype of the typical Lebanese girl. In case I hadn’t already made that clear.

Me, all "dressed-up"

Me, all "dressed-up"

In my experience, at least in the States and even in Spain, little things like shoes that match your dress or newly manicured nails are things that girls notice, not guys. But here in Beirut, guys comment if you don’t have your hair done just so or your outfit perfectly accessorized. They’re not necessarily insulting about it, more often than not, they just want to know why. Why don’t you care about your hair? Why do you have dirt under your fingernails?? You should take better care of yourself!

And in an appearance obsessed, knife happy culture where nose jobs are the norm, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised by the fact that letting a little thing like my hair or nails go untended, sparks curiosity. Okay okay, I’m exaggerating a bit – of course not everyone is so appearance obsessed, but there is a large trend towards this among women here. Enough so, that it’s made me a bit self-conscious to the point that I’ve become hyper-aware of other women’s style and my obvious lack of it.

So, today I decided to give in a bit and treat myself to a manicure and a pedicure. All of my friends here in Hamra frequent one particular beauty salon called Cherry. It’s right in front of the lower gate of Lebanese American University (LAU), near the intersection with Sadat Street, just in case you’re wondering.

When I sat down with my manicurist, before I’d even spoken a single word, she glanced at my hands and looked up at me and said, “Habibti, you’re not Lebanese. Where are you from?”

Me: I’m from California. But, my Mom’s Lebanese! I just moved here.

Manicurist: Ha! I knew it! You look Lebanese, but you don’t have Lebanese nails.

Wait. What? Lebanese nails?

And it continued.

Manicurist: (as she was cutting my cuticles and doing all that stuff that manicurists do) Yeeeee! Hiyati! Do you see this?? (Holding up a napkin holding all the crud she’d cut off and dug out from underneath my fingernails) When was the last time you did your nails?? And they’re kteer short! So short! Do you bite them?? Ya haram. Hiyati you shouldn’t do that!

Me: (Mixture of laughter at the absurdity of the conversation and blushing from embarrassment) I’m sorry! I don’t take care of them like I should, thank you for helping me.

Oh, and then we moved onto my feet. I had a French manicure on my fingers and I asked if she could paint my toes red.

Manicurist: (clicking her tongue on the top of her mouth and raising her chin slightly – a gesture that means ‘No’) La! Habibti, I can’t! Your nails have to match.

Me: (smiling) Oh, that’s okay, I don’t care if they match. I think red would be fun!

Manicurist: Habibti you have to care! You’re in Lebanon! I can’t paint them different colors! I can’t.

Me: Um…okay. French toes it is then!

Manicurist: Yeeeeeeeee! Look at your feet! They’re worse than your hands! So dirty! And your nails! Yeeee! Hiyati, promise me you’ll come back soon?

Oh brother….

Woman sitting next to me: Habibti, you look Lebanese. I thought you were Lebanese…but you don’t speak Arabic and you don’t have Lebanese nails…

Manicurist: (to the woman, as she (the manicurist) spent 10 minutes PER TOE, scrubbing, clipping, painting and perfecting) La (no), she’s American, but her mother is Lebanese. (Winking at me) we’ll fix the nails and she’ll learn Arabic.

Woman: Yes! You have to learn, an-  yeeee! Look at your feet! So dirty!

My beautifully manicured nails

My beautifully manicured nails

I have to admit though, that my nails do look beautiful and very clean. And for only $15, it’s not a bad deal. So maybe I’ll embrace my inner Lebanese beauty queen and get my nails done every so often. Cause come on, if I don’t speak Arabic and have Lebanese nails, no one will believe that I’m really Lebanese ;).

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Broccoli and Beers

Today, it was 31 degrees Celsius, 86 Fahrenheit – HOT and HUMID.  But whatever, I’m in a good mood! It’s Friday! My internship with ‘Time Out Beirut’ is going really well and I may have found a new apartment (they’re tearing down our beautiful building to build a parking lot – sucks.).

