I’ve had a rather exhausting but very fun week reviewing three plays in Arabic, followed by a lazy weekend which was spent not partying but doing rather mundane but necessary things. I spent yesterday cleaning the house, which in my absence has become a cess-pit, then baby-sitting last night and today cleaning all my clothes, which over the past couple of weeks have over-flowed the basket and made their way in a steady mass across the floor forming an impregnable fortress between bed and door.
Everitte went to the post office again on Friday and was once again served by Shireen. Having not seen Noor in a long time he inquired as to her whereabouts and was told that she had left. “She told me you upset her very much,” Shireen said to him. “But she wouldn’t tell me why.”
It seems the post office mystery is destined to remain unsolved. On the bright side Shireen seems to have conquered her hatred of Everitte and now deigns to serve him again, so some good has come of Noor’s unexplained departure, which may or may not somehow be Everitte’s fault.
All of my writing for work recently means that I never got round to writing about the rather wonderful Valentine’s Day meal that Everitte and I enjoyed last week. We decided where to go based on an article one of the girls at work for writing for the paper, in which she suggested a restaurant in Hamra called ‘Bardo’ as a nice place to spend Valentine’s evening, with a set menu of three courses each and a bottle of wine for $50.
Since price is a deciding factor at the moment when it comes to going out we thought this sounded like a great deal, and managed to book ourselves a table for 9.30pm (the first seating in most Lebanese restaurants).
On the way to the restaurant, which we had never been to, we bumped into an American girl we had met back when we first arrive in Beirut. After a short chat we told her where we were going, to which she responded “Bardo? Isn’t that a gay bar?”
Slighty taken aback we told her that we didn’t think so, and continued on our merry way wondering what we were going to find.
When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised. Bardo is more of a bar than a restaurant, with a central bar area and raised tables, and side room with more traditional dining tables, a lot like Secteur 75 the place I used to work.
A table had been reserved for us in the main bar room, but neither of us like sitting on bar stools to eat, so we asked to move to the tables by the entrance which were quieter and more secluded, each with a candle and a red rose on the table.
In honour of Valentine’s Day the restaurant was full of red helium balloons, which covered the ceiling and were each tied to a long red ribbon which trailed down to the floor, filling the room with red strings every foot or so.
Having cleared enough ribbons out of the way to sit down we were brought a surprisingly good bottle of red wine by the very friendly waitress and then settled down to look around at the other clientele, more or whom were arriving all the time.
A cursory sweep was enough to ascertain that they were almost all same-sex couples or groups, and the flamboyant attire or some of the make guests – my particular favourite being a young man with a bowler hat, a red bow tie, an orange jacket and white trousers – only helped to confirm that we were in fact celebrating in a gay bar.
I think the employees were all worried about our reaction to being the only straight couple celebrating in their establishment and as a result we got five different people coming over at various points to ask us if we were OK, if we were sure we were Ok and if we were definitely having a nice time. We were. The food was excellent, the wine even better, the service was the best we have experienced so far in almost 6 months in Beirut and it was a lovely laid back atmosphere, not rushed like most restaurant’s on Valentine’s Day who are keen to get as much custom as possible and as a result hurry their customers to reach unrealistic turnover times.
All in all a very good night, and on our way home we bumped into Maria and Samir who agreed to come for a drink with us in the alley, making the night even better.
In the meantime I found out something surprising about one of our friends who shall remain un-named, in accordance with his wishes. This guy is an American studying here and is very worried about keeping his real name and identity under the radar. I am not sure if he is overly paranoid or if we are not paranoid enough!
The invisible man is well-prepared and ultra-organised. He has two email addresses, one which contains his real name, for trusted friends and family members, and a whole other one which he uses for any other correspondence, including to deal with his professors and fellow students. He has a bag full of emergency supplies, mostly medicine, in case of some sudden calamity, so that he can instantly flee to the embassy and be sure that all the essentials are ready in one small bag at a moment’s notice. He has even mapped out to route to the embassy so that in the event of disaster he can make his way there – it’s about 50km from his house, he estimates, but he thinks he can run it in 4 hours.
Meanwhile Everitte and I? We live in a flat made out of old doors and frequently hand over our passports to General Security for weeks at a time to get our visas renewed, effectively abolishing our means of travel at short notice. We have no medication in the house other than a bottle of paracetamol and a box of plasters. Both of which are empty. I also work for a newspaper in my real name, which now comes up swiftly in a google search, and Everitte’s got his own business which likewise appears on the internet.
Do we need to be more careful? Does the invisible man need to relax? Or should we perhaps all work on finding a happy medium?