Last night after nine months in Beirut two unexpected things happened which freaked me out. I am used to worrying about the normal things: money, work deadlines, walking home by myself at night – but then up popped two things I had (perhaps foolishly) not anticipated.
Firstly at ten o’clock last night I was in a fourth floor flat in Gemmayzeh, babysitting and watching a DVD, when I felt the sofa rocking under me. The dog was some way away and couldn’t possibly have moved it and I was alone in the house. I got up and walked around it, trying to work out what had happened, then decided I must have imagined it. I sat back down and a minute later the same thing happened. I realised that the sofa couldn’t moving by itself – which meant that the building must be moving, which meant – earthquake!
I’ve never felt one before, and it was only little by the time it hit Beirut – 5.5 on the Richter scale but it happened out in the sea between Lebanon and Cyrus.
By the time I’d realised what it was and was trying to decide whether to grab the baby and the dog and try to go outside it was already over. Sam woke up for a few seconds then fell asleep again, and Maya, the dog, circled around a bit and then lay back down to which I took as a sign that it was all over.
Not that dangerous at all in fact, but still a little worrying, as there have been several building collapses in Beirut over the last couple of months even without earthquakes to send them on their way – so many of the buildings here are old and crumbling and liable to collapse at any minute.
After the excitement was over and Sam was back in the custody of his parents I came back to Hamra, where Everitte and some of out friends were out at our local old-school style pub, the Captain’s Cabin.
I went to join them for a beer out in the garden, which is a small patio surrounded by flower beds and small trees, and is always full of some of the biggest cockroaches I have ever seen. They must be attracted to the tress or something.
When I arrived at the bar someone said “You’re scared of spiders aren’t you India?” which of course made me instantly uneasy as I have a horrible spider phobia. Apparently just before I arrived an enormous spider had been crawling across the wall a few feet from where we were sitting, and one of the guys who is also terrified of spiders was totally freaked out. Everyone said it was the biggest spider they’d ever seen, but I just assumed it was a normal spider, just a big one, so although I really hoped it had gone for good I didn’t leave.
the other guy was really jumpy and kept flinching whenever someone touched him, and at one point he thought he felt something on his back and leapt up so suddenly that his chair went flying across the courtyard. I am admittedly a total pansy when it comes to spiders but even I thought it was funny how incredibly jumpy he was – though when something ran across one of my bare feet I did decide to put them up on my chair out of reach, even once I realised it was just one of the enormous cockroaches.
In the end I didn’t see it, and left in blissful ignorance of the fact that it was, in fact, no normal spider but a tarantula, the side of Everitte’s hand and covered in fur, with huge thick legs. Suddenly flying-chair-guy began to seem foolishly calm – how could he have seen it and stayed there? I fear I can never sit in that garden again.
This is what they saw, and what, unbeknownst to me, lurks in many a ground floor flat and garden in Beirut:
How did I not know that there are tarantulas in Lebanon?! I am so glad we live on the fourth floor, but I am still never going to comfortable relaxing in a garden again.
England house spiders render me a quivering wreck, so this is a whole other ball-game. Still, I guess I’ve gone nine months without ever seeing one so I may get lucky and continue to avoid them. Snakes and scorpions are kinda cool, but spiders – no thank you!