Beirut I Love YouRight now, I’m reading this book called ‘Beirut, I Love You,’ by the Lebanese writer Zeina el Khalil. It’s a memoir, written about her time in Beirut – friends, family, war, cultural trends, food, sex, love, etc. It’s a very quick read, but it’s well written and doubly entertaining given that I’m actually living in the city that she’s describing.  It’s like reading ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ in Prague, or ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ in Mexico – it somehow makes a brilliant book even better.  Anyway, I brought the book up because as I melted on my walk over to Café Younes today, I laughed to myself as I thought about a line from the book – “Arabian afternoons are like chocolate ice cream stains on the corner of your mouth. They are sweet and sticky.” So true! Although, I have to admit, chocolate ice cream smells a lot better than BO…

I spent a relaxed afternoon at Younes today writing and researching for Time Out, and just when I was beginning to crave good company and conversation Rianne showed up, followed soon after by Farah.  Michael joined us a bit later, Tara stopped by to say hello. I know that Hamra is a small neighborhood, and I know that after some time my opinion of it may change, but for now the small size doesn’t feel claustrophobic at all – just cozy, familiar and homey.  I love that everywhere I go now I run into people I know. Plus, I’m constantly meeting new people – the friend you ran into randomly at Younes introduces you to an acquaintance of theirs, who you randomly bump into at Ta Marbuta, where he or she introduces you to someone else new. Everyone here is just so friendly and open, and I love them for that.

Working with Rianne and Michael at Younes

Working with Rianne and Michael at Younes

Around 6pm, hungry and ready for a change of scenery, Farah and I headed back to the apartment to cook ourselves some dinner. I always know it’s time to go grocery shopping when the only thing I have left in the house is broccoli….yeah, it’s time to go grocery shopping. So while Farah got dressed to meet her dad, who flew in tonight, I boiled up some broccoli and heated up some Maklouta, a kind of mixed bean stew.

Farah and I!

Farah and I!

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Albert Broccoli

Albert Broccoli

As I stood over the steamy stove top, waiting for my watch pot to boil and wishing for a fan, I started laughing to myself. About a year ago I had a random conversation with a friend about Albert Broccoli, the producer of the original James Bond films. At the 1981 Oscars, Roger Moore presented Broccoli with the Irving G. Thalberg award (given to creative producers), and commented that Broccoli’s Italian grandfather had introduced the vegetable to America when he immigrated to the States in the early 1800s. I don’t know if it’s true, but the conversation was a crack up and now every time I boil broccoli I can’t help but smile 🙂 Nerdy, and admittedly a little weird, but if it makes you happy, it can’t be all that bad.

Fausto and Rianne

Fausto and Rianne

After dinner, I chatted with Cagil, read for a bit and then made plans to meet up with Rianne and some of her friends at Dany’s for some beers. Rianne and her friend Fausto had just been to an Arab Tango show at a theater on Rue Hamra. It sounded fantastic – I’ll have to see if I can get tickets for next weekend…
IMG_0584

In case you hadn't noticed that the wall moved...

In case you hadn't noticed that the wall moved...

I really love Dany’s. My friend Ali is a DJ there and he introduced me to the bar a few weeks ago. It’s cozy and small – actually used to be a lot smaller – about a month ago they broke down one of the walls and added an extra room to the bar. Dany’s is a meeting place for the young, liberal, intellectual crowd in Beirut, and it has a devoted group of regulars. The walls are covered with writing and doodles, there are rotating DJs, so the music is constantly changing, tasty food, cheap beers and plenty of good company. A really chill place and always a good time.

Fausto, Rianne, me and Leila at Dany's

Fausto, Rianne, me and Leila at Dany's

Chatting with Leila

Chatting with Leila

Later in the evening we were joined by my flatmates Michael and Nadim, Rianne’s friend Leila, Nadim’s friend Jenny, Ali stopped in for a bit – it was a great mix of people and a fantastic night, complete with a grilled ham, cheese and tomato sandwich (yes, they have food at Dany’s – I need nothing more from a bar ;)). I love what an international bunch we are too – I’m Lebanese/Irish American, Rianne is Dutch, Fausto is Indian/Italian, Leila is Iranian American, Michael is Lebanese/Palestinian Dutch, Nadim is Lebanese but grew up in the UAE. Everyone speaks a mix of languages and has traveled to so many interesting places. Ah! So amazing!! We all chatted, laughed, danced, snacked on chick peas and olives, and sipped Almazas till 3:30am when I finally had to turn in for the night. Life is gooooood!

And one last photo from tonight, just to make you smile:

Jenny and her amazing shirt!

Jenny and her amazing shirt! I instantly loved this girl!

I’m baaaack!

Ha! I’m alive again my friends! Yesterday was my first Friday night out in 3 weeks! I have beaten the flu, finally eradicated all signs of food poisoning from my system and slept off the insane post-sickness fatigue inspired by both. Now to make up for lost time!

Charles!

Charles!

20081113_napoletana-logoYesterday, I began the night by having a pizza dinner with Charles at Napoletana, an Italian chain restaurant here in Beirut. Granted, by Lebanese standards, it’s a little overpriced  – for a pizza and a beer you’ll end up dropping about $16 – but the atmosphere is nice and the vegetarian pizza is pretty damn good. No, I’m not a vegetarian, have no fear. I just like kteer khudra (lots o’ veggies) on my pizza. Plus, the branch we went to is on Hamra street – the main street running though the neighborhood of Hamra (university district here in Beirut) – so there’s always plenty of quality people-watching to be enjoyed. Around 10pm, happy and full for the first time in weeks and with plans to meet up with Charles again in a few hours time, I walked home with my two leftover slices of pizza sliding around in an oversized take-away box.

Charles called at midnight just as I was being pulled into the death grip of that hazy, sleepy state of mind that sucks you into your bed, preventing you from enjoying all the night has to offer.  But somehow I rallied, chugged a red bull (shukrun Charles!) and met Charles at Walimat Wardeh, a fantastic restaurant/bar in Hamra that I have come to know and love.

Walimat Wardeh! (Written in Arabic, in case you hadn't already guessed)

Walimat Wardeh! (Written in Arabic, in case you hadn't already guessed)

Walimat Wardeh, also known simply as ‘Walimat’ or ‘Wardeh,’ has been around for 14 years now, which is really saying something in Beirut where stores, bars and restaurants seem to appear and disappear on a regular basis. It was opened by a man named Wardeh Hawaz in 1995, on the ground floor of a charming house on Makdissi Street.

The amazing thing about this place is that it really feels like someone’s home. Someone’s beautiful home. There are stained glass windows and eye-catching tile floors that change patterns as you go from room to room.  During the day, it’s a cozy place to go for a hot meal and free internet, and at night it explodes with character and energy as intellectuals mix with a trendy young crowd, drinking and listening to a fun mix of music.

Charles, trying to decipher the Arabic menu during lunch at Walimat, on a different day

Charles, trying to decipher the Arabic menu during lunch at Walimat, on a different day

The restaurant serves delicious, home-cooked, traditional Lebanese meals that awaken memories of your grandmother’s cooking. Well, if you’re lucky enough to have a Lebanese Tita (grandmother) 😉 YUM! I love you, Tita! The menu is handwritten on blackboards in English and Arabic, changes regularly and is reasonably priced.  For 10,000 Lira (about $6.50) you can get a main course meal that will fill you right up and leave you beaming.

Charles and I came at night though, when the music was pumping and overflow guests were pouring out onto the sidewalk.  We managed to squeeze our way through the crowds, bought some drinks and found standing room near the band that was performing that night.  The band was called Ziad Sahab & Chahadin ya baladna‘ and their music was fantastic. They actually play at Walimat every Friday.  I should become a groupie! I only wish I’d known about them before I came – I would have bought a CD and memorized all the lyrics. As I was, I was kind of out of place given that everyone else in the place seemed to know all their songs by heart. They play fantastic Arabic music and everyone in Walimat was bouncing, dancing and singing along. Ah! It was such a great night!

Chahadin ya Baladna - L-R: Ahmad Khateeb, Bashar Farran, Ziyad and Ghassan Sahhab

Chahadin ya Baladna - L-R: Ahmad Khateeb, Bashar Farran, Ziyad and Ghassan Sahhab

Once the concert finished, Charles and I headed over to Dany’s for some more drinks and quality conversation. Ali was DJ-ing, which is always a treat because he has fantastic taste in music. So Charles and I chilled, listened to the Doors and the Clash and talked about everything from Beirut, to politics, to movies and music, to friends and the good times we had in Cyprus.

May and Michael

May and Michael

Around 2am, craving a change of pace, we headed over to the apartment of May and Alexa, two other ex-pats interning this summer at the Daily Star, Lebanon’s main English newspaper. My flat-mate Michael was there as well and the four of us chatted, listened to music and drank wine straight from the bottle until 4:30am when we really couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer.  The morning call to prayer from a nearby mosque kept me company on my walk home and as I crawled into bed (after wolfing down my left-over pizza – yesssss!) I was grinning from ear to ear. Hey, Beirut! I’m baaaack!

And Friday I’m in love!

I’m in love with Beirut!! Today was such a fantastic day! Dude. I think Friday is my lucky day. No joke. I mean, in general, it’s a brilliant day. If you work or have class, all day you can’t help smiling because you know the freedom of the weekend awaits. If you’re Muslim, it’s the first day of the weekend, so that’s freaking fantastic. Really – there is nothing bad about Fridays. They’re just all-around wonderful! And here in Beirut, they’ve all been beyond amazing.

Manaeesh! Mmmm, boy!

Manaeesh! Mmmm, boy!

Met Omar for coffee after class and we chatted till around 1pm, when Omar introduced me to my now beloved BarBar to grab a quick lunch. Okay, BarBar is brilliant. My love for it rivals my love for Fridays in Beirut. It’s basically a full block of different take-out places in the Hamra neighborhood, all run by the BarBar Trading Company. There’s a shwarma place, a falafel place, a manaeesh/fatayer place (manaeesh is basically thick round delicious bread, covered in zaatar & fatayer (aka – spinach pie) is bread, folded into a triangle, with spinach filling), a fresh fruit smoothie place, an ice cream place, a pizza place, a sandwich place – basically it’s heaven. And everything at BarBar is cheap – you’ll never pay more than $2 for any food item. Oh, and they deliver. On cute little motorbikes. I LOVE IT! How I did not discover this place sooner, I will never know.

Part of the BarBar strip, by night

Part of the BarBar strip, by night

After eating, we each went home to get bathing suits and met up about an hour later to head down to St. George’s – a beach club in Beirut, just off the Corniche (the boardwalk that runs along the sea), that’s been operating since the 1930s. There are two main pools at St. George’s, filled with chlorinated salt-water.  Omar and I swam, tanned, talked and people-watched until closing around 6:30pm. Ah! Such a great afternoon!!

One thing that’s impossible to miss if you’re anywhere near St. George, is the gigantic banner, covering the side of the large building bordering the pool, that reads “STOP SOLIDERE”.

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I’ve been trying to figure out the story behind the sign, and so far, this is what I’ve found out: First of all, Solidere stands for ‘SOciété LIbanaise pour le Développement Et la REconstruction de Beyrouth’, which translates to ‘Lebanese Society for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut.’ Basically, it’s a group that was created in 1994 by former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, to oversee all the planning and redevelopment of Beirut after Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990).

Rafiq Hariri

Rafiq Hariri

So on the outside, it looked like they did a lot of good.  Actually, the first time I came to Lebanon in 2005, right after Hariri was assisnated, Mom bought a picture book publsihed by Solidere that showed photos of Beirut destroyed after the war, alongside photos  after Solidere’s reconstruction projects. We were impressed.

But, what, to me, as a passive tourist, looked pretty on the outside, actually had a kind of corrupt and messy process behind it.  According to a 2007 article in the Daily Star by Lysandra Ohrstrom, (Solidere: ‘Vigilantism under the color of law’), beginning in 1994, “…Solidere exchanged property rights from between 100,000 to 150,000 tenants and landowners in exchange for shares in Solidere itself. But after the completion of the rehabilitation the former occupants were guaranteed either the right to return to their property or the company’s profits were to be distributed as just compensation.” Problem is…most people still haven’t seen compensation, and going broke waiting, many have sold their property and are now basically fucked. Adding insult to injury, a lot of people were pissed that in it’s reconstructions, Solidere modernized the city, taking away from it’s historical and traditional character. They “…demolished 85 percent of the city’s memory considering buildings to be too badly damaged to be worth preserving, and denied property owners and tenants their right to return to where they were operating from before.” Not cool Solidere, not cool.

As for St. George’s  – it’s this fantastic little beach club right by the water that was one of the first in Beirut, and it’s marina is iconic here. The building that the big sign is hanging on, is the old St. George’s hotel, which was destroyed during the civil war.  The beach club itself actually just reopened within the last year, as it was completely destroyed during the 2006 war with Israel. Problem is, Solidere has blocked the owners of St. George’s from reconstructing the hotel, taken away their rights to the marina and sometimes have even blocked people from entering the beach club – all part of efforts to put pressure on St. George’s to sell to Solidere. Boo hiss. So yeah, from what I’ve heard thus far, I’m with St. George’s. Stop Solidere!

Having fun getting ready to head out on Friday night

Having fun getting ready to head out on Friday night

Anyway…after an amazing afternoon at the pool, Omar and I went our separate ways with plans to meet up later tonight.  A shower and a quick nap and before I knew it, it was 9:30pm. I got dressed for a night out while sipping on the red wine I bought at Chateau Ksara – yum! And at 10pm, I was off!!

Zeina and Salam

Zeina and Salam

Met up with Ozge and Charles on Hamra and the three of us headed down to Gem for drinks and good conversation. After about an hour, we were joined by Jeff and a French girl he knows from work, who’s name I’ve completely forgotten. Another hour and Omar showed up with his friends Salam and Ziena. Lots of laughing and chatting and shots made with tabasco sauce, vodka, lemon juice and topped by olives followed.

Half of Jeff's head, Omar, me and Charles squashed in the cab, but still ridiculously happy!

Half of Jeff's head, Omar, me and Charles squashed in the cab, but still ridiculously happy!

n1000985_34400294_2846312At 3am, with a good buzz going, we said goodbye to Salam and Ziena, and the remaining 6 of us squashed ourselves into the back of a taxi in search of the perfect place to finish off the night. We ended up at this swank beach-side club called Island, that’s part of the Riviera Hotel. Jeff got us in for free so woot! happy day! Chilled with drinks at the bar next to the pool, danced and laughed until around 5:30 am.

And now it’s 6:30 and the happy buzz from tonight is just beginning to wear off and I’m feeling completely exhuasted.  The sun is rising outside my window, the temperature is rising and my beloved roof rooster is crowing his heart out. I think it’s time for bed.

But, Friday never hesitate!

Up at 8:45am, wolfed down a bowl of cornflakes and threw some clothes on before sprinting out the door, late for class as usual. Luckily, my class is about a 5-minute, fast-paced walk from the apartment (I’m not good at the whole running thing), so I was only about 10 minutes late…still, oops.

Map to my Arabic class - Right now, Cousin Stephen and I are living just off Jeanne D'Arc Street

Map to my Arabic class - Right now, Cousin Stephen and I are living just off Jeanne D'Arc Street

Arabic class until 11am, chicken schwarma from a street vendor for lunch – cheap and oh-so-delicious – and then a stop by Librairie Antoine, the local English/French/Arabic language bookstore in Hamra. History nerd that I am, and knowing embarrassingly little about Lebanon (especially given that I’m half Lebanese and staying here for 2 months…oops again), I bought ‘A History of Modern Lebanon’ by Fawwaz Traboulsi, and the Lonely Planet Guide to Lebanon and Syria. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon in De Prague, a cafe in Hamra, reading. So happy 🙂

De Prague is an amazing cafe. Now tied with Cafe Younes as my favorite in Beirut. Because it’s near the American University of Beirut (AUB) campus, it’s always packed with students.  The food is delicious, they put rose-water in their lemonade, there’s good music, free wifi, comfortable couches and good company – what more do you need?? 

Inside Cafe de Prague

Inside Cafe de Prague

After a chill afternoon with my delicious new books, I headed home for a quick siesta and made plans with new friends to meet up tonight. And now, it’s 9:30 pm, and I have to get ready to go out in Gemmazye – it’s Friday night in Beirut!! I’ll let you know how it goes! Happy weekend!!

New Plan

I have a plan for the next 2 months! Can you believe it?? Me! who never has a plan for more than a couple weeks in advance! I’m still recovering from the shock…

So I found out about a week ago that George is staying in the States until the end of August. And I’m LOVING Beirut, my Arabic classes are going well and I’m making friends. So…I’ve decided to stay here for 2 months instead of the originally scheduled one. Huzzah!

Only hiccup being that Stephen is leaving at the end of the month, also to go back to the states. So there goes my free lodging…And so, I began looking for an apartment.

Apartment hunting in Beirut in the summer is…interesting. There are a couple of websites I found that have apartment listings, but most are looking for long-term tenants, not summer vacationers. And there are almost no hostels. The one that I did find, in Gemmaze (neighborhood near Martyr Square), was pretty run down.

A map of Beirut with the different neighborhoods and the beaches labeled - Gemmaze is just off the map to the right. There are better maps I'm sure, but this is one of the only ones I could find online just now with the areas clearly labeled.

A map of Beirut with the different neighborhoods and the beaches labeled - Gemmaze is just off the map to the right. There are better maps I'm sure, but this is one of the only ones I could find online just now with the areas clearly labeled.

So…I kept looking. Turns out there’s a Craig’s List Beirut – who knew?? Well, not many people, because there’s almost nothing posted, but I did manage to turn up one post for an apartment in Hamra, near AUB (the American University of Beirut), which is actually close to where I’m living now. A few phone calls later, and I set up an appointment to visit the place.

It’s fantastic – a kind of Auberge Libanese. There are 5 people living there now, and with me, it’ll be 6. They’re all students and they rent out 2 of the rooms in the summer to travelers. Some Lebanese American guys, a Turkish girl and I think the other girl is Lebanese. Anyway, it seems perfect so I rented the room! Yay! No more hunting!! A huge relief, because walking from neighborhood to neighborhood in hot, humid Beirut, is a great way to get to know the city, yes, but it’s exhausting and I melt in the heat. At 3pm, the city feels empty – turns out that’s because I’m the only one stupid enough to walk around at 3pm in full sun…oops. My bad.

Anyway, I’m psyched about the apartment!! I move in on July 27th and I’ll stay until August 24th. Then it’s back to Amman or Ramallah, or wherever this new job takes me!

Ma Barif…(I Don’t Know…)

Two of the first words I learned in Arabic were ‘ma’ and ‘barif’, which, when said together mean I don’t understand, no capito, no entiendo, je ne comprends pas!  I took my first Arabic class today. Shit. The students in my class have already taken about 2 months+ of Arabic lessons whereas I’m starting from square 1.   Luckily, They spent about 1 month learning to read and write so they’re not too far along grammar wise. And I’ve been practicing my alphabet with Stephen so even though I read like a  3-year old – Ha…..Bi….Bi…ha..bi..bi…….HABIBI! – I’m not completely lost.

Arabic is not going to be easy. Aside from the writing, there is a strong difference between long and short vowel sounds. So words that sound exactly the same to my untrained ear actually mean completely different things. It’s like ‘pene’ and ‘penne’ in Italian – the first means penis and the second, a type of pasta. And my favorite pasta dish is penne al’arabiatta – spicy pasta. I ordered a lot of spicy penis in Italy. Have a feeling I’ll be making similar cock-ups (No pun intended. Actually, that’s kind of funny – I take it back. Pun intended) here in Jordan.

Not to mention all the new noises. I can pronounce each sound individually…well, sort of…but string them all together and,…well, and nothing. I can’t do that yet.  And the teacher keeps asking me questions and I feel like a fool.

I love that I’m describing all this like it’s something new or unexpected. It’s so much fun though. I don’t know why I’m such a nerd for languages – maybe it’s because I love to talk…

Oh, get this – the word for sunset is related to the word for west. West is ghrarib and Sunset is maghrib (my phonetic spelling sucks – I’d write the words in Arabic but what’s the point if you can’t read it?). So now I’ll never forget that the sun sets in the west! Not that I would anyway, having grown up watching the sun set over the pacific, but still – I love that! See, NERD.

Now time to plaster the apartment with post-it notes. I love that game. I could probably single-handedly keep the Post-It Company in business. Oh yeah, I am that awesome.

Fershayit Snan - Toothbrush

Fershayit Snan - Toothbrush